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You're never too old to get help with compulsive overating disorder


I am now over seventy years old, but when I was growing up people were unaware of “compulsive eating disorders”. I certainly never heard of it. I remember eating a dozen oranges while watching television. Or sneaking into the pantry and picking the fat off the cooked pork chops my mother had made for dinner that night. What I don’t remember is anyone noticing this behavior or being concerned about it. To my Italian-American family I looked healthy and, besides, no one would marry me if I was too skinny because they would assume I could not afford proper food! I fought a lonely battle to control overeating. There did not seem to be a specific trigger to start me off on a binge. It was just a constant desire to eat. My stomach was a bottomless pit and no matter how much I ate, I never felt satiated.

I did not purge. I simply would starve myself for a few days and then go back to the overeating. Thus, in high school, I was not obese, just slightly overweight. I tried to control my appetite, especially when I saw how normally my friends treated food. I never discussed my out-of-control eating habits with them or the shame I felt about it. After school, I would sit in the living room with a book and mindlessly devour cupcakes, eat dinner and after dinner, raid the refrigerator.

When my boyfriend left me for another girl in my junior year, I was so upset that, for the first time I could remember, I had no appetite. A month later, I saw my
reflection in a full-length mirror, realized I had lost a lot of weight and was now a normal size. I loved the way I looked and decided I would make a mighty effort to stay that way.

It was easier when I married and was busy with a fulltime job, a husband and a household. Even then food was constantly on my mind. “When is the next meal, what will I eat for lunch, I wish I could be left alone so I could eat the leftovers in the refrigerator.”

I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish doctors did also. It was not until I was in my fifties that I had the good sense to seek help. When I saw that my male doctor did not take an interest in my problem after I told him about it, I went to a female mental health professional who did. Finally I began to find out as much as possible about compulsive eating disorders. Once I grasped the size of the problem among us, I found it was easier to speak of it to anyone who would listen.

It’s a shock to realize that so many years have gone by and I am still fighting this condition. Like an alcoholic, I can be recovering, but I will always have it.

The best advice I can give to young people who have this problem is to counsel them to get it out in the open and get help immediately. Lucky for them, the medical community today is much better equipped to deal with it than they were years ago.

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