More Confessions Of A Nurse Who Compulsively Eats

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    Compulsive eating disorder, also known as binge eating disorder, is a distressful problem for millions of people in the United States. However, this affliction dwells in the shadow of less prevalent eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The purpose of this article is to shed some more light on compulsive eating disorder.

    It's the beginning of another new year, so I'm going to discuss the topic of overeating. Since masses of people across America are making new years resolutions that revolve around weight control, I feel this is an opportune time to broach this issue once again.

    To get everyone up to speed, I previously wrote a piece entitled Confessions of a Nurse Who Compulsively Eats, which described compulsive eating disorder (also known as binge eating disorder) and listed all of the signs and symptoms of this affliction.

    After successfully losing 40 pounds during the early part of last year and getting down to a near-normal weight, I regretfully announce that I've regained 22 pounds over a period of eight months. My distorted eating habits returned with full force starting in May of last year and I never quite jumped back on the wagon. I feel disappointed and disgusted.

    I plan to jump back on the wagon starting today. Before I implement this lifestyle change, I will make some more confessions with which many compulsive eaters and binge eaters can identify.

    The compulsive eater's thoughts are preoccupied with food.

    I visited a local zoo with my cousins at the age of nine. Honestly, I do not remember one single animal from that trip, but I clearly recall the smell and taste of the pizza that I ate from the snack bar. Sleepovers, birthday parties, and school lunches never really carried any social importance to me, but I remember with striking clarity the snacks and meals associated with these events.

    The compulsive eater watches what (s)he eats while in public.

    My former boss, an engineer whom I'll call Dan, weighed more than 400 pounds even though he conspicuously ate a cup of 100-calorie fat-free yogurt and drank bottled water at lunchtime every day in the cafeteria for many years. I strongly suspect he was a closet binge eater who ate copious amounts of food in the privacy of his home.

    I watch what I eat in public to avoid attracting negative attention. In fact, the all-you-can-eat buffet is one of the only places where you'll witness binge eaters consuming multiple plates of food in the public eye. The typical binge eater packs a light, healthy lunch for public view (school or work) while eating large quantities of food in private.

    Compulsive eating has a strong emotional component.

    I'm usually not hungry when I'm compulsively eating. I go on food binges because eating feels comforting in response to unpleasant emotions such as sadness, anxiety, nervousness, anger, or jealousy.

    I've gained and lost large amounts of weight over the years.

    I will be 32 years old in a few weeks. During my adult life I've been as light as 115 pounds and as heavy as 216 pounds. I'm currently somewhere in the middle of these two numbers. The most I've lost is 60 pounds. The most I've gained is 100 pounds. Yo-yo dieting has been the story of my adolescence and adulthood.

    I realize I will always have issues with food. Although I wish I could seek professional help for this problem and the rest of my underlying emotional issues, I'm currently uninsured. Millions of people in the U.S. are compulsive eaters, the majority of whom are acutely aware that something is very wrong. Overeaters Anonymous ( is a free and helpful resource. With proper help, compulsive eating disorder can be remedied.

    I'll keep you all posted on my progress. I cling to the promise of a new year and will conjure up the confidence to change my thoughts, health, and life for the better.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 9, '15
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    About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Moderator

    TheCommuter is a moderator of and has varied workplace experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

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    CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
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  3. by   TheCommuter
    My previous article on compulsive eating disorder also describes the time in my life (middle childhood) when I first developed a distorted relationship with food. I was eating to block out emotional pain because I never properly learned how to address emotions. Eating was more comforting than feeling a range of emotions. Click on the link below if you wish to read more.
  4. by   shamrokks
    Thank you for sharing. I can relate unfortunately
  5. by   multi10
    OP, Things that help from people I know: Get a dog. That pup will look in your eyes every morning; "Let's go for a walk!" You'll get up and take your buddy out to enjoy the morning air and the birds, trees, airplanes, flowers, whatever attracts you. You'll meet new friends. You'll definitely lose weight.

