About Bulimia Nervosa
Its very common, for people to turn to the fridge when feeling lonely or bored or stressed. However, when you suffer from bulimia, the now-and-then impulse to overeat is more like a compulsion. Instead of eating sensibly to make up for it, you may punish yourself by purging, fasting, or exercising to get rid of the calories.
This vicious cycle of binging and purging takes a toll on the body, and it’s even harder on emotional well-being. This cycle can be broken. Effective bulimia treatment and support can help you develop a healthier relationship with food and overcome feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame.
What is bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by frantic efforts to avoid gaining weight. When you’re struggling with bulimia, life can become a battle . You don’t want to binge—you know you’ll feel guilty and ashamed afterwards—but time and time again you give into the urge to do so. After it ends, panic sets in and you turn to drastic measures to “undo” the binge, such as inducing vomiting, or going for a run. All the while, you feel increasingly out of control.
Do I have bulimia nervosa?
- Are you obsessed with your body and your weight?
- Does food and dieting dominate your life?
- Are you afraid
- that when you start eating, you won’t be able to stop?
- Do you ever eat until you feel sick?
- Do you feel guilty, ashamed, or depressed after you eat?
- Do you vomit or take laxatives to control your weight?
The binge and purge cycle
Purging does NOT prevent weight gain
Signs and symptoms of bulimia
- Lack of control over eating – Inability to stop eating. Eating until the point of physical discomfort and pain.
- Secrecy surrounding eating – Going to the kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed. Going out alone on unexpected food runs. Wanting to eat in privacy.
- Eating unusually large amounts of food with no obvious change in weight.
- Disappearance of food, numerous empty wrappers or food containers in bin, or hidden stashes of junk food.
- Alternating between overeating and fasting – Rarely eats normal meals. It’s all-or-nothing when it comes to food
- Going to the bathroom after meals – Frequently disappears after meals or takes a trip to the bathroom to throw up. May run the water to disguise sounds of vomiting.
- Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating. May also take diet pills to curb appetite or use the sauna to “sweat out” water weight.
- Smell of vomit – The bathroom or the person may smell like vomit. They may try to cover up the smell with mouthwash, perfume, air freshener, gum, or mints.
- Excessive exercising – Works out strenuously, especially after eating. Typical activities include high-intensity calorie burners such as running or aerobics.
- Calluses or scars on the knuckles or hands from sticking fingers down the throat to induce vomiting.
- Puffy “chipmunk” cheeks caused by repeated vomiting.
- Discoloured teeth from exposure to stomach acid when throwing up. May look yellow, ragged, or clear.
- Not underweight – Men and women with bulimia are usually normal weight or slightly overweight. Being underweight while purging might indicate a purging type of anorexia.
- Frequent fluctuations in weight – Weight may fluctuate more due to alternating episodes of bingeing and purging.
Effects of bulimia
- Weight gain
- Weakness and dizziness
- Abdominal pain, bloating
- Tooth decay and mouth sores
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Acid reflux or ulcers
- Chronic sore throat, hoarseness
- Ruptured stomach or oesophagus
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Loss of menstrual periods
- Swollen cheeks and salivary glands
- Chronic constipation from laxative abuse
Bulimia causes and risk factors
- Poor body image: Our culture’s emphasis on thinness and beauty can lead to body dissatisfaction, particularly in young women bombarded with media images of an unrealistic physical ideal.
- Low self-esteem: People who think of themselves as useless, worthless, and unattractive are at risk for bulimia. Things that can contribute to low self-esteem include depression, perfectionism, childhood abuse, and a critical home environment.
- History of trauma or abuse: Women with bulimia appear to have a higher incidence of sexual abuse. People with bulimia are also more likely than average to have parents with a substance abuse problem or psychological disorder.
- Major life changes: Bulimia is often triggered by stressful changes or transitions, such as the physical changes of puberty, going away to college, or the breakup of a relationship. Binging and purging may be a negative way to cope with the stress.
- Appearance-oriented professions or activities: People who face tremendous image pressure are vulnerable to developing bulimia. Those at risk include ballet dancers, models, gymnasts, wrestlers, runners, and actors.
Getting help for bulimia
It can feel scary to have Bulimia, and knowing that you are harming your body. Knowing that you are harming your body just adds to the fear. However, change is possible. Regardless of how long you’ve struggled with bulimia, you can learn to break the binge and purge cycle and develop a healthier attitude toward food and your body.
Taking steps toward recovery is tough. It’s common to feel ambivalent about giving up your binging and purging, even though it’s harmful. If you are even thinking of getting help for bulimia, you are taking a big step forward.
Steps to bulimia recovery
Admit you have a problem. Up until now, you’ve been invested in the idea that life will be better—that you’ll finally feel good—if you lose more weight and control what you eat. The first step in bulimia recovery is admitting that your relationship to food is distorted and out of control.
Talk to someone. It can be hard to talk about what you’re going through, especially if you’ve kept your bulimia a secret for a long time. You may be ashamed, ambivalent, or afraid of what others will think. But it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. Find a good listener—someone who will support you as you try to get better.
Stay away from people, places, and activities that trigger the temptation to binge or purge. You may need to avoid looking at fashion or fitness magazines, spend less time with friends who constantly diet and talk about losing weight, and stay away from weight loss web sites and “pro-mia” sites that promote bulimia. You may also need to be careful when it comes to meal planning and cooking magazines and shows.
Seek professional help. The advice and support of trained eating disorder professionals can help you regain your health, learn to eat normally again, and develop healthier attitudes about food and your body.
The importance of deciding not to diet
Treatment for bulimia is much more likely to succeed when you stop dieting. Once you stop trying to restrict calories and follow strict dietary rules, you will no longer be overwhelmed with cravings and thoughts of foods. By eating normally, you can break the binge-and-purge cycle and still reach a healthy, attractive weight.