by Jacki Monaco, 24, Los Angeles
I began binge eating after three events crammed themselves like square pegs into round holes in my life. There wasn’t enough room within me to handle it all and I turned to food to cope.
Event #1 - After my freshman year of college I wanted to lose 30 pounds and I began running four miles six days a week, eating 800 calories per day, and “sneaking” foods one day a week. I was finally skinny like I’d always wanted, but I was the most miserable I’d ever been. It was the beginning of my detrimental relationship with food.
Event #2 - My roommate and close friend died in a sudden, random accident.
Event #3 - My boyfriend (and best friend) couldn’t handle how sad I was over my roommate’s death and left me.
Using Food to Fill the Emptiness
I was thin, I loved my boyfriend and I had a roommate I adored. But then I didn’t have the second two, so I unknowingly sabotaged the first. I exchanged not eating at all for eating everything in sight. Quickly I became addicted to eating, with no idea how to get out of my own way.
For me, binges went one of three ways: I ordered in, I dragged myself to the grocery store, or I did drive-through runs. I would blindly consume everything in about an hour and then raid my cabinets to keep the binge going and my scary feelings at bay.
The Place that Changed My Life
In an unforgiving moment, I realized I’d eaten myself 100 pounds heavier in less than two years. There are no words to describe the feelings that followed me off of the scale and onto the floor that day. I kept asking, “What have I done to myself?”
I knew things had to change. I explored several options and I chose Green Mountain because of its focus on health and happiness, not weight loss. Green Mountain is what I refer to as “The Place That Changed My Life.” It became my safe place, like entering a womb for four weeks while I began to heal and change. Nobody could hurt me aside from myself and I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore.
Finding Comfort at Green Mountain
At Green Mountain, I was reminded of how a healthy person ate and exercised. The chefs and dietitians brought fruits and vegetables back into my life and I remembered the times when I actually liked eating those foods. Unprocessed things that tasted good? And made my body happy? It was almost too good to be true!
The fitness staff gave me hope that I could become strong again, that moving my body wasn’t just hard work and could be fun. Never did I think I’d be doing Zumba, flailing around with no coordination, laughing at myself while sweating out the past.
Being Okay with Grey
Green Mountain helped me soothe my mind and my heart, two things I had neglected for far too long. Psychologist Darla Breckenridge helped me become a better me. Without judgment, she sat with me as I purged the feelings that I had buried under food for so long. The women at Green Mountain, those who guided me and those who were on their own journeys right beside me, will always be my angels.
One of the most important things I learned from Darla is that I don’t have to feel guilty about having the things I truly want. No longer does it have to be “pure indulgence” vs. “utter perfection.” There are grey areas with food, like there are with everything else. I had been trying to keep my life in black-or-white, all-or-nothing sections, and it just fueled the binge eating.
My Journey at Home
I feel stronger every day, doing things I wouldn’t have been able to before Green Mountain. I’ve played basketball without having to stop every 30 seconds to breathe. I went on a hike for the first time in years, and sometimes I jog (instead of walk) to destinations… just for fun, because my body can.
When the grey area no longer felt scary, I knew I was changing. I stopped bouncing between gluttony in the privacy of my own room and starvation in public. I was just eating… eating because that’s what humans do. I have overeaten here and there because food can and will always be fun to me, but it’s no longer my only outlet for fun or comfort. I’ve admittedly had my down moments when I’ve emotionally eaten, but I didn’t keep it a secret and I didn’t feel guilty about it. Lastly, and most importantly for me, I have not had a binge since I left Green Mountain.
One of my most treasured “takeaways” from Green Mountain is a keepsake box I made while there. It has in it the original piece of paper with my beginning weight and measurements, pictures that make me smile, and small strips of paper with affirmations on them that I can turn to when I might want to binge. My favorite affirmation is “Just Breathe.”
Loving Myself More than Food
What I immediately loved so much about Green Mountain is that the focus of the weight loss program is on how we, as women, feel in our bodies. Weight loss is a rewarding side effect of living a healthy life, but it wasn’t my ultimate goal. However, the changes on the outside have my journey to health even more delicious.
How I feel and act today still astonishes those around me who loved me through my hard times and see me succeeding now. I’m unsure how I would have or if I could have changed my life without Green Mountain. Now, I am a 23-year-old woman who has found the strength to love herself more than her bond with food.