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Sunny’s Story

Research over the last five years has found that binge eating disorder is actually twice as common as anorexia and bulimia combined in women of all backgrounds and ages, including teens. I was one of them.

In high school, I’d skip lunch just like the other girls or pick at fries when we’d congregate at McDonald’s. But when my parents started fighting–and ultimately, talking divorce–a puzzling, frenzied pattern of eating started to emerge. At 14, I sat on top of our German shepherd’s doghouse in the middle of the night, a can of frozen orange juice concentrate in one hand, a spoon in the other, crying and scooping the syrupy stuff into my mouth until it was almost gone. At 15–alone a lot, with my father out of the house and my mother working more than one job I ordered and ate two small pizzas the night I broke up with my first boyfriend.

Soon I was sneaking into the kitchen almost every night–praying my mom wouldn’t hear the wooden floors creak– to eat three, four, five pieces of bread with butter and peanut butter or to nuke a huge plate of chips and cheese for makeshift nachos. When I babysat my neighbors’ kids, or cleaned their houses for extra cash, I spent half the time rifling through their cupboards, stealing their kids’ Little Debbie snacks and potato chips.

I thought I was a pig, and a freak, because I couldn’t stop this weird, secret, uncontrollable eating. I started wearing big, baggy sweaters or sweatshirts over leggings to hide what I thought was an unacceptably fat body.

When I ate seven candy bars in a row one afternoon, I knew there was something desperately wrong. That’s when my mom sent me to Mitch, the family counselor both she and my dad had been seeing throughout their divorce. He gave a name to what I had been doing: compulsive overeating–what’s now also known as binge eating disorder–and he gave me a book to read, Feeding the Hungry Heart, by Geneen Roth.

While it was one of the most important things I’ve ever read, the true beginning of my recovery, it was meant for grown ups. Women with kids. Married women. I couldn’t fully relate to the people in the book. That’s one reason I started HealthyGirl,org, to be a resource for teens and young women who want to stop overeating.

Today, I’m no longer binge eating. I’m a deputy editor at Redbook magazine in New York City, and am at a healthy and stable weight. After years of hating myself, hating my body, and abusing it with way too much food, I’m finally healthy and happy. I want you to be, too!

For more on how I recovered, start here—or just jump right in to some personal posts over here.

61 Comments leave one →
  1. Veronica Miranda permalink
    October 26, 2009 12:38 pm

    I am really happy that I found this site. You always hear about anorexia and bulimia but you never hear about binge eating. People may think that binge eating is not as serious as anorexia or bulimia but it is. I suffer from binge eating and it really sucks. I eat when I am happy, sad, angry, mad, whatever mood I am in. I also eat because I am lonely. I have no friends so that causes me to eat more. Another reason I overeat is because I feel the need to eat to fill a void. My life is empty so eating makes me feel less lonely. Anyways, I just wanted to say that I am glad that I found this site and I hope to find ways to cope with this disorder. -Veronica

    • October 26, 2009 4:10 pm

      Hey Veronica, I’m glad you found this site, too! That’s exactly why I started it–binge eating and emotional overeating are incredibly widespread problems, but they don’t get a lot of play. I’d love to know what you’d like to see more of on the site. Journaling activities? Personal stories? Tips? Thanks for commenting, welcome to HealthyGirl.org and [[hugs]]. Sunny

  2. sami permalink
    October 28, 2009 8:30 am

    I always try to eat healthy… a year ago I was light overweight and people were making fun of me, so I started going on a diet, in just a few months I lost 30 pounds (in the moment I weight 103, I’m sixteen), everybody said that I looked perfect and congratulated me for my weight-loss, but I still thought that I wasn’t thin enough so I continued losing weight.
    This time I lost 10 pounds, people started worrying about my health and my mom and my grandma were thinking that I got a real problem, so anorexic.
    In my head I looked normal and more beautiful than ever!
    Now I also recognized that I had to stop losing weight, so people would stop complaining and talking about my weight. I could keep my weight for a few months, but the people didn’t stop and although I didn’t loose weight, my mam still thought that I was on a diet and forced me to weight myself all the time to show her, that I didn’t lost more weight. I didn’t want to weight myself, because I knew that I was to thin so I had a lot of descussions with my mom.
    I start feeling like a monster, I thought I was anorexic too, and to thin to go swimming, I didn’t want to do something with my friends because I thought they would be shoked seeing me so thin.
    I got sader and sader, but then one day I knew I had to do something against it, so at night I sneaked in the kitchen and ate as much as I could.
    I felt horrible, I feared that I would gain weight although I wanted to gain weight, but the next night I did the same thing. I continued doing this for a few weeks, and my appetit grew bigger and bigger.
    After gaining 8 pounds I felt horrible, so I wanted to loose weight again but i couldn’t I hate to binge eat all the time!
    And now I still struggle with it, sometimes I got it under control and sometimes I can’t control it! what can I do?

