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Former "Bachelor" contestant Britt Nilsson has come to The Doctors exclusively opening up about her battle with an eating disorder. The reality star, her husband Jeremy and clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Ho join the panel to discuss this important issue that affects 10 million women daily.
"Food has become this thing that it should never have been," Britt explains, saying she is "obsessed with it" and "afraid of it." She tells The Doctors the cycle began as a child, where binge eating was routine, followed by losing weight and getting praised for dropping the pounds and then obsessively tracking her food intake.
"It was either severe restriction or compulsive overeating and nothing in the middle and then compulsive exercising, working out for like 3 hours," she continues. "I just remember feeling so tortured around food. I need it and I need all of it. I needed it now and I couldn't stop until it was gone."
Her eating disorder progressed to the point of throwing up after eating. Britt shares that she's not sure when her bulimia began, but it soon escalated to the point of happening every day until it was "completely out of control."
Her bulimia subsided when she began drinking alcohol and she says she traded one addictive behavior for another. She managed to get sober and felt great, and Britt submitted to be a contestant on "The Bachelor," but once she was cast on the reality series her binging and purging came back worse than ever.
She reveals to The Doctors that while taping Season 19 of the "The Bachelor" she would remove her microphone and force herself to vomit after binging on the variety of foods available on the set and hope she would not get caught. "That was really a very low point... it really robbed a lot of joy for a lot of years. I felt very much like a shell and nobody knew at all."
Now married, Britt says she has turned a corner with her eating disorder, thanks in part to her husband Jeremy. She explains that she has made a vow to herself. "No matter what I'm never throwing up again and I gained weight and it was yoyoing and it was scary. And there are times when I've had to call Jeremy and say, 'I want to throw up so bad, I'm so scared,' Because there is so much pressure to be thin and he's talked me through it and I don't throw up anymore."
Despite no longer purging, Britt says that she still thinks about bingeing every day. "It's really being obsessed with food and having a bizarre relationship with it that still persists," she shares.
Dr. Judy explains that for people with addictive behaviors and patterns there is a dopamine runaway effect that occurs in the brain, where the dopamine gets repeatedly spiked and it becomes more and more difficult to feel pleasure from things that most people find happiness from. She goes on to say that some will need to push harder and harder to achieve even just a mild feeling of pleasure. Britt says she identifies with this concept and says her urge to binge makes her feel not as present as she wants to be, especially with her husband Jeremy.
In order to lessen these types of desires, Dr. Judy recommends to Britt or anyone facing this issue to try learning healthier replacement behaviors in hopes of re-training the dopamine system. She suggests trying something like coloring, because it is repetitive and calms your brain, focuses you and keeps your hands busy. She also recommends to Jeremy gently comfort Britt with a touch on the arm if he feels she's focusing too much on food.
Britt leaves The Doctors with a message to other people struggling with eating disorders. "You're not alone... it's really common and it's unfortunate, but it's not forever and a lot of how it gets better is sharing with someone that will love you through it. Even if it's just one person," she concludes.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2273.