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Let's talk eating disorders. I'll go first:


OAGBPal

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I'm six weeks out from surgery. Everything is going well; I'm confident I made the right choice.

My biggest concern right now? How disordered my relationship with food will be in a year or two.
I'll share my story with weight and disordered eating here. Feel free to share thoughts yourself, whatever they may be. Some of this might be a tad controversial (and in general). I apologize in advance for making it long.

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Overview
In 2019, I was (finally) diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I thought such a diagnosis couldn't fit me. An eating disorder? That's something for mental patients. Not me, a well-educated, professional guy?!

Yet I had sought out help myself, because yes, I did know it had gotten way out of hand. Many, many years ago. In fact, I've had a troubled relationship with food all my life (ring a bell, anyone?) And there it was, the diagnosis. You definitely have BED.

Fat-Fit-Fat-Fitter-Fat-Really Fat
My journey looks like so many others'. I'll share it anyway, just in case you'd like to feel like there's someone else like you out there.

I was a chubby kid, didn't really get teased, but there were hurtful comments. Like being mistaken for a girl as a 12-year-old boy ... that one hurt. Yet at 12, I was already well aware I was 'wrong':

I remember my mom putting me on a diet when I was 6. That I could have cake only if I exercised first at the age of 9.

My first supervised diet was in the 5th grade. My teacher would weigh me every Monday, and I'd be instructed to go for long walks in the afternoons. I don't remember how it ended. Just that it - I - was a problem. I was doing sports, so I can't have been all that overweight.

In the 9th grade, I had my first run-in with a new kind of eating disorder. Actually, I had already been binge-eating alone since I was 7, but now I was madly in love, and I wanted to lose weight. Fast. I exercised like crazy, and lost a ton of weight over the summer. People complimented me. I gained it all back in a year.

High school was fine. Again, lost a bunch of weight in the middle of it, gained some back. Moved away for university, lost weight again, eventually ended up in being dumped by someone I cared about a lot ... pretty much for being 20 lbs overweight. 'I want a boyfriend with sixpack abs'. I was 190 lbs. With no sixpack.

So that hurt. A lot. I responded the best I knew how: diet and exercise. Lots and lots of it. Compliments followed. Sixpack. Eventually got back into the same relationship. Gained a little weight, got dumped again. This time without reason, but I knew. Oh, I knew. I knew how dumb I was for going back, too.

Then something truly broke inside me. I landed a killer job, and wanted to do well. Here I was, a boy from Bumf*ck Nowhere, from a family of high school dropouts, with a job in a fancy building in the city. But I wasn't happy. Because I was eating. And gaining weight. Serious weight.

Over the next 10 years, I fell deeper and deeper into my binge eating disorder. Work still went fine-ish, because I made sure to overcompensate for my lack of physical attraction in client meetings by being prepared and going the extra mile every time. Unfortunately, I went no miles for myself. Eventually, I had arrived at 364 lbs. Yep, I gained 174 lbs in 10 years.

Sure, there were the occasional "this time I really mean it" diets. You know them. Lose 30 lbs, get all the praise (and relief, maybe) from people, and then right back to gaining 50. For every late night with two pizzas and fries ending a whole day of starvation, I would hate myself just a little more.

Eventually, my friends stopped asking if I wanted to go play ball in the park. I suddenly wasn't invited to dinner parties. And wouldn't come if they had asked. I loathed going to family stuff. Declined seeing friends if I had gained even more since they saw me last time. I can go when I've been on a diet, I told myself.

Mom, I need help
I'll never forget the look on her face. We are in a parking garage in the city. My mom is here to visit me. I ask her, again, if I can borrow a bit of money. I tell her I had some unforeseen expenses. In reality, I've spent 2,000 dollars on food this month and I'm broke. And I need more money for groceries, I tell myself. In reality, I need it for fastfood. I just don't want to admit it to myself, and even less to her.

'Yes, of course you can', she says, 'but I need to know if you're alright. I don't feel like you are'. I look at her and try to come up with my usual excuses. It's work. I'm stressed. Big client left. Something. This time, I can't keep it together anymore. I start crying.

