As a woman who threw up for more than four decades to control my weight, even as I needed the comfort and "cure" that overeating provided, I have some insights on what the "over love of food" is all about. It wasn't the problem. It was the answer. The cure for food disorders is not just intervention to change the behavior. It is intervention with a soul that is lost and knows no other way to fill the hurt and the despair.
By age 12, my inner self was very confused and terribly hurt. I had no understanding as to what life was about -- and there was no one coming up with answers for me that made any sense. My body was changing and driving me into emotions and urges that I had no guideposts for. All I had was a cultural model that told me that "Twiggy" was cool, I needed to be sexy-thin and that being who I was wasn't important or valid. I was a young girl morphing into womanhood who knew that a "kiss on a boo-boo" from one of my parents was no longer going to heal my wounds.
I was in a place of serious growing pain. My mind was firing on all cylinders with questions and my soul was blossoming into a knowing that the answers coming at me were somehow flawed and not what I needed. I was floundering and trying to find a place of balance for my feet and my heart. No one was talking about the things that were aching me: Why am I here? What is the purpose of existence? Why does it hurt so much?
I began to find comfort in food. I began to overeat. I used food to fill a gaping hole in my soul where a self-loving and self-knowing me belonged. The food also occupied my mind and distracted me from the pain. My mother was delighted as I showed great interest in food preparation and taking over some of her mealtime chores. There were seven children in my family to feed, so this was no light task. Add two parents to that number, and you have nine mouths to feed at every sitting. I became a constant in the kitchen. This also meant that I could eat with mind-numbing abandon, as I moved from refrigerator to stove.
I had a sister who was 17 months older, and she had found the comforts of food as well -- pushing her weight to well over 180 lbs. My mother began terrorizing her about her weight, even going so far as to call her, "disgusting." I realized my own body was beginning to tip that same scale and I didn't want to suffer this abuse myself. So, what did I do? I started to throw up. I would overeat to get the "high" and pain-killing comfort of the food. Then I would stick my finger down my throat and get rid of it. I was in control! I had found the perfect answer. I could eat with impunity and stay thin.
What I didn't know was that I had started on a cycle that would hold my body, my soul and my heart for 42 years -- anorexia/bulimia. Soon "being skinny" became my single goal, even as eating became my god. My feelings and fears disappeared as every thought and passion I had was now centered on food. I was starving to death -- at age 32 I was very proud of being 5'9" and weighing only 102 pounds -- and stuffing myself with food at the same time. Food made it so I didn't have to hurt. I didn't have to mature, think or feel when I was in the kitchen creating gourmet meals and gorging on the "fine art of cooking." I would binge and vomit sometimes as much as 20 times a day. Behaving this way didn't even seem strange to me -- nor apparently to those around me. It was simply what I did. What a great way to hide from my pain and avoid living courageously within my own life.
I finally just walked away from my eating disorder on a cruise ship in 2009 at the age of 54. I consider this event a gift of "divine grace." A large cruise ship, with food in every corner, is a "Puker's Paradise." My body decided -- or better yet, my soul decided -- I no longer needed this survival technique. It was time for me to put my knife and fork down. I had started doing the work of finding my soul about three years earlier in the rooms of a 12-step program for alcoholism. I no longer needed the mindless comfort and pain-distraction that my eating disorder had graced me with. Why? Because I was finally and fully on my way to learning and loving who I am.
So, when we talk about eating disorders -- when we talk about any addiction -- we are not looking at the problem. We are looking at the answer that one of our brothers or sisters is using to fill a horrendous hole. This hole is where a conscious and loving sense of ourselves belongs. Healing this hole starts when we admit to ourselves that we are scared, lost and lonely and that we are using food -- or some other substance or behavior -- to fill this emptiness within us.
I found the beginnings of my self-love in the powerfully honest and accepting rooms of a 12-step program. Perhaps you will find yours there, as well. If you have an eating disorder or any other addiction, please, please know that you are not alone; also that you are not "bad" and that nothing is "wrong" with you. Here's the link for Over-Eaters Anonymous: http://www.oa.org/.
Robin Korth enjoys interactions with her readers. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
To learn about her new book, "Soul on the Run," go to: www.SoulOnTheRun.com