Accepting Your Eating Disorder and Talking About It
A year and a half ago, Deb Purse was ready for drastic measures. A veteran of diets, Deb decided her New Year Resolution would be to lose the weight she’d been battling since she was 10 years old. Her solution was extreme, gastric by-pass surgery. At the time, a procedure with a mortality rate of 1 in 200 seemed better than going on another diet, or worse, spending the rest of her life overweight.
After much soul searching though, Purse didn’t go through with surgery. Instead, she sought to combat her weight by understanding it on a deeper level. Deb joined a counselling group at The CEDRIC Centre, and it was there that she began to resolve her history with food and weight.
The CEDRIC Centre (Community Eating Disorder and Related Issues Counselling), specializes in the treatment of clinical eating disorders, sub-clinical disordered eating patterns, and related issues such as anxiety, depression, and distorted body image. Their counselors provide bodywork, group, and individual counselling, as well as community outreach presentations for schools, educators, and health professionals. All of The CEDRIC Centre’s counsellors have long standing recovery from an eating disorder, and are proud to have facilitated the recovery of hundreds of men and women in Victoria, BC and beyond.
At first, Deb was skeptical. She didn’t think of herself as someone with an eating disorder. And she didn’t see how talking about food would work. “It took me some time to talk about things that I had never mentioned to a soul in my life. It took awhile to even hone in on what my problems were.”
In her groups, Purse discovered she wasn’t alone in her struggles with food, weight, and the complicated emotions that led her to over eat. For the first time she had a name for what she did, compulsive eating. Compulsive eating is estimated to affect up to 30% of the population and yet, like Purse, most people have never heard of this eating disorder. “Too me,” said Purse, “eating disorders were bulimia and anorexia. I had never heard or thought that being overweight could be a disorder.”
It is often assumed people with eating disorders experienced childhood trauma. While there is a correlation between eating disorders and trauma, it’s not the rule. In fact, recalling her own childhood, Purse conjures up the image of the typical middle class Canadian family. “I used to say I had a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ childhood, and I did. There was never any physical abuse, we never wanted for anything. My parents were normal, my Mum would bake pies on Sunday, and my Dad would look after our large yard and he would fix things.” Regardless of her happy childhood, Purse developed an eating disorder. She learned to use food to stuff feelings that might upset her family. Eventually, she lost touch of her feelings altogether. “All my life I gave the impression that I was confident and I never new it was just a cover up for my insecurities. I had given them different titles like, ‘shy around strangers’, ‘don’t like to rock the boat’, ‘don’t hurt their feelings by saying the truth’,” Purse said.
Spring is a particularly tough time for people who struggle with food and weight issues. Michelle Morand, Founder and Director of The Cedric Centre explains, “We’re bombarded with messages to diet, and for those who grapple with food issues, diets only lead to binges and self-recrimination. And more diets.”
“There are many studies that support the statement diets don’t work. You may lose weight on a diet, but there is a less than 5% chance that you will be successful in keeping it off,” says Morand. Despite the stats, it is predicted that more than three-quarters of all wo me n between the ages of 25 and 54 make diet and weight-loss resolutions each year, according to a nationwide survey sponsored by Gardenburger Inc. Nearly nine out of ten respondents reported only occasional or no success, while almost half lost little or actually gained weight instead, the survey found. Morand says, “It’s no wonder so many women feel overwhelmed, 35% of those with disordered eating behaviors started those behaviors after a diet.”
Purse echoes the shared experience of many, “Diets only worked as long as they were the focal point of my life. As soon as anything changed in my life, I would be back eating as usual. It wasn’t natural for me to eat less-I was obsessed with food and it controlled my mind for most of my waking hours, magnified when on a diet. I would starve myself for days, weeks, and then, I couldn’t take it any longer, and I would run for my favorite foods.”
Of her New Year’s Resolution’s, Purse is pragmatic, “Like most people, I did the New Year’s resolution diets, but they aren’t worth mentioning. I joined gyms and went on diets but before 2 weeks were up, so was I!” But her involve me nt with The CEDRIC Centre is a different story. “I have benefited so much that it makes me emotional to think about it. I am so much stronger as a person, I have much more confidence, and self worth.”
As for the weight loss surgery, Purse is quick to answer. “My sister had the surgery about two years ago. She paid about $4,000.00 for her surgery. I am very grateful that I didn’t go that route. I don’t think she’s as happy with the success as she thought she would be.” Purse beams as she concludes, “Food is no longer the devil in my head. But there is more than just releasing that hold, I have learned a lot about why I am the way I am, and I’m working on insecurities that had accumulated for 49 years. I just celebrated my 50 th birthday, and I am confident that my next 50 years will be so much richer, and more fulfilling.”
By, Brooke Finnigan