We talk for fifteen minutes under the neon light there. She says she's heard of something called Binge Eating Disorder and that there's treatment options starting now, even if it's not an approved diagnosis here yet. I say I'll look into it.

Do I have Binge Eating Disorder?
Back home, I immediately start googling. Finally a disease where googling doesn't lead you to cancer ... I digress. Jokes aside (this is a serious story, after all), I look at the self-diagnosis questions:

  • During the last 3 months, did you have any episodes of excessive overeating (i.e., eating signi cantly more than what most people would eat in a similar period of time)?

Let's mark a big, fat Yes on that one.

  • Do you feel distressed about your episodes of excessive overeating?

If intense self-loathing counts, also yup on this one.

  • During your episodes of excessive overeating, how often did you feel like you had no control over your eating (e.g., not being able to stop eating, feel compelled to eat, or going back and forth for more food)?

The 'Always' box for me, please.

On and on it went. There was something there. This described me. Who knew I wasn't just a lazy, uncontrolled, reprehensibly spineless piece of dirt? That this was actually something people got treatment for? That maybe, just maybe, the responsibility for my grotesquely fat body was shared between the social inputs from my childhood and the way I was able to deal with it as an adult? Hmm ...

Treatment
I'll save the specifics for another time, but half a year in weekly group therapy, coupled with mandatory physiotherapy, daily journaling, learning to maintain my weight instead of going either up or down (mostly up, ha) ... this was new. And it worked. No matter how this WLS journey goes, seeking treatment will be the best thing I ever did for myself.

In the four weeks leading up to the treatment program starting, I had 45 episodes of uncontrolled eating. Yep, more than one a day. When the program ended, I had had 5 months of z e r o such episodes. I haven't had a single one since, fortunately. Amazing what letting yourself exist, just as you are, does to your psyche.

What I learned

  • 'Restriction leads to binging', is one of the first things they said. 'When the eating disorder tries to get you to restrict yourself, you're actually being set up for a binge later. Try to allow yourself to understand why you crave a certain food; use the journal'.
  • There's nothing wrong with me. I'm wonderful as I am. A loyal friend, a good son, a hard worker. No matter if I'm 364 lbs or 190 lbs. Or 170.
  • I have a right to be here. I promised myself I wouldn't duck the FAs checking seatbelts the next time I got to fly, I'd actively demand a nice and comfortable seatbelt extender, just in case I needed it (I never did, but it was close. Got asked twice, one FA demanded that I lift up my overhanging gut to check. In front of the whole cabin). Unfortunately, I never got to test it out.

That's all well and good ... but why did you have WLS, then?
I discussed this with my therapist at length. I felt like I had gotten my old self back. Yet I felt like I was now carrying around 170+ lbs of a disease I had conquered; or at least, finally fought back against. I was getting comorbidities. Slept horribly. Eventually, they cleared me for WLS due to my excellent results with the BED treatment program (I'm self-paid, so they couldn't deny it, but I didn't want to do it if they thought it would harm me).

Here's my concern: I can't tell if I'm doing good or if I'm on the road to the next mega-binge. And some vibes here give me the chills.
Yeah, we both knew there would come a time in this post when I would say something that raised your heart rate. I promised you that in the beginning, so as a reward, here it is. The sub-header up there is much worse than what I want to say, though ... ;o)

I'm worried I'll lose my flexible control I worked so hard to learn. When I read page up and down about competitive weight loss, weighing oneself 10 times a day, whether a glass of red wine can ruin the whole thing ... I find my eating disorder sitting somewhere in the back of my mind, telling me to absorb and adopt it. Win it all. Lose the most. It's a me-thing, in other words. You guys do your thing, all you wonderful people battling like me. I just want to share that I see things that at least feeds the goblin that an eating disorder is to many people.

I know the goblin, though. I know its strength. I know it carries me to the fridge if I get negative social input (it must be quite strong, huh?) I know to stop and pause. To feel. I don't want to lose that, while I lose the pounds. Yet I worry it will win again at some point. Or that others will succumb to it.

