In the Labyrinth of Binge Eating
Food soothed an ache she couldn’t name, a pain she couldn’t describe. In this memoir, Dr. Hilda Lee shares the story of her unhealthy relationship with food, and offers strategies for recovery to others lost in the same maze in which she wandered for so many years. Hilda was a successful professional woman seemingly in complete control of her destiny, but she harbored a shameful secret: she was a compulsive, out-of-control binge eater. She secretly consumed massive amounts of food, sometimes unable to stop until she fell into a deep, coma-like sleep. Filled with shame and self-loathing, she fruitlessly sought a solution to her compulsive eating problem in diet plans and weight-loss books, thinking she simply needed to find the right diet and exert stronger will-power. Tragically, each diet led her deeper into the darkness and shame of binge eating. Then everything changed. In 1998, at over 300 pounds, Hilda was diagnosed with BINGE EATING DISORDER. Confronting this diagnosis, she started on a journey toward healing and health. She sold her dental practice and returned to graduate school in search of a deeper understanding of the causes and possible solutions to this destructive pattern of eating. Hilda’s healing and transformation allowed her to shed emotional burdens far heavier than the weight she once carried. Now, , In the Labyrinth of Binge Eating, serves as a guide to help others who suffer as she did.
Amazon #1 Bestseller
in Self-help/Eating Disorders
Injustice: The 1918 Alabama Murder of Little Jim Turner
In the early morning hours of March 7, 1918, in the swampy land just west of Chatom, 34-year-old Jim Turner, Jr., known to all as Little Jim Turner, was ambushed and brutally murdered. Set against the backdrop of World War I, the violence and corruption of Prohibition, and the devastating flu epidemic that claimed the lives of 675,000 Americans, the author examines this crime that forever changed the lives of many in Washington County, Alabama. Hilda's extensive research of the murder involved exploring long-buried court and prison records, old letters from the attorneys and family members, old newspapers, audiotapes, and interviews with dozens of descendants of the murder victim and the perpetrators. We will never know for certain what happened in the swamp that chilly morning, but in this book, Hilda brings to light some of the justices--and injustices--that surrounded the crime.
Amazon #1 Bestseller
in Southern Biography
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ~
IN THE LABYRINTH OF BINGE EATING
Hilda Lee has the mind of a scientist, the soul of an artist, and the voice of a gifted story-teller. She infuses the story of her own journey through binge eating with the latest research to produce a work of practical, useful art. This book is destined to touch the hearts and minds of thousands who binge eat as well as those who suffer from other addictions.
Hilda shares how she used food to soothe herself through the stifling shame, the chronic dieting, the weight cycling, her desperate pursuit of over-achievement and perfection, and the feelings of failure that plagued her throughout much of her life. She presents, in an easy-to-understand way, the research she poured over in order to fully understand what was going on in her troubled brain and body and shares strategies she used to conquer her demons. Hilda’s riveting narrative takes us with her on her journey to recovery, as if we’re right there with her, cheering her on to an amazing transformation and affirmation of the strong, beautiful person she is, inside and out. Anyone who struggles with binge eating can find strength and hope in Hilda’s story.
Founder, President, & CEO of Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA).
In the Labyrinth of Binge Eating is a major contribution to the literature on binge eating disorder. Many books have been written on the disorder, but few with such power and honesty, by someone who has lived and struggled with the disorder. Hilda is fearless in sharing how her family history led to decades of soothing herself with food. She, like most people with the disorder, masked her deep feelings of shame and incompetence by pressing herself to be exceptional in all areas of her life. Readers will strongly identify with her unrelenting desire to be perfect, followed by her debilitating loss of control while bingeing. This book is a powerful testament that with courage, compassion, & persistence, healing is possible.
Hilda Lee presents a deeply honest account of the waxing and waning and eventual taming of binge-eating disorder (BED). Her vivid prose captures what it feels like to be in the body and mind of someone with BED. Some parts may evoke strong emotions, so readers should monitor their reactions and titrate exposure accordingly. Ultimately, Lee artfully illustrates her personal pathway to recovery and demonstrates that even when countless unexpected obstacles are thrown at one’s feet, one can triumph over BED
Dr. Hilda Lee’s book offers wonderful insights and suggestions about what it truly takes to recover from binge eating. It is captivating and offers a delicate balance between her own story and current research. I strongly recommend this book to my clients as well as treatment providers. Dr. Lee’s practical and thoughtful suggestions and skill-building activities to break the cycle of binge eating are extremely helpful. Her T-I-C-K-E-T acronym is an amazing tool! This is a book about a healthy transformation that can help and inspire anyone who has felt stuck in a vicious cycle with food.
Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD
Licensed Psychologist, Behavioral Health Director, Duke Diet and Fitness Center; Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hilda Dulin Lee is a dentist a writer, and amateur genealogist. After practicing dentistry for many years, she made a decision that would alter the direction of her life: she sold her dental practice and returned to graduate school where she combined the study of creative writing and binge eating disorder. In the Labyrinth of Binge Eating, published in 2016, was her first full-length book.
Hilda is passionate about family history. She has been working with her family's genealogy for more than twenty years and takes great pleasure in sharing her research findings with others. Injustice: The 1918 Alabama Murder of Little Jim Turner is the true story of a murder that sent three of her great-uncles to prison.
She shares life with her husband, Glenn, who has been the abiding love of her life for more than fifty years. They have two children and seven grandchildren.
READ EXCERPT from
In the Labyrinth of Binge Eating
1956 (age 9)
The heavy thud of Dad’s bare feet on the linoleum floor awakens me. I sit up in bed. My heartbeat quickens and my chest tightens. I stare through the dark at the dim outline of the closed door that separates my bedroom from the kitchen—and from him. Suddenly the soft white light of the refrigerator illuminates the edges of the door. I creep out of bed, sit on the cold floor, and huddle in the darkness near the light. Through the crack at the hinge of the ill-fitting door, I watch my dad eat raw meat.
I pull my gown down around my legs and draw my knees in close to my chest. I don’t want to watch, but I am pulled into his ritual. I sit mesmerized as he eats the bloody rump roast that was to be our family’s Sunday dinner. After drinking hard liquor non-stop for several weeks and eating practically nothing, he now tears at the meat in silence, his face expressionless. The crack in the door allows me only a partial view, but I see more than I want to see. Blood drops from his mouth and hands and falls through his fingers, as if in slow motion, past his dingy sleeveless undershirt and filthy boxer shorts, past his pale bare legs, onto the top of his feet and to the floor where he stands. The dank stench of blood, body odor, and stale urine seeps through the crack in the door and hovers in the space between us.
From behind the door, I continue to watch, my fractured view revealing only broken slivers of this giant not four feet away. Waves of fear and revulsion wash over me. He eats chunks of the roast, leaving only bloody bits of mangled meat on the white butcher paper.
He’s finished now. His bloody hands smudge the white enamel crimson as he shuts the refrigerator door. The light goes out and we are both left in total darkness.
I listen to his muffled sobs as he makes his way across the room and slumps in his usual place at the head of the dinette table. Dad is an emotional man and I’ve heard him cry openly, but this sound is different. I’m ashamed to hear his private pain. I put my hands over my ears and imagine his usual cursing, but I cannot block out his weeping.
Once, when he whipped me for breaking a kaleidoscope, I tried not to make a sound. It wasn’t my kaleidoscope, it was my sister’s. How I loved to see its ever-changing, brightly-covered patterns.
“You never learn, do you, Hilda?” Dad said, as his leather belt stung my bare legs. I knew I would be punished, but fear of a whipping hadn’t stopped me from taking the kaleidoscope apart. I had to see what was inside. It produced such glorious sights just by turning it round and round. What could be inside that caused such magnificent colors and patterns?
I cried long after the welts from Dad’s whipping faded. I cried because all I found inside the kaleidoscope’s wooden frame were ordinary bits and pieces of broken colored glass. I yearned for something more, something extraordinary, something exquisitely beautiful.
That was not the first, nor the last, whipping I suffered at the hands of my dad. Never an affectionate man, he was especially mean-spirited and violent when drunk. Where did his explosive anger come from? How can a man be filled with so much rage that he whips a child with a belt until welts rise? How can he give away his son’s dog, then strike him when he cries? What drives a man to hit his wife because a phone rings too long? Then beat her almost unconscious when she cringes?
When we were young, the five of us kids never talked to each other about what went on in that house. Only when we were in our forties did we begin to understand that the anger and violence wasn’t our fault: not Brenda’s, my older sister, for her inability to control a chronic cough; not Dene’s, my younger sister, for being such a nervous child; not Jim’s, my younger brother, for failing to measure up to the memory of our half-brother Dan, killed in the Korean War before we could know him and before he could be a disappointment to Dad; not Lynni’s, the baby of the family, for failing to keep the peace at all costs; and not mine for being imperfect, for not figuring out what I did that caused Dad’s anger.
As children, we could no more stem the tide of violence and abuse inside that house than we could change the weather outside. But we kept on trying. And kept on feeling guilty for failing.
Dad’s sobs die out. I take my hands from my ears and again pull my knees in close as I slowly rock back and forth. Shaky and slumped over, he smokes one Camel after another. By the glow of his cigarette, I see ashes drop to the floor. Years of fallen ashes have permanently grayed several of the white squares of the black-and-white linoleum. I hate those charred squares and have scrubbed and scrubbed them many times, but the stains won’t go away, not even with steel wool and Ajax.
