My Story

I had always struggled with my weight, body image and disorderly eating from early childhood. I danced since the age of five, played soccer when I was in high school, and was a certified aerobics instructor by the time I was a senior. During my freshman year of college, I found my way to the weight room and never looked back. Unfortunately, throughout my life food had always been my source of comfort and solace. Despite being active, due to my unhealthy relationship with food, I never saw the fruits of my labor. I found myself exercising to compensate for the excessive calories from overeating. After high school, the problem progressed significantly with the stress of my course load and college life in general. I would go to convenient stores and buy a large bag of chips, pint of ice cream and whatever else I thought I “needed.” I would eat it all behind closed doors. While it all “tasted” good and comforted me in the moment, I would feel ashamed and guilty after each binge. I would tell myself I was going to start over in the morning and was never going to do it again! But then I would find myself alone after a long, difficult day in my car on my way to the convenient store again. I hated clothes shopping because nothing fit except for the size 13-14. I would make excuses as to why I couldn’t go out with friends or cancel plans because I felt so bad about myself. I was so miserable that I didn’t want to spew my venom on anyone else so I stayed home alone. And of course, this led me to food again to soothe my pain. But it wasn’t until after my first job post graduate school that I hit rock bottom. I finally gathered enough courage to leave the abusive and emotionally draining situation that had taken me to my lowest point ever. I was depressed and like previous life experiences, ate to comfort myself. After I finally got back on my feet I was the heaviest I think I’d ever been. The last time I stepped on the scale it read 164lbs. It was then that I decided enough was enough. I needed to get my life back, and the start of this healing process was losing all the weight I had gained during all this binge eating.  I started by cutting out all the junk food, reducing my portion sizes, getting adequate sleep, and doing more functional based workouts to support to my efforts. And so my weight loss journey began…

It wasn’t until I started competing in 2010 that I fully understood what it meant to “eat clean” though. My nutritional plan consisted of five to six meals including weighted or portioned sizes of lean protein at each meal paired with a healthy starch, fruits and green vegetables, and healthy fats. I lost weight while maintaining the muscle I had developed and was in the best shape of my life so I thought. But shortly following my first show, I found myself struggling with food once again. I would never keep any of my “trigger” foods in the house, but I would go out each night and buy a pint of ice cream, a jar of peanut butter, chocolate, and whatever else looked good. I would go home and eat it all. And sometimes I found that that wasn’t even enough. Again, I would feel extreme hate towards myself and guilt for my behavior. The next day I would work out extra long and hard trying to compensate for the additional calories. Then I would tell myself that I “needed” to do another show. If I had a goal, I would stay on track and wouldn’t binge anymore. But the cycle would just start again as soon as the lights went down and my show was over. I needed to stop the madness. I sought help, and I was diagnosed with binge eating disorder. I knew I had a problem with food my entire life, but never knew I was suffering from an actual eating disorder. After attending Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for over a year and half, what I really found was that it wasn’t about the food at all. Binge eating disorder is perpetuated by extreme restrictive dieting, but I was looking for another emotional need to be met by the food. It took becoming healthy in mind and body to overcome the disorder.

In addition to therapy, my life changed significantly in March of 2012 when I worked with a nutritionist. She told me I wasn’t eating enough and I was setting myself up to fail with my current plan. She worked with me to find balance. I have never been leaner, felt better, or eaten this many CARBS! I’ve also never found it so easy to maintain a finally healthy fit body 43lbs lighter. I still have my cravings for sweets which I satisfy once a week. But I AM in control and one reward meal doesn’t turn into another and another and another, finding myself in a food coma three days later. My lifestyle has undergone an amazing transformation, and it took much work, sweat, blood, and tears!  I still have my moments with the disorder though far and few between.  My point is this:  life is never going to be perfect, and the things that my past self would view as weaknesses have now become my strengths because if I didn’t experience those things I would not be who I am today. While the road hasn’t always been easy, I’ve learned that this disorder does not define who I am.  It’s molded me into the individual that I am today and has showed me how STRONG I really am.  My hope is that by sharing my story I am able to help even just one person who is struggling in silence. I want them to know that there is hope, that there is help out there, and that they WILL get better.

If you feel like you might be struggling with the same disorder, I highly recommend seeking professional help for the appropriate diagnosis. I personally, had had enough and wanted help! That’s a big piece of it. You have to WANT to change! I sought out a cognitive behavioral therapist who specialized in binge eating disorder. As this form of therapy, in addition to Interpersonal psychotherapy and Dialectical behavior therapy, are recognized as successful modes of treating this disorder. I also suggest contacting a nutritionist who has experience working with those who have binge eating disorder, and encourage relapse prevention. Another immediate resource for you, or for a supportive loved one, to learn more about the disorder is the book Overcoming Binge Eating by Christopher G. Fairburn. Ironically enough, I randomly saw this book on a shelf in Barnes & Noble years before I had been diagnosed & purchased it but never read it through. And then when I began treatment, my therapist suggested getting it. Fate? I was always destined to get better!

Thank you for taking the time to read My Story. I hope it spoke to you in some way. Whether you yourself struggle with BED or some other form of disorderly eating, or you know someone else who does, perhaps you will see a glimmer of hope for your journey toward recovery. Until next time…

Love & Light,

Tawny

As published in Training & Fitness Magazine June 2014

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2 Comments

  1. Catching up with one of my oldest friends and I see what a beautiful woman she has become. She is strong enough to put in the work to heal herself and share her story with the world to help others. I’m sure your parents are proud and I know my mom would have loved to see the beautiful person you have grown to become.

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