My final questions to you
Have you battled disordered eating? Is any of what I'm saying resonating with you? Do you have any advice on how you stay mentally on top of your relationship with food while you're so obviously eating in a 'not normal' way, like we are?

To the one person who actually read this entire thing: thank you.

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Are you on any anti-anxiety medication?

Pardon me for being frank but a few things stand out in your story, while food is/was your escape from feeling the feelings, they seem particularly relevant to rejection in relationships and anxiety over that.

Medication might help, along with therapy other than for the eating disorder. You have to get to the underlying issue that first caused you to use the food - is your therapy doing that? Make sure you stay in therapy.

Yes, these forums can trigger people toward either end. Sometimes even just weighing-in does it to some people with certain eating disorders.

All of us have some variant of an eating disorder, and I'm afraid the 'monster' might always be with us.

Have you ever read books by Gene en Roth. She is very good.

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Thanks for reading and reacting, I really appreciate the care that went into your response :). I'm not on any meds, no, and I'm doing fantastic now, also in terms of understanding how I react to social stimuli. I see my therapist once a month to make sure things stay great. Or, really, to make sure I am in touch with my inner self. I like him, that inner self.

I did want to start the talk, however, because it's just so ... weird? how lacking it is here. I mean, there's a subforum for weight loss medicine, but not one for mental health and WLS?

That's odd to me, given what we know about how people end up needing WLS in the first place. You sound like you at least share my view the mental side is important! :)

I realize it's a sensitive topic, so I wanted to share my own story to let people know these experiences are neither something to be ashamed about, nor something you need to be alone with.

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I like your premise of flexible control. I feel like my sleeve has given me just that. At 16 months out, there is very little that I can’t eat. (I can’t eat much pork, far smaller of a portion than any other meat, and I like eggs even less now than I did before). However, my restriction is very strong so I’m limited in portion size. Not only am I limited, but I find myself completely satisfied with a small amount of whatever I chose to eat. I do follow my surgeons guidelines pretty religiously as far as getting in my 70-80 grams of Protein per day, and my 100 oz of Fluid, but there is a lot of room within those guidelines for choice. I’m down 131 lbs as of today and feel fantastic.

I wish you well in your journey, and fully agree that the mental piece of all of this should be given far more attention.

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I too have been diagnosed with B.E.D. and have a lot of similarities to your story. There are some differences though, but we all have our own individual stories. I am on a medication that is helping with my binging and after starting that medicine I dropped 20 lbs fairly quickly but left it at that. The medicine only helped in certain ways as it stopped me for constantly going to the kitchen even when I wasn't hungry and helped me to focus more but I still had an issue at night with eating in excess.

Fast forward to November and the year had it's ups and downs and brought my wife and I to have VSG surgery on the same day. I am now down over 80 lbs since last February. Therapy is still needed and working the mental aspect of food is going to be a constant battle. I would always emotionally eat after something bad or good happened, but I am noticing when I do this now and even on the bad days I am able to work through the emotions instead of just eating my feelings away. I also had boredom eating and work on this by keeping my workload full at work and at home.

The mental aspect of eating was engrained early in my life and it is going to be a nearly constant battle. The restriction that I now have from the VSG has definitely helped with my nighttime binging habit and has helped me to work on my feelings rather than just blindly eating everything that I see. I also previously never had a feeling of hunger or fullness and would eat all the way to bedtime.

I have now developed a habit that includes eating 3 meals a day that are Protein centric and then have 1 night time snack that will help satisfy my night time craving for food. Luckily with my VSG it is quite limited on how much I eat. Sometimes this snack is a yogurt that is dessert flavored or a small piece of low sugar chocolate or something similar. With the full feeling at night, I no longer desire to eat any more than that or go back for more. I also try to drink Water all day except for when I it is nearing mealtime and that has helped me to restrict my eating windows during the day down to just 4 times.

This will be an ongoing struggle but I know that breaking these bad food habits will help me live longer and enjoy life more. It has been a trying time this last year and has been mentally challenging. This will definitely be the mental challenge of a lifetime to get over these eating issues. I wish you success in your continued effort to fight this disorder that effects so many people in different ways.

