Amanda would go to the shops and fill two bags with food, telling the shop assistant she was hosting a party, when really it was all for her.

DUBAI // “Amanda”, an Australian expatriate, said giving up smoking in her late teens triggered a cycle of binge eating that led to a severe eating disorder.

“I tried to give up smoking and thought, ‘I have to have something’,” Amanda said.

She would go to the shops and fill two bags with food, telling the shop assistant she was hosting a party.

“I remember just pigging out on this food and then somehow I had an idea about making myself sick,” Amanda said. “Then I did it again. That was my thing. I would buy bags of food for comfort and I would make myself sick.”

The cycle went on for about 15 years. “Every time I thought, ‘This will be my last time; I will never do this again’.”

Amanda would try to counter-balance the binges with over-exercise, but it eventually led to bulimia.

“The cereal box would be gone, the half box of eggs would be gone. I would limit my social life,” she said.

“There was something missing inside me that needed to be eating.

“I was at the point where if I was bingeing, I would not answer the door or answer the phone.”

The middle-aged mother of two said that while she was living in Egypt a friend pointed out she needed help.

“I don’t know how she knew but my friend circled an OA advertisement in the local paper and threw it down on the table and said: ‘I think you need to go to that’,” Amanda said.

She went to her first OA meeting nine years ago.

“I remember reading the first lines of the book of OA and it describes exactly what I did with food. I thought: ‘Oh my god they have written a book about me. There is hope, I am not alone. I have a disease’. And it just snowballed from there.”

Amanda said she also needed help from a treatment centre, because after she gave up binge eating she “went too far the other way”, compulsively exercising and limited her eating.

She still goes to OA, takes it one day at a time and relies on other members during times of stress.

“This is why OA works because I have people to turn to. I have tools to work with to deal with the emotion and the daily living,” Amanda said.

“OA has helped a million times and I still always go to it, but it is a really tough disease. It doesn’t have to be as straight-forward as ‘pigging out’.

“Food is a symptom, it is not the cause. People just go, ‘Oh, you are overweight, stop eating’, but in OA we look beyond that – about what is missing.”

jbell@thenational.ae

Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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