Healing the Void: Overfed and Starving | Holland Dickirson | TEDxFondduLac

Healing the Void: Overfed and Starving | Holland Dickirson | TEDxFondduLac

Translator: Hiroko Kawano
Reviewer: Mirjana Čutura Let’s talk about food. I want you all to think about the roles
that food plays in your life. As you probably know, food fulfills
one of our most basic needs for survival. It provides us with the nutrients
we need to grow and thrive. And beyond this, it can carry
many more significant meanings to us. We use food to bring family
and friends together, to celebrate and mourn,
to excite our senses, and help heal illness
and to encourage passion and creativity. Many people find enjoyment
and satisfaction in food. But what if food was your demon? What happens when you use
food to fill a void? To stuff an emptiness inside of you? What is it like when food
literally takes over your life? This is what happened to me when I began struggling
with binge eating disorder. I’ve decided to share
my deepest secret with you today in hopes of bringing more attention
to binge eating disorder, also called BED. Some of you may be familiar
with BED or maybe not as it didn’t become an official
clinical diagnosis until 2013. According to the National
Eating Disorder Association, binge eating is considered a disorder when a person frequently eats a large
amount of food in a short period of time. They feel out of control when doing this and experience distress
and shame afterwards. Now, it’s different
from the eating disorder bulimia in that someone with BED
doesn’t use things like purging, laxatives or excessive exercise to counter the binge behavior. BED is also more than just
overeating on occasion. I’m sure many of you can relate to eating
way too much at a Thanksgiving dinner or eating past the point
of feeling full sometimes. But that doesn’t mean
everyone who does this has BED. So, let me give you a better understanding of what it’s like to suffer
from binge eating disorder by sharing what it was like for me. Imagine every morning you wake up,
your thoughts drift to one thing: food. And as the day goes on, you spend a lot of time thinking
about what you will eat, when you will eat
and where you will eat it. All you can think about is food,
but you don’t want anyone to know this. So, when you’re in public, you try to eat a normal portion
and act like food is no big deal. But really, in the back of your mind, you’re planning a secret race
to the drive-through or a quick dash to the store
to get all your favorite foods. It’s a bittersweet relief
when you’re all alone. You can finally tend to your cravings. Even if your stomach’s not that [empty], even if you’re not that hungry, you convince yourself
eating this is going to be worth it, and you’re going to stop when you’re full. But instead of you consuming the food,
the food begins consuming you. And somewhere in your brain,
you’re trying to pull the emergency brake, but your mind and body
have already switched to autopilot, and you can’t stop eating,
won’t stop eating and don’t stop eating until all the food
in front of you is gone. And any gratification
you did feel is gone too. No matter how full your stomach is, there’s still an emptiness
in the pit of your being. It’s as if your stomach
is some foreign limb, and all that remains is shame. You look in the mirror
and see a failure staring back. You try to make yourself feel better
by promising it will never happen again, and immediately you go to throw out
any other tempting food that you bought recently. Or you decide that
you’ve absolutely blown it, and now you might as well
just stuff more food down. Sometimes, you wish
food didn’t even exist at all. But the reality is,
for those of us with BED, we can’t just avoid or completely
eliminate food from our lives because we need it to survive. And we’re tempted and teased
everywhere we turn with food. It’s not hidden in the back alleys, age-restricted to buy
or illegal to consume. It’s on every corner, every commercial,
every machine in the hallways and often the main event
of meeting up with friends and family. It can feel like the world
is closing in on you as the drive-throughs never close,
the grocery shelves are never empty and food delivery
is just one phone call away. In my own experience, it got to the point where it didn’t matter
what emotions I was feeling or even what kind of food I was eating. Binging was a nightmare
I couldn’t wake up from, and I felt completely alone. Now, even though many people
living with BED may feel alone, it’s actually the most common
eating disorder in the U.S. I can still remember the day, years ago, a guy on a TV show I was watching
opened up about his BED diagnosis. This was the first time I felt relief, knowing that I wasn’t
the only one feeling isolated in a painful and terrifying
relationship with food. I still kept it a secret
for a few years after that before talking to a dietitian and then waited another year to finally confide in my immediate
family and closest friend. Now, the reason why many people with BED
may choose not to open up about it is because they’re afraid
others will view it as a lack of willpower and not as a true disorder. I want you to think for a moment if you’ve ever heard someone who doesn’t struggle
with their eating habits say to someone who does, “Oh, maybe you
should just try eating less, maybe try not buying so much food, or you could try this diet or that diet.” And while these ideas
and comments seem harmless or are even intended to help the person, they can be defeating
for those of us with BED to hear, especially if we’ve already
tried it all before. Before seeking treatment, I was adamant that the cure to my issues with food
was to diet and cut out all junk food. I began to count calories
and exercise every single day. A week would go by or sometimes
even a month or two of no binging. So, on the outside, it appeared to those around me
that I was healthier because I’d lost some weight. But really, on the inside, I was continuing to obsess about food
just as much as before. The more that I would deem
