With the growth of technology comes greater interconnectivity among people. Communication has become significantly easier – with friends and family becoming a click away. We also become more aware of social issues that others go through. One of which are mental health problems.
Regarded as a menacing type of eating disorder, bulimia nervosa in its worst form may end up taking the life of the patient. This eating discrepancy is typified by episodic bouts of bingeing or gorging followed by regurgitation that is brought upon by the patient through the use of emetics or diuretics. Bulimia nervosa often leads to other mental health problems including depression, anxiety or panic attacks where the individual usually has a very low self-worth, possibly that no one cares (according to Betterhelp therapy services) and is wreaked by feelings of vulnerability or guilt.
Bulimia nervosa is one of the gravest of eating disorders that ends up taking a huge toll on the affected individual, both physically and mentally. The bulimic suffers from a low self-esteem and is preoccupied with her form and weight. On one hand, the patient is unable to contain her sporadic impulse to binge while on the other, she resorts to bouts of self-imposed purging in order to disgorge the excessive food intake, by gulping diuretics, emetics or laxatives.
Bulimia in an individual often happens to be co-morbid or in other words, the bulimic tends to suffer from an additional psychological problem like major depressive disorder or anxiety disorder. Besides seeking assisted care in the form of an outpatient or inpatient treatment program, a bulimic can abide by some DIY or self-help strategies to cope with the eating disorder. Following are some self-help techniques that a bulimia patient can heed apart from undergoing the regular treatment methods including psychotherapy, group discussions, nutritional counseling, and medicinal therapy.
Everyone knows who Princess Diana is. A beloved princess, a wonderful mother, a star of the media, and a frail woman who endured so much only to come out as stronger than ever. In the 20th anniversary of her death, the first-ever heard ‘Diana tapes’, a series of secret recordings of her interview with Andrew Morton about her life and loveless marriage, found a shocking discovery. Princess Diana admitted suffering from bulimia, and had to find “a therapist near me or else.”
Magazines, social media, TV shows and other platforms always offer advice, articles, and motivation on how to lose weight abruptly, recommends various diet plan to optimize weight loss, and ways how to appear thinner, etc. At first glance, this feature on diet and exercise are completely harmless but with this constant bombarding of ideas that slimmer is better, one may start being self-critical with their body weight, body shape, and size.
Underneath all the fashion and the glamor on the catwalk, supermodels are getting bulimia just to remain employable.
Bulimia nervosa is a severe, potentially life-threatening eating disorder experienced by people of different ages. If you know a friend or relative who is Bulimic, here’s how you can extend your support to them.
Bulimia, like most disorders, has a lot of misconceptions attached to it. It’s important to not invalidate things we go through and to understand and deal with them as they come. Here are some common fallacies that people may often have about bulimia nervosa.
Myth #1: It’s just a phase
It’s common for us to go through things that a lot of people are going through as well. Wearing black and having long bangs? That’s emo – it’s just a phase. Wanting to be part of the popular crowd? That’s just a phase. However, bulimia is not a phase.
Bulimia is often portrayed in TV and film as being obsessed with how you look. A person wanting to be skinny to fit in and be beautiful has either bulimia or anorexia nervosa. This is not true.
Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that is not a phase that everyone goes through. Keep in mind that this is a diagnosable disorder and not just a passing fad. Therefore, it is the very first myth that we should debunk.
Eating disorders are a psychological disorder that affects many people. It’s definitely a condition that should be taken seriously. Letting it pass is not a solution to this disorder. This is not something to be made fun of or worse, ignored. People will not be able to “grow out of it” by refusing to admit it is a problem.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder, a mental illness, and a worldwide epidemic. It is easily the first resort of people who are dying to lose weight abruptly or those who have a broken sense of self.
About one out of one hundred people suffer from bulimia – approximately 30 million in America and a whopping 70 million people worldwide.
This miserable disease is difficult to recover from, but some do get out of it alive, well and successful. They tell their story because they wouldn’t wish this to happen even to their worst enemy.
Laura the Bulimic Over-achiever
For someone who graduated with honors and a very active member of the church and the community, you would never think that Laura was bulimic. She looked happy and accomplished. Even her parents who lived with her didn’t see what she was going through.
For some reason (which we seem to understand because we sometimes do go through it), Laura had a lot of insecurities and she found food to be very comforting. It kept her together and it is what fed her anxieties.
She was gaining too much weight when one day she met a friend who told her that she could get away with gaining weight despite eating a lot. And that was the start of Laura’s horrific bulimia journey.
Throwing up the whole day and more than 40 laxatives in one sitting was the worst thing that she did. It made her realize that it was the lowest she could go, but she was wrong. She committed suicide – three times – before she finally decided to get help.
Her parents spent so much for therapy and she was recovering and relapsing many times. Finally, she sought spiritual help by staying in a girl’s room and reading the Bible, where she said she got all the counseling she needed.
“There were two keys to my healing and recovery. The first was choice, when I took the first step of deciding not to throw up again. The second one was Christ.”
