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Midlife eating disorders (ED) can often go undetected and so many women are suffering in silence. Your neighbor, best friend, or your sister. It is so easy to think you are all alone when battling this addiction.
Iris Ruth Pastor is a walking example of a recovering bulimic. I must say, I am elated and honored to have had the chance to interview Iris. This is how she took back her life and lived to tell her story! — Kim B. Smith
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The Silent Addiction
For 46 years – much of my adult life – I was bulimic. Bingeing and purging daily. I feared my legacy to my grandchildren would be having a grandmother who died in a pool of her own vomit, to be perfectly honest.
Back in college, I discovered if I was thin, I would get both noticed and acknowledged. I also discovered if I gained 10-15 lbs., my cheekbones disappeared, my hips spread, and I became ordinary looking, blending into the crowd.
Thus, began my addictive behavior where I would eat and then throw-up. ED (eating disorder) became my secret lover that I could always rely on. ED was there in times of need and despair. He became my rock, or so I thought.
Eating disorders are a silent addiction. Tons of middle-age women and baby boomers have a relationship with ED too. Many times, ED wedges himself in during times of transitions: empty nest syndrome, retirement or aging. ED’s power is creepy and insidious… Beginning once a week, then little by little, ED grabs hold and enslaves us daily. This silent addiction plays very heavily on our mental health. It is like a cocoon that warps you up and then catapults you down the wrong path.
ED surfaced daily. He was my reward for getting through the day with grace, dignity, and competence. Kids tucked away in bed, my husband upstairs resting, I would eat a half gallon of fudge ripple ice cream and then purge. It was my moment, my time where I “thought” I had everything under control.
Depression To Revelation
Depression is a major contributing factor to this silent addiction. It’s a place where we never feel good because our outside coping countenance is out of sync with our internal messiness. We have a poor self-image and live with the mistaken notion that “if I could just lose five pounds, then I would be happy, loved, etc.”
I am now a healthy, happy woman that had a huge lightbulb moment: either I cast ED away or he would cause irreparable harm to my body. I finally realized that hoping every day that ED would disappear was futile. Hope can’t assure recovery, but it CAN fuel a plan for recovery. I finally faced the truth: I couldn’t oust ED alone.
Just days later, an article appeared in my local newspaper highlighting the story of a 70-year-old woman who had recovered from decades of bulimia with the help of professional treatment and yoga. I knew her slightly and immediately called her. Over dinner, she convinced me that I could beat ED too. I credit her fully with giving me the final push to stop going through this battle alone.
Breaking Up With ED
I googled treatment centers in the Tampa area and met with the head psychiatrist of one of the centers. She recommended in-patient treatment because I had been involved with ED for 46 years.
“Not feasible,” I retorted. “Not only do I work full time but very few people know about ED and that’s how I wish to keep it.”
Reluctantly, she agreed that I could try a three-month outpatient program. And it worked. Why? I WAS READY! I took responsibility. I became accountable for my actions.
And I realized that the reasons I stuck with my secret lover ED didn’t exist anymore. I had self-confidence, a realistic body image, a stable support system, an ability to self-soothe and an awareness of when I was eating for emotional, not physical, hunger.
What’s my message? You Are Not Alone. There is help available.
ED and I broke up over six years ago. I now live life with renewed vigor, optimism, and gratitude.
If you are reading this and are challenged with any type of self-destructive pattern, reach out. You do not have to struggle with it by yourself.
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About The Author
Author, blogger, speaker and podcaster Iris Ruth Pastor is a self-admitted “book collector, coffee lover, and sunshine seeker.” Her slice-of-life column, “Incidentally, Iris,” has been in existence since the mid-1980s – affording her an opportunity to share her reflections about everyday life, raising five sons, coping with what life throws her way, and not killing her husband in the process. Iris is also a columnist for the American Israelite and a past managing editor.
In 2013, Pastor founded Ladies, Ink, utilizing her writing and public speaking skills to empower audiences to be their very best selves by “Preserving Their Bloom.” She gained entrée into Huffington Post and just six months after her first story aired, was recognized as one of their “Must Read Bloggers.” She publishes a weekly newsletter, podcasts regularly and blogs for a variety of sites and periodicals.
Pastor’s nine-week series Shedding the Secret: My Life as a Bulimic debuted on the Huffington Post in January 2016, sharing excerpts from her newest book, The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman.