On ‘Overcoming Overeating’

I am so excited – I’m going to a group run by the author’s of Overcoming Overeating, a book that gave me great comfort 30+ years ago in college, when my eating disorder owned me, and I was lost and terrified.

The authors recommend a new way to live which dumps dieting and involves legalizing all food — carrot sticks are not any better or worse than carrot cake. No food is forbidden (allergies and moral commitments aside, of course. If peanuts will kill you, don’t eat them. If you don’t eat animal products, you don’t have to start).

They also tell you to stock up on all your favorite foods in quantities so vast you couldn’t possibly eat them in one sitting.If you adore dark chocolate, don’t buy one chocolate bar, buy ten. If you love carrot cake, don’t buy one cake, buy three so you can keep two in the freezer. If you like crusty bread, buy a few loaves. If you want the whole soy milk instead of the light, buy it! Cashews and almonds—buy the family sized packages.

And then eat small portions of exactly what you want when you are hungry and stop. When you are hungry again, eat small portions of exactly what you want – whether it is an apple or an apple pie.

I know a lot of women that plan this just doesn’t work for – eating sugar and white flour trigger compulsive eating/bingeing. For me, it doesn’t work to eat so frequently – I don’t want to be involved with food that much.

And when I was in the throes of compulsive eating and bingeing and purging, it plain didn’t work for me to have all that ‘binge’ food around. I ate it. All of it.

What I did learn is how little it takes to satiate my appetite. It’s where I learned that small portions work well for me. I don’t even do things like eat tons of raw veggies, because I don’t need that much food. It’s not about quantity for me.

And the process talks about eating when hungry and stopping when full. I actually had a much easier time stopping after a small portion then figuring out what it felt like to be hungry.

During my bulimic years, I ate so much, I was never hungry. While anorexic and eating cotton balls to fill me up, I denied my hunger. I told myself that the constant churning in my stomach was anxiety or exhaustion.

When I showed up at Overcoming Overeating meetings, it took me a while to figure out what hunger was. Eventually I did. And that proved extremely helpful.

So, some things worked for me, some parts of their plan didn’t. But I can’t wait to go to the meeting and see how it seems to me now, at this point in my recovery.

If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say…

A friend recently told me that I shouldn’t show so much teeth in photos. I do have a big toothy smile, but I didn’t realize it was so unattractive.

Turns out, it’s not my teeth that are the real problem – the problem is that when I smile so wide, my laugh lines are very prominent, and I look older. Okay.

Another friend pointed out that with my weight gain, I need new bras, because the girls are popping out noticeably. Apparently, it now looks like I have four breasts, not two.

I KNOW I need new bras, but I despise bra shopping and don’t feel like spending the money right now. Stop looking at my boobs!

Also, sales people, stop offering me wrinkle cream and slimming black slacks. Hairdressers, I don’t care that blonde ages me.

The ONLY recommendation I want is from my bookseller 🙂 She’s welcome to offer me anything. The more suggestions, the better.

Other than that, unless you’re complimenting my big green eyes, keep it to yourself.

Inherited Fat-ism


In my mother’s house, prejudice was not allowed. Everyone was welcome, no matter your color, creed, gender, sexual preference, sexual identity, religion… Many, many took refuge and found haven and solace in our home’s open doors.

Well, actually, there remained one “small” area where prejudice was accepted. My mother hated fat. First and foremost, she hated fat on herself. She was always on some kind of diet. Mom used to make my sister take food away from her and throw it out, so she wouldn’t eat it. When she was dying and wasting away, the doctor begged her to eat more, to eat sugar, to have salt to retain water, to try; my mother flatly refused – she loved being skinny.

Funny how much it meant to her, considering everything else she achieved. My mother was brilliant, graduating high school at 15. She was also a brilliant pianist who attended Juilliard, paying her own way by teaching piano lessons, beginning when she was 12. By the time we kids came along, Mom had a huge following of advanced students who traveled from all around the country to study with her.

Everyone loved her, men adored her and yet, my mother ferociously hated every extra ounce of flesh she carried. She also hated extra weight on others, including me. She dragged young me from diet doctors to Weight Watchers to behavior modification specialists to diet centers. Together, we tried every diet we could find. (She always lost weight. Somehow, I always gained.)

