I spent eight days in the hospital in April. I was septic with a kidney infection. It was brought on by kidney stones. In the testing that has followed, the doctor identified my eating disorder as a reason I was getting kidney stones more than most people. When they analyzed my diet, they literally said I have to stop eating chocolate and nuts, because those were the culprits. I laughed, because I almost died by chocolate. But then I didn’t laugh, because I am almost 50 years old, and I have been binging on chocolate since I was seven. It is a serious addiction. The amount of treatment that has gone into helping me stop has been intense.
The biggest lesson I have learned from all of my treatment is the mantra we have at our clinic, “It is all about the food and it isn’t about the food at all.” We all learn to know this means food is our issue, but the emotional needs underlying it are at the heart of the problem. I was in recovery for two years, had a serious relapse for two months since April because April/May have been a slice of hell, and I am almost fully back in recovery now. But what amazes me is that across the country, men and women don’t have access to the kind of eating disorder treatment I was lucky to get. I found a clinic that recognizes eating disorders are more than anorexia and bulimia. In fact, I think I heard that they now treat more people with binge eating disorder (like me) or a compulsive eating disorder.
These two diagnoses are chronically neglected in the media yet affect far more people. It’s the way they talk about eating disorders that tends to blow past them entirely. I didn’t even realize I really had an eating disorder until my 40s, because I didn’t fit in the lines of bulimia or anorexia, but anyone who tracked my eating over time would have called it disordered. Never eating anything before 6 pm as punishment for having binged the night before, for example. Eating a diet of almost exclusively chocolate-based products for days at a time would define another. I’m so grateful I have been able to get good treatment now.