  3. Sophie permalink
    October 28, 2009 5:29 pm

    Sunny, from the bottom of my heart thank you. I had no idea anyone else in the world did this. Your story completely opened my eyes.

    Love the site – love your courage – love the message.

    Your piece on the weird food rules was so helpful, especially when you offered replacement rules.

    Sorry for the brief message that feels so inadequate – I am still so shocked and relieved to find out there is a name, there is a cure.

    Thank you again and wishing you get back even half the blessings you are bestowing with this site. -Sophie

    • October 28, 2009 5:38 pm

      Hi Sophie,
      I am so happy that you found HealthyGirl.org. You’re not only not ALONE, you’re one of many, many, many if you emotionally overeat or binge. The statistics are staggering. Binge eating disorder is thought to be twice as common as anorexia and bulimia combined. But there’s help! I hope you find some of it here. Big hugs and lots of hope to you. Sunny

  4. Dora permalink
    October 29, 2009 9:29 pm

    Amazing site! I’m so glad I found this. At seventeen, I tend to emotionally overeat, and I think girls my age do the same a lot more than they are willing to admit! This is so perfect for bringing up my day, and I look forward to updates! :D

    • November 1, 2009 5:40 pm

      Hi Dora,
      I think you’re right–I think there are lots and lots of girls doing this. Even if it doesn’t get to full-on eating disorder or full-on bingeing territory, there are so many who overeat once in a while to make themselves feel better. But then, of course comes the guilt, the weight worries…etc. It’s crazy how food can make us feel so good, yet so bad at the same time, right?

      Sunny

  5. Cheri Osmundsen permalink
    October 29, 2009 11:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, with such honesty… I never knew the extent of it, and we have been friends for 26 years, which goes to show the power of the disease..
    I love you sunny….

  6. Elissa Green permalink
    November 5, 2009 10:13 pm

    Hi Sunny!
    Just wanted to say I am so proud of you. Love and miss you.
    Elissa

  7. Candy permalink
    November 20, 2009 2:30 pm

    wow…. there is a name for what i have and i’m not alone. I have had a sigh of relief since finding this website. Thanks. I am going to locate the books and start reading.

    • November 20, 2009 3:02 pm

      Hi Candy–thank you for leaving this note! I’m so glad you found the site. I used to think I was alone too. Where’d you hear about it?
      Sunny

      • Candy permalink
        December 29, 2009 5:23 pm

        I believe i heard about it on cafemom.com in a forum.

  8. sami permalink
    November 22, 2009 5:12 pm

    It’s me again
    I’m already on a good way to a better health, but sometimes I wish, I know it’s weird, but I wish, i could eat whatever I want and not gain a pound… this happened to be my biggest wish ( sad…)
    This was never my biggest wish, but since i started to look after my health and planning my meals, this wish is stuck in my head.
    But as long as it is just a wish I think I’m ok, I know that it’s not good to binge.

  9. Gaye Harris permalink
    December 27, 2009 11:33 pm

    Hi Sunny, Even though I am not an overeater, I am an addict and I can relate to those same feelings of overeating as your readers do. The same shame, the same self loathing and the same emptyness. I am very proud to be your auntie. Keep up the good work!!!!! Luv Gaye

  10. December 28, 2009 3:34 pm

    Sunny,
    Thank you for the gift of your site. I admire you for having the courage to tell your story, and respect you for tackling the roots of your issues. People usually continue to dance around the symptoms of eating disorders – including binge eating disorder- and don’t often work on the underlying causes of what made them turn to food as a drug of choice in the first place. My book and blog explore why we get entangled with the body image bandit, and how to fight him and win. Thanks again, Cherrie http://www.cherriemac.wordpress.com

  11. Rachael permalink
    January 6, 2010 12:45 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and making this site. I have been a binge eater for 6 years and this is such a breath of fresh air to read warm and helpful stories rather than the usual diet -hate-yourself crap

    • January 6, 2010 2:06 pm

      Well, thank you Rachael! I’m glad you found us. :)

  12. January 6, 2010 4:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and being a source of support for other young women who struggle with compulsive overeating. I admire your strength for overcoming your disorder, as well as your wisdom in recognizing there was a problem in the first place. You offer a great resource here!

