I have noticed and been aware of food as early as I can remember. Even now, as an adult, I can recall different types of food at friends’ birthday parties as a child. When I was eight, I first became aware of my body. My stomach was sticking out and some friends I was with, were talking about their flat tummies - I immediately pulled mine in – as we were dressed to go swimming in our togs.
Growing up, I would steal my mother’s baking as it lay cooling on a wire cake rack. I even remember what it was - Louise cake. I couldn’t keep away, just kept going back. Even the mixture I couldn’t keep away from. Chocolate in the house would be hidden from me. I would be obsessed till I found it, then I would eat the whole lot, not straight away, but constantly going back.
As I entered my teenage years, I would eat anything and everything after school as if I hadn’t eaten for a week, which wasn’t the case. Turning sixteen, I looked in a full-length mirror one day and thought my ankles looked fat. Hence, I headed off to Weight Watchers and lasted six weeks. Fourteen years of dieting, exercise and binge eating began. I would be on a diet perfectly for a period of time, then something would happen – didn’t matter what it was - and, like a switch, I would be off the diet.
At eighteen years old, I started attending the gym and aerobics classes. Or I would swim lengths or I would run. It didn’t matter if I was feeling half dead or absolutely exhausted, I had to exercise to 'get rid of the weight'. Going out for dinner and invariably eating too much would constitute a long run the next day. Food ruled my life. I would binge secretly. I would be home alone and just start eating – whatever was there - like in a frenzy, because I was worried someone would walk in and catch me. No one knew about my binge eating, but I would feel and put on the weight immediately, which would then mean I would try and start dieting again.
I never talked about my bingeing. I was too ashamed and hated what I did. I didn’t know anybody else who did what I did. If ever there were other people around, I would eat normally in front of them. My weight went up and down and I remember the first time I couldn’t fit my jeans – I wouldn’t believe it, I kept taking them off and trying them on again.
I got to the stage where I just kept putting on weight and there was no more dieting or exercising. My eating was right through the day and I was getting bigger. On top of this, I was getting depressed, although I didn’t even know that word. I just kept thinking about what could I eat – how could I eat three moderate meals a day. I would get angry inside myself too. By this stage I absolutely hated myself and was incredibly unhappy.
Through word of mouth, I contacted a young woman who I knew was in a 12-step fellowship. I rang her after just having been shovelling food into my face. She asked me what I had just eaten and I couldn’t tell her and this lady said I was in ';black out'. I related to this regarding drinking but not with my eating. I was then given the number of another woman who, when I rang, said "you are not a bad person". She talked to me about the disease of addiction and how addictions swap.
To cut a long story short, I didn’t stop eating addictively for another seven months. By the end of that time, I was eating all day every day and no one knew. I had a flaccid face, couldn’t keep the weight off and didn’t know what to do. I hit the wall and one day - actually, after an alright day and not too outrageous eating - I mentally and emotionally realised I couldn’t do what I had been doing anymore. I picked up the phone and rang the young woman who had told me I had been in black out and I asked for her help.
Today, I don’t have the driving obsession of thinking about food all the time or the compulsion and craving to eat. It has gone and I am completely free from that. Plus, I used to think I was the only one in the world who did what I did with food. I now know this not to be true and have met many, many others like me who are no longer compulsively overeating or starving themselves, or purging or over- exercising, people of all shapes and sizes and even those of a normal weight.
I am very grateful to the AEA programme, as for me nothing else worked. I felt I had tried everything and it is the greatest thing now to be free of the food.