certain foods off-limits or forbidden, the more they would torment me,
and I would eventually binge on them. My life became cycles of binging on food
and restricting food, binging and restricting,
binging and restricting over and over. Once I got into treatment, I learned that weight loss
and detoxing from sugar was not the be-all and end-all
solution like I thought. Moderation is usually
a part of recovery eventually, but there’s often a root cause or trigger underneath the destructive behaviors
that needs to be addressed first. It is much more about the balance
in all aspects of your life, not solely the physical. Now, I want to share with you
the four main changes I’ve made in my life that have strengthened
my recovery in BED so far. My hope is that it could help any of you
who are struggling with the same behaviors or even something similar. The first is seeking help. Now, I know this is no new
revelation or anything, but a lot of people with BED
don’t know that there’s treatment for it. I didn’t, at first. I thought I was simply a failure
with no self-control, hopelessly addicted to food. Once I found a dietitian and a therapist who understood that it
was a severe disorder, that changed everything for me. Getting professional treatment
is a significant step in reaching out to gain a lifeline. It also becomes important to branch out
to family members or friends who you can trust. You might have to educate them
a little on eating disorders and be patient with them. But doing so can give them the opportunity
to be a positive support system for you. Now, the second thing
that has impacted my recovery is called “intuitive eating.” I came across this concept
when my dietitian started talking to me about becoming aware
of my hunger and fullness. According to its creators, there are 10 principles
of intuitive eating that, in short, describe
how it is not about diet culture, meal plans, discipline or willpower but about healing
your relationship with food. I had to learn to let go
of my love-hate relationship with food and accept that food
will always be a part of my life. This was a completely new idea to me. Making peace with food requires that you stop categorizing certain foods
as good or bad based off calories alone and stop labeling yourself as good or bad
based off one meal alone. Intuitive eating encourages you to let go
of the demanding rules and beliefs that are holding you hostage
from finding enjoyment in food. You deserve to feel
satisfied after eating. The third thing
that has helped in my recovery was by deleting all my social media. Now, you might be thinking,
“What would that have to do with BED?” But I want you to think about what you see
when you’re on social media. I saw a continuous feed of the newest
fad diets and crazed fitness trends. Now, I’m not saying that the promotion
of health is a bad thing. What I’m talking about is being bombarded
by overwhelming weight-loss tips, Photoshop models and the inspiration
to be everything we weren’t born to be. And then, scrolling straight
into more posts about body positivity, how dieting is a bad thing and advertisements of celebrities
indulging in fast food. If we’re honest, it can be confusing to live in a culture that both worships
and then continually criticizes food. When I was on social media, I was also constantly comparing
myself to others. How many of you have ever looked
at someone else’s profile and thought to yourself,
“I could never be that thin,” “I could never be that happy,” “I could never be that confident”? I think many of us carry
the dead weight of comparison around. Sometimes, it can feel
like we’re imprisoned in a society of contradictions that says,
“You need to be thin and be like Barbie. But don’t starve yourself. Love your body.” Taking away these
societal beauty standards and everyone else’s
personal beliefs about food that are plastered all over social media can be freeing. Now, the fourth and most profound thing that has given me
a new outlook on recovery was coming across this idea
of accepting the void, the void being this unexplainable
emptiness in your life. I believe we all have a void
to some extent, but we choose our own way to satisfy it
until we can learn to embrace it. Your void filler might be food like me. Or it could be an addiction to shopping,
social media, alcohol or relationships. No matter what it is, I believe the only way
we can truly become whole is to pursue understanding
of that emptiness, of that void instead of our useless attempts
to feed it, fight it or cover it up. The cycles of binging and restricting
that I was trapped in for so long began to occur much less frequently once I started to fully process
the trauma of my past, practice mindfulness in the present and create more realistic
expectations for my future. So today, I’ve shared with you my story in order to shed more light
on binge eating disorder. For any of you out there listening
who are struggling from BED in hiding, I encourage you to speak up. I want you to know
that your struggles are valid. And for those of you
who, during this talk, realize that there’s a name
for the behaviors you’ve been hiding, I encourage you to seek help. I want you to know that you are not alone
even though you may feel that way. And for the rest of you, I encourage you to be a supportive
friend or family member if you learn that a person you love
suffers from BED. I hope everyone will consider
being patient and kind with those people you see who seem to be struggling
with their relationship to food. Thank you. (Applause)

3 Replies to “Healing the Void: Overfed and Starving | Holland Dickirson | TEDxFondduLac

  1. Her story is inspirational and relatable. Her advice on supporting and being kind to those who suffer from addiction is very helpful. Incredible job on the TEDx Talk!

  2. What a beautiful take on this lesser known disorder. Thank you for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to everyone who might be struggling and I know your story will help many!!! Well done

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