Mom didn’t like fat on anyone. She took umbrage with celebrities who weren’t skinny – why did anyone think Diane Sawyer was pretty when she had wide hips (according to Mom)? I remember seeing James Earl Jones as Othello on Broadway. Evidently, she’d read he was on the same diet as she – she was very annoyed that he was still so big. Mom was a woman who didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone – unless they were overweight.

Fat-ism is crazy strong, I think. All her life, my mother purposely chose to be and do everything the exact opposite of her mother. My grandmother was cruel, viciously racist, a serious gossip, completely domestic, disinterested in education, subservient to her husband…..

My mother consciously became the total and complete opposite of each of those traits.

However, my grandmother hated fat and fat people. That, my mother never changed.

The End of Bulimia cont…

So, I stopped purging. I couldn’t physically or emotionally do it anymore.

And I did gain weight. However, I’d already been gaining weight for a while. I’d been binging so heavily, even purging didn’t keep the weight off.

At that point, when I couldn’t purge another day, I just gave up. I surrendered. I couldn’t go on the way I had been, and I didn’t really care about controlling my weight anymore. I COULDN’T TAKE IT! I’d been MISERABLE skinny and starving and BEYOND MISERABLE as a bulimic. What could be worse?

As I said, I did gain some weight. But the binging pretty much tapered off too. I suppose the fear of gaining massive weight (now that I’d stopped purging)helped.

But also, as I said, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was done, finished, I gave up fighting and starving and binging and trying to control the whole situation.

Once I did that, I began to get free.

And eventually, I began to eat regularly and moderately and the extra weight came off. (I maintained that weight for many years. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that perimenopause has added ten pounds, and I’m ok with that.)

Starving, binging, purging, starving, binging, purging, starving, binging purging – that way of life – well, it really wasn’t a life at all.

Stopping the behavior (even gaining a few pounds)and finding a real life — that’s worth anything and everything.

The End of Bulimia

When I stopped throwing up about 13 years ago, I was truly done. I could not take another minute of stuffing my face and then spending the night hanging over a toilet. I’d developed an ulcer and vomiting became excruciating, but still I continued for years. The side effects of years of throwing up and laxative abuse caused such damage to my body, from my intestines to my (missing) teeth. There were minor cosmetic issues – puffy cheeks and angry red bite marks on the knuckles of my right hand. And of course, explosive diarrhea could be embarrassing too.

Whoops, I posted this too soon. But I’ll leave it up and finish it later. The end of purging made a huge shift in my life.

Changing a Bad Mood

Sooo, the 12 Steps insist that when I’m feeling blue or depressed or SORRY FOR MYSELF, I need to get out of myself and help someone else.

Sooo, I was having a yummy little pity party (if you’re worried, don’t – there was no rational reason. but I’m not always rational!), when someone who heard me speak in Pennsylvania six months ago called and said she was really struggling and wondered if we could speak. She said she’d been shy to call because I seemed so “together”. First of all, hahahhahahahha. If she could have seen me moments before she called, singing the blues and Second of all, of course I had time.

I hope she got something out of her conversation. She said it was helpful and asked if she could call again.

However, we know who really benefited from leaving her elaborate pity party and being of service to someone else!!!

Next up on the blog, my journey out of bulimia.

More on the last post – and Powerlessness

I was just speaking with a friend about my birth control pill dilemma, and realized I have two choices – take the pill with those side effects/consequences or continue to get my period very frequently and deal with those side effects/consequences.

And that’s it – those are my choices. Door A or Door B. There is no Door C. I don’t get what I want – a regular easy, breezy monthly cycle. Or a nice easy, breezy end of menstruation.

As with most things, I have no power over menopause! I just have a choice.

Who knew you could apply the 12 Steps to the menstrual cycle?

Fear of the Pill

As I hit perimenopause, my periods are more horrible and last longer than ever (and they have always been horrible and long.) And now, they come every two weeks. I am constantly hormonal and cranky, and really crampy and sick.