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This is an amazing post. Thank you for taking the time to write this and bring this subject to the forefront of this site. I have also wondered why there was not another subforum for mental health and WLS. Perhaps it is just too sensitive a subject? I am not sure, but again, so glad you started this thread!

I do not suffer from BED, but am completely and 100% an emotional eater and grazer - stress, depression, boredom, happiness, you name it - it has always gone hand in hand with eating. With my surgery date approaching at what seems lightning speeds, I too am VERY worried about how I will function after the Honeymoon period is over. I am petrified that I will fall back into bad behaviors and repeat the same old path I have taken since the age of 5 and yo-yo my way back into obesity. I am constantly telling myself that if I am willing to mutilate my insides to finally reach a healthy state, that this should be the last straw - that I will absolutely not be a championship yo-yoer ever again. However, everything is so unknown at this point and perhaps that is my biggest fear right now. I have read so many of the posts on this site of how people struggle, but the bright, shiny gem in all of this is that we all know this from the start. We can mentally prepare ourselves and perhaps even create a back-up plan for when times do get rough. There was another post on this site I read maybe a week ago about setting a red line - a reminder that past that point is a slippery slope. I have taken this to heart and will create that red line as I go through this next journey.

Thank you as well for sharing the following...

15 hours ago, OAGBPal said:
  • There's nothing wrong with me. I'm wonderful as I am. A loyal friend, a good son, a hard worker. No matter if I'm 364 lbs or 190 lbs. Or 170.
  • I have a right to be here.

These two statements have been a stumbling block my whole life. I have and will continue to work on adjusting my views to one day hopefully be able to say both with confidence as well.

Good luck on your journey. I think that you should perhaps have this post ready to read when you are feeling like the goblin is deciding to make a visit, (not to be confused with your mother-in-law, HA!) Pre-load your mental responses to deal with the little (giant?) bugger. Create a mantra - I know that sounds silly, but it has helped me in the past. Just remember to be on the offensive and not the defensive. Attack those feelings/behaviors before they can get a real hold on you.

Here's to crushing that goblin once and for all and kicking it finally to the curb!!!

Thanks again for taking the time to write this post!

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Thanks to all of you for your responses. I really didn't think anyone would read through that whole thing, ha!

On 1/14/2021 at 2:44 AM, kristieshannon said:

I like your premise of flexible control. I feel like my sleeve has given me just that. (...)
I wish you well in your journey, and fully agree that the mental piece of all of this should be given far more attention.

Kristie, that's really interesting to hear. Moderation within guidelines, but with room to live. That sounds really healthy! Wish you well, too :)

On 1/14/2021 at 5:03 AM, mswillis5 said:

I too have been diagnosed with B.E.D. and have a lot of similarities to your story. There are some differences though, but we all have our own individual stories.

mswillis5, thanks for sharing this. I know it's not easy to talk about. Your post inspired some reflection about the things I thought about while in therapy. If you can use some of them for your own thinking, I'll share a few thoughts, but they're not meant to (nor could they) be 'advice', OK?

- This disorder is social, and can be solved socially. BED felt like a prison for me; a prison slowly shrinking the size of my life while increasing the size of my body. My world got smaller and smaller, and the smaller it got, the more I binged.

Finding the courage to share this with my closest friends and family immediately gave me strength to fight back. Sharing my thoughts in group therapy and hearing others' made me feel connected and heard.

Those two things in combination gave me the power to say Hey, wait a minute ... I can go to restaurants and parties if I damn well please. If anyone has a problem with what I look like, that's their problem, not mine. And so I did. Got a flimsy patio chair, I'd ask for a better one instead of hoping and praying I wouldn't break it. Etc. I'm still not okay with how horrible the world is set up for people of different sizes. I will to my death defend the right of anyone to be whatever size they want to be.

The more I broke out of the prison, the less binge urges I had. If I want ice cream, I'll have it. But now that I'm not using it to smash down my feelings, I sure can't eat all that much of it.

This goes post op, too. I've had wine, fries, fizzy drinks. As in half a glass, 5 fries, half a cup. Fully enjoyed it, plan on doing it again some day. Why? Because I can. Take that, restriction competition crowd, lol.