  13. sami permalink
    February 7, 2010 8:40 am

    okay, I think I’m already a little annoying…
    I stopped with my binge eating disorder, I was able to control it and I was ok for a few months, but now I started with another eating disorder! I have bulimia, I eat healthy during the day but when I come home, I binge and after force myself to throw it up!!!! I’m so hopeless, I have the feeling that I will never be healthy again! I mean first I was anorexic, then I had the binge eating disorder and now bulimia!!!!
    I think I can handle it, but i really have to stop thinking about food as a bad thing and I recognized that as long as I have something to do I don’t binge and so don’t have to throw up!!!!!
    I stopped with throwing up for one week, but I’m so afraid that it will come back!

    • February 7, 2010 2:18 pm

      First, Sami, you’re not annoying. Ever! :) Second, I’ve got to say this as clearly as I can–and I’m saying it with love: YOU CANNOT HANDLE THIS ALONE. Anorexia, binge eating and bulimia are serious psychological issues. It’s not just a matter of eating a little too much or not being able to stick to a diet. Honey, this stuff is serious. It can harm your body (infertility, heart attack, death), your mind (depression, anxiety) and your potential to live a successful and happy life. Go here right now and look up a resource for the country you live in:http://www.feast-ed.org/edcommunityworldwide/edgroupsworldwide.html
      And tell your mom or someone else you really trust. Sami, you need help, we all do! You’re not weak, you’re sick, just like the rest of us were.
      xo…Sunny

      • sami permalink
        February 9, 2010 11:43 am

        thanks
        well okay then i will look for help, i think it’s time
        thank you for your understanding

    • Charlotte permalink
      February 27, 2010 4:52 pm

      I just wanted to say that your anorexia story you posted back in October is almost IDENTICAL to mine. I’m also 16 years old, and I’ve been struggling with eating issues since I was a little kid. I feel so, so sorry for everything you’ve been through and I know how f*cking awful it feels to be consumed by an eating disorder. I’ve experienced all types of them, just like you, so don’t feel like you’re weak because you’ve had more than one eating disorder. In fact don’t ever call yourself weak. I think that girls with eating disorders are some of the most misunderstood, smartest, and strongest ones out there, and their eating issues are just obstacles standing in the way of who they truly are.

      • sami permalink
        March 28, 2010 3:35 am

        thanks ^^
        it’s good to hear from somebody with the same problems! And you know what? I stopped with all my eating disorders a month ago, without any help, Ijust stopped, I told myseld that I’m strong and that I can do it, I feel so good since then!

    • Kel permalink
      August 3, 2010 9:07 am

      Hugs! Sunny is right. xx

  14. Daniella permalink
    February 11, 2010 4:48 pm

    Hi Sunny!
    I followed you on Glamour.com and I just stumbled upon this site recently. Thank you so much for this site. I have always had some type of disordered eating, which has usally involved dieting, followed by bingeing. I have always been an emotional eater and being in a big Italian family, it just seemed normal. But I suppose that I have always known my eating patterns were not normal. I eat significantly more than everyone else, usually in private and it is a very destructive pattern. Trying to take control of my eating has never been easy. I am still trying to recover from this and have yet to figure out what triggers my emotional eating. This is something that I will always struggle with.
    Thank you for this inspring blog!

