My name is Tiffany, and I am a compulsive overeater.
After nearly four years in recovery I still flinch at this statement. I am a member of a Twelve Step program and, in therapy off and on for the last four years. I continue to work on my eating habits, and more importantly the reasons behind them. I don’t have all the answers, yet, but I do have some, and with them came a lot of personal growth. My continued recovery is dependent upon sharing and connecting with other women, especially black women, who are going through the same thing.
If you would have told me a few years ago that I would confess to having an Eating Disorder (ED) I would have laughed in your face. “I don’t starve myself or throw up,” I would have said. “I eat too damn much!” what I’d really be thinking. Not to mention the fact that I am a black woman. No, we don’t get Eating Disorders.(Ha!)
As a teenager, I remember watching Lifetime movies about girls who wouldn’t eat or who would make themselves throw up. I came to know these disorders as anorexia or bulimia. The characters in those movies were always white and always skinny, therefore in my mind, only white women struggle with eating disorders. I just didn’t fall into that category.
I, and many other black women, grew up in an environment that said, ‘there’s nothing wrong with having a little extra meat on your bones’ or being ‘thick’ was thought of as sexy. However, I didn’t have a little extra meat on my bones, nor was I ‘thick’. I was fat, plain and simple.
Fast forward a few years. It was not until after undergrad when I finally decided that I wanted to lose weight-this time for good. However, this time I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. I tried numerous times before and failed. My periods of restricting often lead to days of bingeing on everything I had denied myself in the weeks or months preceding. Fortunately, I found a therapist whom I met with weekly, who encouraged me to go to a 12 Step Program. I did, only to oblige her. I ended up staying in the Program even after my relationship with that particular therapist ended. I stayed and found out that I have an eating disorder. It’s called Compulsive Overeating. I also found out that I wasn’t the only black woman with an eating disorder. Until the last few years I had never even entertained the thought that I could have an eating disorder.
I learned that an eating disorder is not determined by my weight or color, but by my relationship with food. Eating in excess of my body’s needs, sneaking food, restricting food, over exercising are all symptoms of an eating disorder. However, the most important piece I learned is that, the eating disorder itself is merely a symptom. Overeating, for me, has allowed me to ignore aspects of my life that I rather not deal with and stuff down emotions I didn’t know how to handle. Restricting also allowed me this opportunity. If I was focused on what I could not eat, and how many hours of exercise I got in that day, then I wouldn’t be thinking about other areas of my life that were out of my control. This is why It’s Not About the Food- it never was.
Over the last few years I learned to pick up the phone and call a friend when I am feeling sad, anxious, or angry. I learned that there are many things in my life, and in the world at large, that I am completely powerless over, but how I react to these things is well within my power. I can choose to eat over them, or I can cry, talk to a friend, write in my journal, pray, or (and this is the most difficult) sit with it.
This blog is a renewed commitment to my recovery. I invite you to join me, and I look forward to hearing about the ups and downs of your own journey.