Fasting and Overeating – Do I Have an Eating Disorder?

By February 22, 2013

Hi! I honestly don’t know if I have or had an eating disorder. As a teen I rarely felt hungry and didn’t eat much, skipping meals for days at a time. If I didn’t like what my Mom made for supper, I just wouldn’t eat it. So that was me as a teen and it continued on into my early twenties. Then, I started eating more junk food and the pounds started to stick, but I still didn’t become overweight, not until my thirties. In my mid thirties I decided it was time to do something about my weight, but didn’t know how or what to do. My husband had this idea that we needed to fast from food for two days and pray about something specific. We’re Christian’s and fasting wasn’t something we had ever done before, but he wanted to do it and I followed. It was right after we stopped our fast that I started to eat less at meal times and didn’t eat snacks or anything in between meals. I did this for about 4 years and lost ***lbs and then some. I went down to ***lbs, but was hungry all the time. My husband got a job away from home and we didn’t see each other for a month, which was very hard on us both. I ate in the evenings out of boredom, unhealthy food of course. I started to gain weight and now weigh ***lbs at 40 years of age. Do I have an eating disorder? I’m so scared of going back to feeling hungry/starving all the time that I’m not regulating my intake of food properly, it’s like I have to feel “full” all the time. I don’t want to gain any more weight and wouldn’t mind losing ***lbs in all honesty, but I feel stuck in my thinking and in how I’m handling myself where food is concerned. Now I do my absolute best to eat breakfast, especially if I’m up early for work. I’m often hungry by 10:30am again because I’ve been up since 6:30am and that little bit cereal only takes me so far. I eat lunch, sometimes a salad and sometimes a sandwich and sometimes a pizza pop. I will snack in the afternoon on something not quite so healthy and then eat supper and have another snack in the evening (not always healthy either). I would love to do portion control again like I did after the fast my husband & did, but I’m scared to have that “starving” feeling again, like I’m always hungry. So I have no balance right now and honestly don’t know how to get myself into a balanced, healthier lifestyle. Thank You for reading this long question and for your answer when it comes! Sincerely, Myrna

Dear Myrna,

We appreciate your question. The fact that you are wondering if you have an eating disorder indicates that you know something is not right.  It would take a thorough assessment by a professional to provide a definite answer, but I will give you my first impressions based on your letter. You can also take our self-tests to get some insights.

Clearly, you have an unhealthy relationship with food that dates back many years. It would take some digging to understand your lack of eating as a child, but skipping meals for “days at a time” was not healthy or normal. As you got older, it sounds like you eventually moved from being overly restrictive to overeating, with little regard for taking care of your body and making healthy choices. After you fasted, you swung back to being too restrictive, but when later faced with a lonely and stressful time, you turned to food for comfort and started overeating again. I can understand your desire to “find balance.”

A word about fasting. I am curious about your true motivation at the time. Did the practice remove distractions and draw you closer to God? Was it a time when you were seeking His voice and direction? Or were you more focused on how many pounds you could lose? Great care should be taken when making a decision to fast. For those with a disordered eating background, it can be very triggering. In your case, it led to a period of restrictive eating when you were hungry “all the time.” Since that was not sustainable, you ultimately swung in the other direction. That phase also left you with a fear of going back to extreme restriction and not being able to function at your best. You have developed an “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to eating, which is why you feel stuck.

The good news is that you want to change and there is a middle ground. Ultimately, you want to learn to eat intuitively, fueling your body when you are hungry, but stopping when you are comfortably full (not stuffed). You don’t have to eat perfectly, but strive to make healthy choices 90% of the time. We have many articles on our site to help you, but start with “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle.” I’d also recommend Thin Within  by Judy Halliday. I don’t like the title, but the book is packed with encouraging scripture and explores some of the root issues of overeating.

If you still feel stuck after these suggestions, it is time to see a counselor who specializes in disordered eating. (See “Finding Treatment.”) Keep working at it, and do whatever it takes to find that place of balance.

Many blessings to you,