I am, once again, considering the pill.

When I was in my early 20s, the birth control pill triggered an anorexic episode that lasted for years. I went on the pill back then because, as I said, I have always had horrible PMS and long and awful, painful and miserable periods.

A doctor recommended I try birth control pills, which have been known to help ease menstrual symptoms. Unfortunately for me, whenever I take birth control pills two things happen – 1.) they make me crazier and 2.) they make me gain a whole lot of weight.

In my early 20s, I had just lost 80 pounds for the second time. Both times, I vigiliantly and fiercely starved off that weight. It was so difficult and the weight loss proved nearly impossible to maintain. I had to eat so little just to stay at an average, normal weight.

Once, I started the pill, everything bloated and fattened up. My already large breasts were tremendous and sore. Waist bands dug into my belly and left giant red stripes across my body.

It broke my heart. I was eating so little to begin with – I couldn’t stand to gain weight without even getting to eat. Heartbreaking, indeed.

And so, because I refused to gain weight, I pretty much stopped eating. And I found that I could exist (MISERABLY) on very, very little food.

But still, I hated the pill. The hormones messed with my temperment – I always felt like I was crawling out of my skin. So I stopped the pill, but was so enamored with my (lack of) food plan that I continued to starve.

I got very, very thin. And guess what – my period stopped. For years. I loved it. Who cared about bone density? Fertility? Estrogen? I was free from the misery of menstruation.

Luckily, I couldn’t not eat forever and re-gained enough weight to get my period again. It didn’t get better, but I figured that I’d rather suffer about a week each month, than suffer every single day on the pill.

However, now that i seem to be either having PMS or my period ALL the time, I guess I’m willing to try again.

I have to admit. I’m pretty scared.

Anorexic Limitations

Yesterday, I spoke with a young friend< Catie, who is working diligently on her anorexia and bulimia. She spent three weeks at an inpatient facility and is completing outpatient this week. Catie surely would have benefited from more inpatient time, but that's all insurance would cover.

Catie struggles daily with eating and weight gain. She misses the ability to restrict her food and control her weight, but she's trying.

At 26 – she never finished college and works a part time job. When she is done with outpatient treatment, she's going to go back to her job, go to 12 Step meetings and find a therapist.

But that's a pretty small life. The last ten years have been devoted to her eating disorder, in one form or other.

Catie reminds me of how I used to be. I lived in the bubble of my eating disorder for decades. I didn't finish college until many years later; didn't develop a meaningful career or loving relationships. My life revolved around counting my calories.

Back then, I said, and meant it, that I was my eating disorder. That was it. It defined me.

What a waste. In coming posts – getting out from under.

Freedom from the Eating Disorder

I say I was born hungry. I famously finished more bottles at the hospital than any baby before me. And I liked my bottle so much that the doctor put me on a diet at 6 months. If you look family photos from my early years, there’s my tiny 8 year old sister, my tall lanky brother and big fat baby me.

When I asked my mother why on earth she gave me so many bottles, she said, “You cried and cried and cried, until I gave you more.”

And there it was – that disease of more, but never enough. More, but never satisfied. I wanted more of everything -food, alcohol, drugs, love, money…it didn’t matter what it is was. I wanted more of anything on the outside to make me feel better on the inside. And when I had it, I was happy for about a second, until I was almost immediately – looking for more.

During a binge, I could have half the refrigerator in my mouth, but instead of being present with that, I was wildly searching for the next bite.

But the sad fact is that I was trying to fill the lonely emptiness within me with all sorts of things that couldn’t help me. No amount of ice cream, even the richest, most expensive Haagen Dazs can cure my sadness. No amount of red wine can help me face my fears. No amount of shopping can give me the love I so desperately craved.

The food served as quick relief from dealing. I buried my pain and fear under a sugar coma, but the problem is – they were still there.

But when I dealt with my pain and sadness and deep loneliness AND faced my fears and got through them, then I began to recover. And after many many decades of being a slave to my eating disorder master, I get to be free.

And I’m not just free from all my addictions, I am free to live life. Freely.

More on how to get there in upcoming posts.