    A morbidly obese friend went on "The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet." It worked for him because he found it easy. He lost over 100 lbs.
  6. by   herring_RN
    Me too.

    I was 9 years old when my Daddy took me to witness the vote to amalgamate the two Los Angeles musicians unions. No more segregated union for those musicians who had been friends and jammed together for years! I clearly remember the punch had too much water and the cookies were imitation, not real Oreos or Hydrox.

    I'm still disappointed that in 1953 my grandfathers sister served us kids a big pile of boiled okra and told us we couldn't have any seven layer chocolate and raspberry cake if we didn't eat it all. I put one bite in my mouth and spit it back on the plate. It felt like someone had blown their nose on the plate.
    No cake for me.

    Every event I remember the food. I was six when my Mommy put a fried egg sandwich with sliced tomatoes in my school lunch. It tasted soooo good! Many times over the years I've recreated that sandwich. Now i grow tomatoes and eat them whole while hot from the sun.
    We all looked forward to pancakes after church. I could go on and on.

    I think there may be a genetic component. All my family loves food. We talk and argue about the taste of various onions and apples. All of us either struggle like you (and I) do or become unhealthy and obese. Except the cousin who is adopted. Even as a kid he didn't anticipate and remember foods like the rest of us. He likes to eat, but stops when he has had enough. He even pays attention to the presentation.

    My mother had grown up during the depression when they didn't always get enough to eat. Love and food are all mixed up for us.
    Even in our fifties and sixties we show love partly by cooking for each other. We just try to make it healthy.
    Recently my sister made us all greens and black eyed peas for new years without the greasy meat. I made whole grain corn bread. We spent more time talking than eating. No lemon cake or sweet potato pie.

    See - I could go on and on.
  7. by   multi10
    We all recall the first time we tasted wonderful things as children: Cinnamon toast at my friend's house. Fried clams with tarter sauce on Cape Cod with my cousins. Crispy crinkly french fries with salt and ketchup after swimming. Crispy pizza at the bowling alley.

    Now that we're adults, should we consume anything-and-everything at will? It's an individual choice.

    I recognized early on that my Dad had a weight problem partly because of his sedentary job. I didn't want to become overweight, especially after watching the ridiculous measures and diets he went through, including one where my mother (a schoolteacher) had to weigh and measure his food.

    I learned to pay attention to my cues of hunger and respond to them. Plus, I exercise every day. It doesn't involve the gym so much. I just walk, play with my dog, nothing drastic. I have a stationary bike that I use sometimes while watching TV.

    No-one has to lose weight unless he or she wants to. Don't let other people pressure you. The idea and motivation has to originate from within whether it's for reasons of health or appearance.
  8. by   Aongroup1990
    Food is so delicious so don't worry about gaining weight because you are young. Never feel ashamed to eat because women have huge appetites. Yes, food and overeating makes our worries go away and when we keep eating from stress then that is when a problem should be consulted by a nutritionist.
  9. by   itsmejuli
    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    I'm now 51 and the heaviest I've been in 10 years. This is all due to emotional eating and too much alcohol. Oh I knew what I was doing, I was fully aware of every delicious morsel of food and those yummy drinks. I didn't keep anything yummy in my home because I know that if its there I'll eat it or drink it.
    But it was no problem for me to walk down the street and find food and drink.

    Its so easy to pack the weight on. I watched my mother yo yo diet through the years. I lived thousands of miles away so when I did see her I never knew what size she'd be. I promised myself that I'd never be a yo you dieter like her. She'd pack on 30 lbs then lose it and pack it and lose it.

    I started Weight Watchers on Jan 1 and so far I'm sticking to it.

    But I have another vice...I'm a smoker. I'm sure if I wasn't a smoker I'd be an overeater and very heavy.

    I'm hoping this year will be my year for a healthier me. One step at a time.

