We’ve been honored to work with Kari Adams, founder of “Killer Confidence” and host of the television show ‘Killer Confidence with Kari Adams’ during Binge Eating Disorder Week! Kari Adams has dedicated her show to putting men and women who have overcome great obstacles in the spotlight, and she speaks from the honest place of experience. In this article, Kari shares her first-hand account of what it was like to develop and live with an eating disorder (and binge behavior) and how she was able to recover and regain her life. Enjoy the post and remember – if you are interested in following along with BED Week, you can join the event on facebook or follow it on twitter by using the hashtags #BEDWEEK, #DSM5, #BEDAWARENESS, #EATINGDISORDER and #ED. I suffered with body image and food issues for as long as I can remember. The first time I recall being alarmed about my body was in 1975 after eating Easter dinner with my family. My great-grandmother scooped me up, plopped me on her lap, squeezed my tummy and said, “Oh my! Look at this fat belly. You’re going to need to go on a diet!” I was five years old. Panic and angst arose in my throat as I realized that there was something terribly wrong with me that I needed to change. Three years later when I was eight, my parents divorced and my sister and I moved into a new house with a stranger that would soon become our step-father making my mom his 6th wife. I had new step-siblings (8 to be exact), a new school, a new parent, a new house and a new visiting routine of every-other-weekend with my biological father. I was scared, lonely, anxious and confused so I turned to food to console me and to help me deal with the shocking new changes of my life. Every day after school to fill the empty void, I would come home and binge on whatever snacks I could get my hands on: ice cream, Doritos dipped in mayonnaise laden tuna fish, toast smothered with butter, chocolate chip cookies, chips and salsa, Pop-Tarts, etc. Food became my refuge; my friend. It was consistent and it didn’t hurt or reject me. By the time I was 13, the after-school pig-out sessions were beginning mark their effects on my developing body. I was never really fat per se, just what some would consider “chubby”. I certainly wasn’t thin like my girlfriends of the same age and I soon realized that in order to look like them, I would need to restrict my food intake and count calories. My mom was constantly on a diet, so I learned from her how critical appearance was and the importance of keeping slim. From Weight Watchers to Super Dieter’s Tea to the Lemon Juice and Honey Diet to work outs with Jack Lalane on the public television channel, I was learning to put the power of the scale into my own hands in order to fit in and to be accepted. I was tired of being the base of the Junior High cheerleading squad pyramid and was hell-bent on being the skinny girl on the top! And once I got thin, the boys would surely stop making fun of me and see how pretty I was like all of the other girls in my grade. The problem was, genetically I wasn’t built like my lithe mother and so, of course, the diets didn’t work. Sure, they did at first, but I couldn’t stick to them and I would only gain back the weight I lost and sometimes more. The cycle of restricting calories, sadness of not being able to eat whatever I wanted, elation from initial weight loss followed by shame for not having enough willpower to stick to the diet and then gaining more weight back, was depressing and not a whole lot of fun for a 13 year old girl. I swore off diets and decided there were no holds barred and anything not tied down to the table was fair game for consuming. After school each day, I would veg out in front of the television and eat like there was no tomorrow. This was my time to numb myself from the harsh realities of my life that I didn’t want to think about or to face. Instead of focusing on my loneliness, I would eat. The food and TV made me forget about missing my daddy and wanting to always be with him. I would fill up with food instead of reminisce about the volatile fight my mom and step dad had the night before or how he would make feel icky with his inappropriate comments and leering gestures. Food comforted me and never let me down; it was always there to console me at the end of every day. My freshman year in high school I developed very quickly and it was almost as if overnight, I went from barely filling out an A-cup bra to having hips, larger thighs and D-cup breasts. I had gained at least 10 to 15 pounds since the previous year and I was mortified, ashamed and embarrassed of my new body. In the winter of that year, a friend had shown me the benefits of bingeing and purging. This was it; I had found the magic trick! From my freshman year in high school to graduating college and graduate school to becoming a wife and a mother to my divorce and eventual recovery, I vacillated between binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, dieting, exercise addiction including marathon running, and alcohol and drug abuse. I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist and I certainly do not claim to be a leading expert on health, wellness and eating disorders; however, from my experience with a twenty five year relationship with disordered eating and negative body image, it is my belief that most eating disorders have an underlying base of binge eating disorder. My eating disorder, negative body image and fear of weight gain began when I believed the pathology that I was someone who was out of control with food. Over decades I either binge ate and let myself completely go, avoided food altogether, threw up whatever I ate, or purged unwanted calories by over exercising, all of which hallmarks the black and white thinking so very typical in the disease – It’s either all or nothing. I noticed while I was in treatment at the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders in Ridgewood, NJ, the common thread that bound us sufferers together was the desperate need to fill up. We were all a needy bunch, however, it wasn’t food per se that we were really craving – food was just the metaphor. What each of us in that crowded soft lit room were truly starving for was that other crucial basic human need – love. I’ll say it again; I’m not a counselor, therapist, clinician, doctor or mental health expert and I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to recovering from an eating disorder and negative body image. I’m just a middle aged, single mother of two who was determined to stop letting food rule her entire life and decided that self-love was the answer for her to heal. I recognize that many of us afflicted with eating disorders weren’t given the basic things in life that we needed in order to develop good self-esteem and confidence. I also know that it’s never too late to give yourself what you weren’t given and that honoring and loving yourself is the most selfless thing you can do because when you treat yourself with kindness and compassion, you are automatically more loving to others. Recovering from an eating disorder is empowering, difficult, emotional, wondrous, turbulent, chaotic and at times very frightening; it is also entirely possible! By honoring my body and by loving myself exactly as I am now, life is infinitely better than when I was sick as it mirrors back to me the love, abundance, kindness and generosity I give to myself – amazing how that works! Kari Adams is now working to have a bill in New Jersey passed (with plans to take it national), which will force public schools to mandate class instruction on eating disorders, body image and staff training. You can sign the petition here (we just did!). By signing, you will become a part of the movement to require Eating Disorder and Body Image Education for our youth, as well as educational staff members. Intervention is KEY to a successful recovery. To coincide with the passing of this bill, Kari is working on a documentary about 7-10 people with eating disorders, which will be used as part of the mandated curriculum. Kari Adams is an entrepreneur, award-winning business owner, television host, speaker, and mother of two. She has appeared on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Today Show, and numerous other media outlets and television shows. Kari speaks frequently about her own experience as a middle aged woman facing an eating disorder, in addition to hosting the popular, syndicated television show ‘Killer Confidence with Kari Adams’. The show highlights inspirational women and men who have overcome adversity and challenges in their lives, and those that wish to share their stories with the general public. Kari’s personal goal is to help others find strength in healing and to develop stronger self-worth or, as she calls it: ‘Killer Confidence.’ Killer Confidence is more than a website or a philosophy- it’s a movement – created to celebrate, empower, and embrace women as they learn to love themselves just as they are. The movement serves as a safe place to encourage self-love, self-esteem and positive body image in all women. In conjunction with the show ‘Killer Confidence with Kari Adams,’ killer-confidence.com was created in an effort to support people going through adversity and to teach them how they can achieve “Killer Confidence” and gain control of their lives in spite of, or even perhaps because of, traumatic events and other “life” issues that may seem overwhelming….at first.