On 1/14/2021 at 2:41 PM, TreeTrunks said:

I am constantly telling myself that if I am willing to mutilate my insides to finally reach a healthy state, that this should be the last straw - that I will absolutely not be a championship yo-yoer ever again.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, too. I chuckled a good amount at championship yo-yoer! Honestly, separating food and emotions is such a key, and you've already identified it. I guess the hard part is to break the habit of silencing emotions with food, and ask oneself 'hey, what would happen if I let myself feel something before I eat?'. That was a bit of a hill to climb for me. As in "sure, you can eat pizza, dude, but journal first and then see how it goes'. Oh, pizza craving gone? Well, well, look at that. :)

---

I hope others feel invited to reflect on their relationship with food and possibly share here or elsewhere on the site! :) Thanks all!

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6 hours ago, OAGBPal said:

Thanks to all of you for your responses. I really didn't think anyone would read through that whole thing, ha!

It was a very interesting read. This is one of the threads that are the reason I haven't left the boards so far.

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At my first follow up visit post op I asked the nurse practitioner if she could recommend a therapist to help with the mental health part of the weight loss. She paused, then said “No one has ever asked me that before.” I was astounded! How could that not be part of the program? She didn’t have anyone to recommend other than the psychiatrist who had evaluated me pre-op.

It took me 3 months to get an appointment with someone in that department who turned out to be NOT professional so that ended very quickly. Also, the therapist had no experience with eating disorders or people with unhealthy relationships with food. It was so discouraging!

So I am back to needing to find a new therapist. I want to give myself every tool possible to make this weight loss permanent. I’ve emailed two people but have not heard back. Again, it’s pretty discouraging. Is it just because of the pandemic that it’s so hard to find a therapist?

This forum is extremely helpful, and I find loads of information here that I wouldn’t find elsewhere. Not to mention the cheerleading and encouragement. 🤩. But as I said I would like to use every tool available. I appreciate your very thoughtful and insightful post, @OAGBPal.

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1 hour ago, Lillimint said:

Again, it’s pretty discouraging. Is it just because of the pandemic that it’s so hard to find a therapist?

It's not. Finding a therapist who've specialized in disordered eating is not easy. That's why I alway cringe when I read "Get a a therapist!" as an advice like it's the easiest thing in the world when it's fact that in many areas there are simply none available without having to drive over an hour and/or being on waiting lists that are several months to over a year long.

Quote

This forum is extremely helpful, and I find loads of information here that I wouldn’t find elsewhere.

I think for a person struggling with disordered eating WLS boards can be extremely toxic. This one is no exception.

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18 hours ago, OAGBPal said:

This disorder is social, and can be solved socially. BED felt like a prison for me; a prison slowly shrinking the size of my life while increasing the size of my body. My world got smaller and smaller, and the smaller it got, the more I binged.

Thank you for this advise. I agree with you. I was very large as a child and in my high school years, I didn't have many friends and definitely was alone a lot. I was quite isolated and food was my outlet at home and weight gain was going to happen. I also agree with you that we need to remove all emotions from eating so that we can eat for health rather than for the emotion of wanting to eat. This WLS journey has helped me to help start healthier habits in eating and helping to remove the emotional eating that I was doing.

18 hours ago, OAGBPal said:

Hey, wait a minute ... I can go to restaurants and parties if I damn well please. If anyone has a problem with what I look like, that's their problem, not mine.

I agree with you. Eat what you enjoy albeit with Portion Control in mind. I am working on only eating what I consider an 8/10 rather than being a dumpster and eating everything even if it is not worth the calories.

4 hours ago, summerset said:

Finding a therapist who've specialized in disordered eating is not easy.

I agree, and not just that but finding a specialist who works for the person who is seeking advise. The same thing happened to me with a dietician who definitely was unable to help me and sent me to a specialist who told me to just read a book and you will be good.

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22 hours ago, mswillis5 said:

The same thing happened to me with a dietician who definitely was unable to help me and sent me to a specialist who told me to just read a book and you will be good.

A good book can be more helpful than a bad therapist.

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