Claire The Seasoned Bulimic
I refer to her as a seasoned bulimic because she started really young – at the age of 7 – and struggled with bulimia for more than a decade!
Claire didn’t really throw up to lose weight before, as she was already skinny. She just simply wanted to eat whatever she wanted but she can’t because, after much eating, her stomach would be full, and of course, she didn’t want that. What started as a one-time puke turned into a spree for every party and every casual dinner she ever had.
She felt that what triggered her bulimia to worsen was when her family moved to another country. She felt alone and out of place. This pushed her to nurture feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression, of which Betterhelp (a company that offers free counseling on their site) provides a rich resource for more information.
When she was in college, she almost became an Olympian. She was a great diver. But in the middle of the practice season, she lost 10 pounds and became so weak she couldn’t continue on. She lost that opportunity forever.
“It was not until I suffered from irregular heartbeats and my mother had a bout of depression when I realized that if I didn’t stop, I would just die and break my mother’s heart.”
The first step Claire took was an email to a counsellor. After sending that email, it was the last time that she ever threw up. The counsellor guided her towards the initial phases of online therapy, which she found very comforting because she couldn’t gather her guts to face a psychiatrist in a clinic. It felt so overwhelming.
It started with just the therapist asking Claire how she felt and her telling the therapist to be in touch with herself and really express how she felt with herself. She spilled everything and she cried for days, couldn’t imagine that she could feel that bad about herself.
Then came the healing. She slowly talked about her struggle with bulimia. Each moment empowering her, giving her the strength to beat it by opening up about it and finding ways to overcome it. And yes, Claire did. She is bulimia-free – it’s been eight years now.
Bulimia Is Real – and so is Recovery
The effects of bulimia not only involve your own life but the lives of those you love as well. If you are suffering from this devastating condition and these stories are familiar to you, then there is hope for you. Bulimia is real, and so is recovery.
Come out. Be heard. Share your burden and be healed. It’s time to make peace with food.
Although technically, bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder and regarded as such, the tendency to binge and then throw up is more of an emotional urge. Hence, it’d be apt to consider bulimia as a psychological disorder rather than being a somatic affliction as bulimics find it impossible to break free from the vicious bingeing-purging cycle. Bulimic individuals gorge through their meal because they find the activity (bingeing) solacing-a means to tide over feelings of low self-worth and cope with depression or anxiety attacks, and if you know someone in such a situation, BetterHelp says you can take steps to help.
However, bulimics will be relieved to know that the bingeing and purging phase that seems to go on and on, can be broken by adhering to some simple but practical steps. A bulimic will be able to follow the steps smoothly as they do not run counter to any treatment program that the individual might be undergoing.
Steps to Control Bingeing
- Eat with others and enjoy the meal
Bulimics while bingeing make sure that there is nobody around and prefer to take their meals all by themselves. Since the manner in which they gorge may appear repulsive to others, they take their meals alone. If you’re bulimic, you can take the first step of breaking away from the phase by committing yourself to taking meals with your family.
And instead of rushing through your repasts, take time to chew every morsel, and savor whatever you are eating. Appreciate the flavor, texture, and aroma of the food items and enjoy your meals.
- Drink two glasses of water only after the meal and not in between
You might be in the habit of drinking water frequently in between your meals in order to speed up the passing of food through the esophagus. Taking water along with morsels of foods interferes with digestion. If you have to take water while you’re eating then take a few sips.
Once you’re done with your meal, drink at least two full glasses of water that will give you a feeling of fullness and also discourage you from rushing to the bathroom for purging.
- Identify what triggers the bingeing episodes and then try to contain them.
For most bulimics, there is always something that triggers or stimulates them to indulge in bingeing. For instance, it could be their reminiscing about time spent with someone who was very close to them but is no more or it could be the image of a delicatessen that flashes in their mind. Or it could be that you are plain bored or feeling lonely.
Whenever you’re triggered to open the refrigerator door, pinch yourself, and try to dissuade yourself by rushing out of the room or doing something that keeps your mind off of food.
- Make the most of the distractions to keep triggers at bay
There are so many activities that you can indulge in so as to prevent yourself from getting distracted, including going for a walk, talking to a friend or playing with your kids.
- Plan well in advance
Take time out to prepare a grocery list comprising of nutritious and fresh food items. Also, take more meals at home and prepare them yourself in order to stop focusing on binge-eating.
- Look after yourself
Instead of always being preoccupied with weight loss and your looks, try to lead a more disciplined life. Consult with a dietician for preparing a daily nutrition chart, sleep and get up at the same fixed times every day and be active.
- Get all the support you can
Get all the support you need from your near and dear ones who can help you out with tackling bingeing and/or purging.
Steps to overcome purging
- Understand that weight loss cannot be achieved through purging
- Eat only those foods that do not stimulate regurgitation
- Maintain a diary to note down your feelings
Understanding and realizing the long-term effects of bulimia will better encourage you to follow the aforementioned steps as far as breaking the bingeing/purging cycle is concerned.