  15. Kim permalink
    February 21, 2010 5:52 am

    Hey Sunny,
    Its weird how i can and also can’t relate to many of the girls here,
    but sometimes i tend to overeat and then just totally not want to
    eat a thing, i might even have only one meal and a snack per day at times. i may even be anemic.

    its hard to get on a regular eating schedule because i just cannot
    stick to it . im 160 pounds at age 16 and i feel huge. i am even overweight because of my 5’6 height. ughh!

    it doesn’t help me much knowing that. but im still glad i found this site straight out of a link in glamour.com

    -Kim

  16. March 27, 2010 5:30 pm

    Sunny,
    I love you blog! Thank you so much for being who you are, going through what you did and making something positive out of it! You are an inspiration to so many of us.
    Sincerely,
    Angela

  17. April 17, 2010 4:51 pm

    I didn’t even know there was a name for binge eating disorder much less that anyone else suffered from it until about 10 years ago. I’ve been doing the work for the past two years but its only been in the past few weeks that I finally feel like I’m making progress. I’m so glad I found your blog. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Diana

  18. May 29, 2010 11:05 am

    Hi Sunny!

    So glad I found your blog via Twitter. You have such a compelling story. Thank you for sharing it.

    I share your passion of growing positive body image in women….I work with adult women in the weight loss field who have such negative body image. Gosh, if we could help teenagers!

    Thanks for what you do!

  19. Amy permalink
    June 27, 2010 8:24 am

    I am so glad to have found this website. I’ve been a yo-yo dieter for years but just within the last year my binge eating has gotten out of control. I am in an unhappy marriage and have a young child that is going through the terrible two’s. Sometimes I will hit two drivethru’s right in a row or wait for everyone to go to sleep and eat as much as I can late at night. Then I can’t sleep because of the guilt and how uncomfortable and sick I feel. I hope to get this under control soon for my child’s sake, just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and letting us know we are not alone.

  20. Lyn permalink
    October 18, 2010 5:17 pm

    I stumbled across this site today, and it is honestly one of the best sites I have found!
    I’ve been ‘secret’ eating for years, and for the majority of those didn’t really realise what I was doing – I was skinny as anything, and never really had a problem with my weight.
    When I started university, the pressures of studying, relationships, etc etc caught up with me, and added to the freedom of eating essentially what I wanted, these eating habits spiralled out of control. A couple of years later, I’ve finally started to be a lot more conscious of what I’m eating, and am on my way to getting things under control.
    I hadn’t really found ANYTHING that I could relate to as well as this site (there seems to be a lot of anorexia/bulimia/binge eating in older people advice, but not so much for my generation), so I just wanted to say thank you, and hopefully when I feel the need to binge, I can take a few deep breaths, have a look at all your stories, and realise that I’m not alone in this! Looking forward to not feeling so guilty all the time :).

    • October 18, 2010 6:48 pm

      Hi Lyn. I’m so glad you found HealthyGirl.org. Please do come back and click around. I’d suggest reading some of the Real Stories, especially, to help you realize even more so that you’re not alone. There are so many young women out there dealing with emotional eating issues! It doesn’t make it any more fun, but it does make it make a little more sense. xo…Sunny

      http://healthygirl.org/real-stories/

  21. angela permalink
    December 6, 2010 12:01 pm

    I was so pleased to find this website. i am in my 50s and have had a binge eating disorder for all that time and have suffered on and on. finally i found the geneen roth book ‘Women food and god’ and am doing her online retreat and it is finally working! i am starting to get in touch with my own body for the first time in my life or at least for a very long time. i cant believe how much i have tortured this body and ignored it, trying to live in my mind. thank you for this website.

  22. Hayley permalink
    December 11, 2010 9:19 pm

    I hav suffered from aneroxica for about a year, living at 6stone and eating very little. I realised I had a problem when I saw pictures of my self. When I started 2 eat a little bit more sonethink clicked in my head and I started 2 binge eat on a massive scale. It’s scaring me as I hav put on so much weight.

  23. Kyra permalink
    March 13, 2011 12:39 pm

    I cannot tell you, Sunny, how thankful I am that you have made this site. I knew that I had an eating disorder, but I couldn’t identify with bulimia or anorexia. I know exactly how you felt, going into the kitchen praying your parents won’t hear you. I had never had a problem with eating, but since I started using food to control my emotions I began gaining weight and it was a vicious cyle. I felt myself eating junk food I had never liked, but simply picking it because of the simple sugars and carbs that gave me a high and calmed me down. I am so happy that I found this so I can begin my road to helping my problem, thank you Sunny. xoxo

    • March 17, 2011 3:00 pm

      Welcome to HealthyGirl.rg, Kyra. I’m so glad you found the site! xo…Sunny

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