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October 02, 2017

Binge Eating: A Life of Hide and Seek – Kara Richardson-Whitely

kara richardson whitely binge eatingFor years, I tried to hide within my body.
 
When I was 9 years old, I hid from my parents’ fighting by binge eating in the pantry.
 
The sounds of my chewing drowned out the sounds of their accusations. Of course, I was terrified as they screamed accusations at me.
 
So, I hid.
 
I hid from all the uncertainties: my family, my life, the tension and the pain that blanketed our house.
 
And I tried to seek.
 
I sought peace. I sought calm. And, I was able to find these things in food.
 
As I look at my own daughter, who is now 9 years old, I can only think, “no wonder I turned to food when there was so much uncertainty in my life.” I see how young and vulnerable she is, how her heart and hand still needs to be held. When I was her age, my world was falling apart but there was no one there to hold me through it.
 
Later in life, my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Vermont.
 
I hid again.
 
I hid from loneliness, with an absent father — feeling outcast as a heavyset newcomer. I used my hard-earned babysitting money to binge. I rode my bicycle (a pink beauty with high-rise handlebars and a banana seat) to the corner store. The only purpose of this exercise was to find food.
 
All this aloneness left me vulnerable. While I would sit at home eating and watching TV, my mother wasn’t around to patrol the people who were coming and going. My oldest brother was bringing in some undesirable people, including a “friend” who sexually assaulted me on my 12th birthday. I was terrified of him for a lot of reasons including the fact that he had beaten up both me and my brother.
 
After I was sexually assaulted, my binge eating disorder went into overdrive. I gained more than a third of my body weight in one summer. I was so depressed medically and physically that I contracted Shingles.
 
Yes, I was still hiding.
 
I hid from the pain of my past trauma by stuffing it down. And my body was trying to show me — trying to show everyone — that I was suffering.
 
It’s a funny thing, trying to hide from my problems, when, after years of swallowing my feelings with excess food, I carried them everywhere on my body, for the world to see. Not every pound was a problem — but it felt like they were all on display. The pounds, problems and feelings were all there.
 
I continued living this way for years until I turned 30 and started the process of recovery.
 
At that point, I was sick of hiding.
 
I was sick of trying to hide how I felt. I needed to find a way to deal with life instead of hiding it all.
 
But, the truth is, my body was the one who gave up first. My body wouldn’t let me hide any more. I was in pain all of the time. My knees, especially my right knee, were riddled with osteoarthritis. I didn’t even want to climb the stairs any more. I had to ask people to bring me things because getting out of chair was so incredibly painful. I had trouble being active with my children. I didn’t want to get down on the ground with them to play – I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get myself off the ground. All of this served to continue to hide me from my own life.
 
I had to seek another way.
 
In the beginning, seeking came in the form of diets. I sought out gurus who might hold the key to weight loss. I was seeking a magic pill to cure me of my insufferable battle of the bulge. But I never found the answers that I was seeking in this way, even if my efforts did result in weight loss.
 
I had to seek more.
 
I had to seek another way of living. I had to seek another way of dealing with life and my emotions. I had to seek the places that were unknown and uncomfortable. I had to go deeper in the direction of recovery. I was going to have to feel things and understand them even if they were painful and hard.
 
And, after all that seeking, here’s what I found. As I continued on my path to wellness, I learned to:
 
  • Seek solutions, instead of a hiding place
  • Seek community, instead of the comfort of food
  • Seek help, especially from my therapist, when I don’t have any answers
 
And I’ve realized this: if I continue to seek, and if I can stop hiding, I can be found.

Learn more about Kara and recovery by listening to Kara on Episode 4 of Eating Recovery Center's podcast Mental Note.
 
Kara Richardson-Whitely is an Eating Recovery Center Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate and the author of Fat Woman on the Mountain and Gorge: My 300-Pound Journey Up Kilimanjaro. Her next book, Weight of Being, is due out in spring 2018.
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