Why don’t we talk about eating disorders more often in the fitness industry? I can tell you, in my ten years of experience as a personal trainer and business owner, that so many of my clients suffer from some sort of eating disorder. The most common one I see is severely restricting calories only to binge eat for days. More often than not, on the binge days, people make themselves throw up the food they overate. More often than not on the restrictive days, people overexercise as well to make up for those binge days. It is such a vicious cycle. I see it ALL. The. Freaking. Time.
That being said, why don’t we talk about it? Why is there so much shame, embarrassment, and guilt associated with having an eating disorder? I myself was personally diagnosed as having the eating disorder termed, “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified,” meaning I had them all. For years, I suffered in silence. I used to ask myself daily, “Why can’t you just be normal when it comes to food? What is wrong with you?” This is no way to live.
The first thing to do to break the cycle filled with depression and shame is to talk about it. Find someone who you feel comfortable talking to and TALK about it. It is so much more common than people know. If you yourself suffer from an eating disorder, let me tell you two things: 1- You are NOT crazy, and 2- There is hope and you WILL learn to manage it. What that means is, you will ALWAYS have an eating disorder. In my personal opinion, they don’t ever go away. But it no longer will have control over you and your life when you seek help, are in recovery, and learn to love yourself. You will be able to enjoy parties and holidays without stressing about food and how much you will need to work out to work off that cupcake or cookie you had. You will begin to enjoy life again. But first, you have to talk about it!
If you don’t talk about it, then you may never find your tribe of support to help you recover. If you don’t talk about it, it can manifest itself in other ways. For me, it manifested as severe anxiety, just like any stress or trauma can manifest as physical symptoms. My anxiety meant difficulty breathing, racing heart, dizziness, insomnia, etc. And let me tell you, this added stress on your body ON TOP of the stress you are already under from eating poorly and overexercising is a very dangerous combination.
So reach out, talk about it. There is absolutely no reason to embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, if more people opened up about their struggles with food, then it would hopefully be normalized. To encourage you to talk about it, I am going to share one of my very darkest secrets:
One day I was feeling particularly stressed. So I drove to one of my favorite restaurants, Paradise Bakery (at the time – now Panera Bread) and got a box of a dozen cookies. A dozen cookies you guys! I ate them ALL. Every last one of them, in my car, in the parking lot outside the restaurant. Then I drove home and threw them all up. I remember this day because I felt so low. I felt so hopeless and I never thought I’d be healthy and happy. I never thought I’d be “normal.” It took me years to open up about my eating disorder because of secrets like the one I just shared. I remember asking myself, “What is wrong with you? Who does that? Who eats all that food then throws it up when there are starving people in this world?” I felt like there was no end in sight.
Well guess what, that day was 7 years ago and I am happy, and I am healthy. I have 2 beautiful babies and a wonderful, supportive husband and family to show for it. I am a wife, a mom, a successful business owner, a blogger, and I am doing things now that I never thought were possible. Freeing myself from the chains of my eating disorder helped me gain the confidence needed to follow my passion and help others who are struggling with disordered eating patterns as well. There is not a moment that goes by that I regret going through it all because it lead me to where I am today. So, if you’re surrounded in darkness today, just know that tomorrow, you may not be. Reach out, Talk about it. Free yourself from all that is weighing you down. I promise you, you too, will not regret it.
Written By Rochelle Sonberg
Owner, Unique Performance