Ronni Robinson knows a little about secrets. To a casual observer, Robinson CCAS’91 lives an ordinary life with a supportive husband and two well-adjusted kids. But beneath the surface is an uncomfortable truth that, until recently, she’s kept hidden: for most of her life, when no one was looking, she would eat anything and everything she could get her hands on.
Robinson’s binge eating began at age 9 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when her mother began hiding cookies from her, leading her to sneak her own stash. By high school, she graduated to entire two-pound bags of M&M’s, a bag of cheese curls, or a half gallon of ice cream—always eaten in one sitting, always in secret. Her eating disorder followed her through college and into adulthood, marriage, and motherhood, compelling her to partake in seconds (and thirds and fourths) at parties, steal food, and even scavenge from the trash to get her fix.
But it’s safe to say the secret’s out. Last year, Robinson’s memoir Out of the Pantry: A Disordered Eating Journey (Juniper Drive Press, 2020), detailing her winding and perilous road to recovery, was published.
Writing a book first piqued Robinson’s interest when, in 2007, she confessed her eating disorder to her husband and began attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. “It was so helpful for me during this time to read books by people who suffered from eating disorders and then recovered,” she says. “There were so many unhealthy behaviors in these books that I would recognize in myself, but I would also see how other people got out of it. It gave me hope.”
Robinson wrote an anonymous blog for about a year early in her recovery and, 10 years later, she worked up the courage to “come out” and share her experiences openly through a number of published essays. “At the time, my eating disorder was a huge secret to everyone except my immediate family and some close friends,” she says. “It was very scary to confess that I had an eating disorder, and it was embarrassing and shameful to put some of my experiences out there.” Once she did, though, the feedback was overwhelming: old friends and strangers alike messaged her on social media or texted her to share their experiences with eating disorders and to express their thanks for sharing hers. It was just the push she needed to finish her book.
The memoir chronicles Robinson’s relationship with food, from the depths of her eating disorder through her current wellness journey. It was a path that included Overeaters Anonymous meetings, one-on-one therapy, a few setbacks, many realizations and breakthroughs, and, eventually, finding a healthy balance.
She plans to write a second book—a work of fiction—and become a binge eating recovery coach so that she can share the lessons she learned with others. One of the most powerful lessons, she says, is that any trauma (current pandemic included) brings about defense mechanisms and coping behaviors and that, whatever behavior becomes the addiction of choice, help is available. “Since I started writing essays and published the memoir, so many people have come to me and asked for advice,” she says. “That’s where my passion lies, in helping other people.”