After stubbing out a last butt in his faded green oversized ashtray, Dad hunches over, putting his face in his hands. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see his face. The remembered image of his tortured features all but consumes me. In the middle of a drinking binge, Dad is always angry; he lashes out at whatever or whoever happens to be nearby. When he finally begins to sober up, though, that anger turns to sadness. Sometimes it’s a sloppy, wretched kind of sadness that only fills me with dread and disgust. But at other times, like tonight, it’s a dark, heavy, anguished sorrow that’s unbearable to witness. Finally, he stands up and slowly goes back toward his bedroom where Mom will pretend to be asleep.
Even though I know he’ll fall asleep quickly after so much food (he always does), still I wait. Listening to my own fast, shallow breathing, I remain huddled by the door and wait. I look over at my younger sister in the bed we share. I can’t see her in the dark, but the slow steady rhythm of her quiet breathing, and the soft whistle through her nose, tells me she’s deep in sleep.
I can’t leave the mess Dad has made. That would be evidence that things were not “normal” in our house. And so, as always, I sneak into the kitchen to begin one of the most dreaded tasks of my childhood. I must clean up after my dad so that no one, especially Mom, will have to see it in the morning. Mom may be weak and unable to help us, but we all know she’s our only hope, so we protect her to protect ourselves.
I dare not turn on the light. I open the refrigerator, its dim bulb bright in the darkness, then turn to quietly lower the oven door. All of us kids fear Dad with a knife above all else, so when he’s drinking, we hide knives away in various nooks and corners. I retrieve the sharp butcher knife from the back of the oven where I’d hidden it earlier.
I silently gag as I cut off the gnawed parts of the meat and quietly rewrap what’s left of the roast. With a soiled dishrag, already stiff from filth, I wipe the blood from the refrigerator and the floor. I hide the dirty rag and the bloody knife under the sink behind the garbage pail. I don’t turn on the water faucet; the knocking of the old pipes might wake the others. I’ll wash the rag and knife tomorrow.
I quietly lift Dad’s chair and place it back under the edge of the table, clean up his ashes and butts, and straighten the top of the counter. I look around the kitchen. All is back to normal. I can return to bed.
But as I start to push the refrigerator door shut, I spot the banana pudding that Mom made for Sunday dessert. A strong urge to eat comes over me. I want something cool and soft. I can carefully lift the meringue, scoop up one spoonful from under the edge, and then replace the meringue layer. No one will ever notice. I’m good at that sort of thing. One bite won’t matter. I take the pudding out of the fridge and sit by the table on the grayed linoleum. That first spoonful brings comfort to an ache I cannot name. The pudding is so smooth, so cool, so soft. I take another spoonful. And another. And another. With each bite, the ache I cannot name recedes just a little, and my craving for more grows stronger and stronger. I keep going, urged on by an ancient instinct that takes me to a deep, dark, comforting place. Before I know it, the entire pudding is gone. And so is the elusive sadness that I felt. In fact, I taste and feel nothing now. Nothing but a blessed emptiness—and an uncontrollable desire for more. My quiet eating frenzy continues with a half jar of Peter Pan peanut butter and what’s left of a loaf of Merita bread. I leave the Saltine crackers on the counter. Too loud.
Numb and tired, I hide the empty containers at the bottom of the garbage can, the pudding bowl and spoon under the sink with the knife and rag, and I creep back into bed. I fall into a deep coma-like sleep. No one—not Mom, not any of my three sisters, not my brother—will know what I’ve done. They’ll silently blame Dad for the missing food. There are so many secrets in this house, under beds and in dark corners. What is one more?
The next morning I’m ashamed. Ashamed of stealing food from my family. Ashamed of being a glutton. Ashamed of being the fattest kid in my grade. But most unbearable is the shame of being the shadow of my dad, sneaking around and eating like an animal.
Please, God, forgive me just this one more time. Make me strong and pure. I promise I’ll never steal food again. I’ll never eat sweets again as long as I live. I’ll be good. I’ll be strong. I’ll be perfect.
And I was perfect—for almost a month. In that month I ate practically nothing. I washed the dishes and cleaned the floors and polished the furniture. I studied even harder than usual, and would accept nothing less than an A+. But perfection is a hard task master. Something inevitably goes wrong. Giving in to a cookie or missing a question on an arithmetic test meant total failure. I was either perfect or I was worthless. These cycles of perfection and failure, of starving and bingeing, continued for decades before I could see more than the fractured view from behind the door.
NOTE:the above is the 1st six pages of chapter one
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