Guest Post: Brittany Burgunder’s Battle

I (Rachael) have included a link near the end of this piece to an article on depression, a mental struggle I had not dealt with but I know many others like Brittany have. Thus, this post is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. I received compensation as a thank-you for my participation, and believe offering links to resources like BetterHelp may helpful to some.
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I came across Brittany’s blog about a year ago and found her eating disorder struggle similar to my own. Certainly, Brittany’s drastic weight fluctuation in a small amount of time is relatable to me as well as many more of us, and shows that the problem lies not in appearance, but in our attitude toward food. Just like me, Brittany is also in the process of getting a memoir published about her eating disorder experiences. I’m so glad Brittany was willing to share her journey as well as the struggles she still encounters on a daily basis, as I believe eating disorders should be monitored even in recovery.

My name is Brittany and I want to let you all know no matter what you are struggling with that there is always hope for a better life. For me, my major life struggle was with my weight and appearance. Growing up I was constantly bullied and teased and I never had a close friend; only acquaintances to say hi to so I didn’t seem like a complete and utter loser. I was always a great student and a very talented tennis player and horseback rider to top it off, but that didn’t matter. My self-esteem was nonexistent and every day I wondered what was so wrong with me that I didn’t fit in like everyone else. Instead of realizing there was nothing wrong with me other than I was shy and insecure, I turned my anger and sadness inward.

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Why Certain “Lifestyle” Diets Didn’t “Fix” My Eating Disorder

(Thank you to BetterHelp.com for sponsoring this post, with their link about getting professional help included near the end. I received compensation as a thank-you for my participation, and believe offering links to resources like this may helpful to some.)

Q: Balance – If we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t as able to [take care of] others. It’s about finding balance so that you avoid extremes in diet and exercise. I know that people have commented that they want to know what diet you finally found that works best, and it makes me wonder if they are looking for answers for themselves. That’s a pretty tough question to answer because nutrition isn’t that cut and dry, and there is still a lot that we don’t know. Everyone thinks that they are an expert, and you can find great arguments that support almost any diet. That’s why I think balance and moderation is best. I’m curious to learn where you are at with this.

A: Perfectionists like me seem to want to go “all the way” with anything and everything. If a little bit is good, then a lot must be better. I think many runners and other athletes fall into this trap, too. You think, if I run this many miles, then ten more miles each week would make me even faster.

While that can be true, we perfectionists can escalate things quickly: Because I have enough discipline. Because I have enough willpower. Because I can force myself to do it.

When my mom suggested I cut down my portion sizes if I was uncomfortable with my weight, I figured I had to starve myself. After all, the way I ate at the weight I was at meant eating until I was full/content. To lose weight, I figured, meant I must go hungry.

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Eating Disorders vs. Healthy Eating

(Thank you to BetterHelp.com for sponsoring this post, with their link on anxiety included in the final paragraph. I received compensation as a thank-you for my participation, and believe offering links to resources like this may be of help to some.)
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Let’s say a friend chooses to order a salad while the rest of your friends order pizza. Is this friend restricting calories to lose weight? Or does he want a salad right now because pizza doesn’t sound appetizing at the moment?

Some people may eat in a way that makes others think, eating disorder.

But you can’t point to every raw foodist and claim they have an eating disorder. You can’t claim every vegan is masking a bigger problem. And you don’t want to assume that just because someone eats a seemingly balanced diet that they don’t have disordered eating. Some may eat in restrictive ways to avoid food allergies or find that they feel better eating this way, while others use “gluten intolerance” or “raw food diet” as an excuse to carry out their eating disorder behaviors in a more convincing way.

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Why Did I Attempt a Raw Food Diet as a Runner?

One of the biggest questions asked was why I felt the need to do the raw food diet. For those of you who think it is the most strange, absurd decision anyone could make, for someone who was battling an eating disorder, it might make “a lot of sense.” It all depends on perspective, what is important to us, and who we are as people. Nutrition happens to be important to me. It has always been a large focus in my life, probably because I had a focus on health as a runner since the age of five. Since my obsession with weight had escalated (to the point where I felt mostly food and weight mattered in making me a better runner) I went into the raw food diet thinking it would help my relationship with food, not hurt it.

running at houseman

I’ve been running for a LONG time

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Why Did I Binge? Raw Food Diet Journal Entries Analyzed

Now that I’m “all grown up” in my nutrition and cravings knowledge, I thought it’d be interesting to look back at my old food journal entries to point out “what went wrong” during those binges and intense cravings (for all the raw food journal entries posted on the website, go here). Why did I feel so out of control? What was I missing?

A whole lot, some of you say. You shrug. “Raw food. Not enough nutrition.”

Sure, to an extent. Raw food provides great nutrition from all the fruits and veggies, but I was definitely missing out on important parts of the raw food diet because of my restrictive tendencies (well, eating disorder); I was still too scared of calories (“I shouldn’t eat too much fruit!”), and my fear of fat prevailed (“limit the nuts, seeds, and especially the oils!”).

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What I Learned About Binge Eating, and How I Stopped

Note: I am not a dietitian or medical professional. This is simply what worked well for me in recovery after working with a registered dietitian and therapist!

In the summer of 2010 I thought I could exert all the willpower in the world. I could restrict, could hold back on my deepest food desires. Not to say it was easy; it was difficult, but at least I felt like I could control it.

When I began binge eating, I still wanted the control. I hungered for it. But there was something about food that suddenly took control over me now. Suddenly I couldn’t tell my body what to do.

This isn’t to say that I was like a zombie stumbling around the kitchen. I was aware of what was happening. But the cravings had never felt so strong, so constant, so life-consuming that I “needed” to get rid of them to function–just to get on with my day. 

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