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I’m a Compulsive Overeater

People who meet me are taken aback if I mention that I am – present tense – a compulsive overeater. “But you’re not fat!” they protest. Yeah, and Joe the alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in twenty years isn’t drunk, but he’s still an alcoholic.

My last eating binge was over thirty-two years ago. (I’m going to pause for a minute and just breathe that in. I forget sometimes the enormity of it.) I hated my life when the food was out of control. The up-and-down weight was a lot of it (it’s embarrassing to see someone at one size in June and be a whole different size in September), but the real agony was the bondage. There was no freedom in having to turn into a drive-thru when part of me didn’t want to but a stronger part did. I was a slave to trying the next diet just because it was Monday (even though I hated diets and knew they didn’t work).

Fast-forwarding to now, I’ve been free for a really long time. I don’t diet or agonize over food. Sometimes I eat too much but I’m not “going off” of something because there’s nothing to go off of. I look healthy and normal. I am healthy, but I’m not normal. I am, as I said, a compulsive overeater.

Isn’t saying that negative and horrible and inviting disaster? No. For me, knowing who I am and what I am is the path to emancipation. It tells me that I need to take certain actions to maintain the gift I’ve been given. They are, basically:

  • Having some kind of spiritual life. I’m no saint, but without contact with a Higher Power, I’d still be looking for God in a bag of Doritos.
  • Willingness to help other people with the same problem. I can feel bad for the homeless, the terminally ill, or victims of domestic abuse. But other than giving money, I can’t do anything for them because I don’t truly understand their experience. I do understand hiding food, stealing food, bingeing alone, and hating myself afterwards.
  • Eating within some gentle, flexible parameters. For me, that’s (pretty much) three meals a day — if you only start to eat three times, you only have to stop three times — and (pretty much) natural foods – vegan, of course, but that’s for the animals. Anything beyond this gets diet-like and crazy-making.Pretty breakfast
  • Making this about freedom, not about weight. Weight has to do with a variety of factors. People come in different shapes and sizes. In our culture, large people are discriminated against, and so are very thin people who are often accused of having anorexia. I can’t be at peace if I’m obsessing over the size of anybody’s body, including my own.

If I gave up on the simple actions listed above, I’d almost certainly binge again. That’s who I am. I could reject my spiritual life and not turn to drugs or gambling; I don’t relate to those. Cookies, however, I get.

Besides, this a syndrome. Binge eating is just the extreme end of it. When I don’t go to the gym for days (or weeks; it happens), I’m not overeating, but I’m in the syndrome. When I want to stay in and watch TV instead of go out to a networking event, I’m in the syndrome. When I’d rather eat alone than with company — even the most nutritious, moderate, and beautifully balanced meal ever prepared — that’s the syndrome.

As an imperfect person, I dance around with it. I recognize it and, thanks to those actions I’m committed to taking, I haven’t binged and I’ve stayed at a good weight for me. But that’s not the point. I’m a compulsive overeater. That fact will remain as long as I live in this body and have this brain. I used to think it was curse. Now I know that it’s a gateway: to understanding myself, depending on a Higher Power, and being of some use in the world.

victoria_moran_portrait

Victoria Moran is the author of twelve books, director of Main Street Vegan Academy, and host of the Main Street Vegan Podcast. She has been vegan since 1983. Current projects include producing the upcoming documentary, The Compassion Project, a film to interest religious and spiritual people in the vegan lifestyle; a one-woman show about her life and vegan journey, The Making of a Main Street Vegan; and writing A Coach in Your Kitchen: The Complete Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook and Lifestyle Guide, with co-author JL Fields and contributions from the graduate coaches of Main Street Vegan Academy. This book will be published by BenBella in January 2018.

Comments

  1. Gwen Angstrom says:

    Dear Victoria! The above is so me! Has been my life for most of my 75 years…but, 10 months ago, I embraced a vegan lifestyle. For me, I eat from the fresh food aisles and the nutrition center area. (Personally, I do eat a few processed vegan things, but mostly fruits, veggies and nuts/seeds). And, I cannot imagine eating a sentient being. Anyway, I am at peace with my body for the first time in my life – neither fat nor skinny, just right for me. And your books really helped and continue to do so! THANK YOU AND LOVE, GWEN

  2. Mary Rouse says:

    Nicely written! Thanks!

  3. Thanks. I’m currently struggling with this and I recognize all of what you have written. I’ve been a vegan since 2008, also for animals. I lost 15 pounds but now live within a 10 pound weight range. If I’m in control I go to AR protests and feel great, if not, life is seriously difficult. This post gives me hope so thank you. I will remember to reconnect with my higher power and purpose of my vegan diet.

    • Victoria Victoria says:

      Hi, Uma — Thanks for responding. It means a lot. You might get a lot out of my book THE LOVE-POWERED DIET. You can find it at the library if you don’t want to buy it. My whole heart and soul is in there, and my whole story of recovery, a day at a time, plus a lot on living vegan. Thanks for all you do for animals.

  4. Stephanie Jorian says:

    Thank you, Victoria! I have struggled with compulsive overeating for decades and related so much with what you said. I’ve been vegan for 6+ years, but that didn’t stop the overeating. It just changed what I ate, not why I ate. Because I struggled so much with my weight, it was difficult for me to come out as vegan because of the stereotype that I bought into that vegans should be thin. I feel I haven’t been very effective at sharing the vegan message, and I think a lot of that has to do with the syndrome of compulsive overeating. The isolating, eating, and feeling bad aren’t good for anyone. I’ve been attending OA meetings for about 4 months now and believe this 12-step program will help me not just physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but that it will also put me in a better frame of mind to be of service to the animals and the world. I have miles to go, but grateful for the progress I’ve made. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. What a wonderful, wonderful blog post. My husband and I have recently turned vegan, although I’ve been reading your work on and off since I found a wonderful article written by you in Vegetarian Times back in the 70’s. I too struggle with overeating, and you’ll never know just how helpful this particular post was to me. I do believe I will finally be a “regular” here! Thanks!

  6. p.s. I know you wrote a book years ago about compulsive eating. How about an updated book, sharing your experiences over the years? I love the action steps you posted on your blog, and a new book would be wonderful!

    • Victoria Victoria says:

      There have definitely been books from me on this subject since the original edition of The Love-Powered Diet. In 2002, Fit from Within came out. It’s one of my three bestselling titles, subtitle is 101 Simple Secrets to Change Your Body & Your Life, Starting Today & Lasting Forever. (Please note that I have a book called Lit from Within; this is Fit from Within.) In 2007, Fat, Broke & Lonely No More Came Out, with a lot of good ideas about food, money, and relationships. And The Good Karma Diet, my latest book, 2015, is a lot of upping the ante on healthy eating. ‘Hope you’ll enjoy some of these.

  7. p.p.s. Oops! Sorry! I was referring to your 1993 edition The Love Powered Diet. I just looked on amazon and see there’s a 2009 version! Can you tell me, is the book the same as the 1993 book or is it updated? Thank you.

    • Victoria Victoria says:

      Hi, Sheryl — It’s basically the same book but we definitely made updates, especially to the food/nutrition sections.

      • Thank you very much! That book will soon be mine! And thank you for mentioning the titles of your other books. They go on my wish list.

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