    There are many good self-help articles at Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist
  10. by   OnlybyHisgraceRN
    Thanks for sharing. I can definitely relate. Last year I started a weight loss program that involved appetite suppressors. I did the program for about 2 and half months and loss 20 lbs along with exercise. I kept the weight off for a few months and now I've gained it all back by slipping into old habits. Ofcourse, being a newly wed doesn't help. My husband likes certain unhealthy snacks so we have them in the house, I have no control so I'll indulge also.
    I think about food all the time, I'm constantly wondering when my next meal or snack is going to be. After binging I often feel sick. I'm an emotional eater so I too eat alot when feeling sad or depressed.
    For the pass few weeks I've been going to the gym atleast 3x a week and drinking more water. I just need to get back on track. I refuse to be a fat wife or nurse. It is not fun at all.
  11. by   multi10
    To itsmejuli: It's never too late to get healthy. One step at a time indeed. I admire your being on a plan to lose weight. Weight Watchers is an effective program and it works. As far as quitting smoking I have 3 friends trying to quit and one said that Chantix (sp?) and Wellbutrin helped.

    My parents quit smoking together when they were in their 60's on their way to Italy. Mom never smoked another cigarette. My Dad lapsed a year later, but, this is the thing: His lungs were still a whole lot better for trudging around Italy and not smoking for a year!
  12. by   SHGR
    I have a friend who is a compulsive eater, and the "look at the healthy kale I'm eating!" extends to Facebook, too. It's kind of a weird thing, almost attention-seeking behavior.
  13. by   VivaLasViejas
    I could co-write a book on compulsive eating with you, Commuter. It's something I've fought since adolescence, although I was never overweight or obese until I got married and started having babies. (Can't blame it on "baby fat" anymore, since the "baby" is almost 22.) I ate because I was depressed. I ate because I was happy. I ate because I was angry and felt I had to stuff it down....literally. I ate because it tasted good, because someone had made it just for me, because it was a holiday or a birthday, because I wouldn't get any if I didn't eat it now. And I ate just because it was there.

    Strange as it may seem, the inexplicable drive to eat way past the point of satisfaction has slowly ebbed in the past year. Except for a few months during which I was taking a medication that made me so ravenous that the sofa was beginning to look tasty, I've largely stopped the mindless eating.......and sometimes I even forget that I haven't eaten. I don't know if it's got anything to do with the mood stabilizers I'm on or if I'm just over it all, but I've dropped almost 30 lbs. since late September and I haven't really been working at it.

    No, I don't sit around eating candy all day like I used to, and what snacks I do indulge in are usually things like apples and cheese. But I also don't think about food all the time's the compulsive element that's missing here, and as afraid as I am to trust it, I have to be thankful for it because NOTHING I've tried in all the years of battling my weight has worked, at least not for long.

    I've gained and lost the same 100 pounds several times over, and my food obsession always came raging back and spoiled my efforts. I don't know what's happened, or if it'll continue, but I remember my mother going through something like this in her mid-50s, and after a lifetime of fighting her own biology, she lost some 60 pounds and kept it off until the end of her days. I'm in my mid-50s now. Is it possible that lightning has struck twice? Only time will tell.....
  14. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from multi10
    OP, Things that help from people I know: Get a dog. That pup will look in your eyes every morning; "Let's go for a walk!" You'll get up and take your buddy out to enjoy the morning air and the birds, trees, airplanes, flowers, whatever attracts you. You'll meet new friends. You'll definitely lose weight.
    I've had two dogs over the years, and unfortunately, did not particularly like their company or take very good care of them. I will not be getting a third dog because it would be totally unfair to obtain another pet that should go to a more suitable owner who would actually meet its needs.
    Quote from multi10
    A morbidly obese friend went on "The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet." It worked for him because he found it easy. He lost over 100 lbs.
    I went on the Carb Addict's diet and developed horrible headaches, frequent urination, shaking, and other dreadful symptoms. I've tried a myriad of diets. The last thing I need is another fad diet. It's all about lifestyle change...