One Man’s Battle to Beat Bulimia
By TIM MCCOMSEY
February 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which aims to raise public awareness of disordered eating and encourage intervention and increased access to resources.
My name is Tim McComsey, and I'm a registered dietitian, personal trainer and entrepreneur. These titles may or may not sound impressive to you, but they mean everything to me. They mean I've overcome a terrible addiction that very nearly consumed me. This is my story of how I turned my life around and found success in the fitness and nutrition industry after battling the debilitating effects of bulimia.
I began playing soccer at the age of four and became one of the best players in Pennsylvania by the age of 13. But at the age of 16 my life took a different path.
As a freshman on the varsity soccer team, I began lifting weights with my older brother before school. I loved it -- I was completely hooked on the idea of feeling better, getting stronger and looking my best.
[Read More: My Vegan Journey and Descent Into Orthorexia]
But I also felt a lot of pressure as one of the better players to score more goals and help carry the team. Eventually, this pressure grew until my life became all about pleasing my coach, my family and my friends. It stopped being about making me healthy or happy, and I was constantly comparing myself to others.
I became consumed with working out as often as possible, and I stopped eating foods I considered "harmful" to me, such as trans fats, saturated fats, white carbs, most other carbs, burgers, pizza, ice cream and more. I was still eating, but the calories I burned far outweighed the calories I consumed.
By junior year, the effects of overtraining and undereating began to show. I was slower, smaller and more tired than I should have been. My parents, brothers and friends saw the physical and emotional differences in me and tried to help, but when anyone confronted me on my eating, it only made things worse. My dad took me to a dietitian, and I was absolutely blind to what she was telling me. I was living in my own world where I thought everything I was doing was right, and it didn't matter what anyone said.
It was at about that time that I realized I could control my eating in another way: I spent four long years being bulimic while simultaneously becoming a fitness trainer. No one ever knew that I was throwing up my food or how much I was damaging my body each day. I kept it a secret, carefully maintaining my original body weight to keep anyone from suspecting. I was able to live a somewhat normal life during the day, but my nights belonged to food and my eating disorder.
As I dove deeper into bulimia, I felt horrible. I became weaker, and I looked pale, exhausted and unhealthy. I felt like a hypocrite, teaching my personal-trainer clients how to work out effectively and eat healthfully while I was doing the opposite each night.
I knew that I needed to change, but I didn't know how, so I made a game out of trying to quit. My goal in each game was simply to stop regurgitating one meal at a time. Eventually, after failing over and over again, I saw some success. A few meals became one full day of being healthy. One day became two, two became three -- and then I would relapse and have to start all over.
[Read More: Is There Such a Thing as "Unhealthy" Exercise?]
But after four years, I was able to go multiple days straight without throwing up my food. I started to feel better, more energetic and I even slept better at night. My throat wasn't hurting constantly and my heartburn subsided. I felt more alive than ever before because I no longer hid half of myself in the shadows each night, and I felt comfortable around my friends, family and clients once more. I knew I could never go back to the life I had lived for so long. The willpower I had to never binge and purge again grew, and I loved the feeling of living a life that felt good. The addiction was still strong and powerful, but the amazing feeling of true health and the ability to allow others into my life finally outweighed my addiction.
Today, I am seven years free from bulimia. My workouts are structured around the concept of "less is more" because I now know that a balance of working out and eating healthy will get you a body you can live in. I work out five times a week for an hour, no longer working myself ragged or running several miles a day just to burn calories. I don't follow any particular diet, and I never count calories. I just eat what I want with moderation and mindfulness.
My personal story and helping others find their own strengths are the reasons I continue to work out and eat healthy. My experiences gave me the tools I needed to counsel others to live as healthy as they can so they enjoy life and their bodies to the fullest without guilt or addictions. It's crucial for each of us to find out who we are and create that balance in our lives.
**This blog was originally posted in 2015
Tim McComsey owns a gym near Dallas, Texas, where he offers personal training and nutritional consultation to help people discover the best possible versions of themselves. He is also the lead fitness and nutrition expert for Sunwarrior, a vegan health-food company based in St. George, Utah. Tim travels once a month to train the entire Sunwarrior staff on how to eat well and how to truly live healthy, active lifestyles.