More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Breaking up with Bulimia: How to Beat an Eating Disorder
by Jennifer Boyes
Mar 16, 2008

Recovering from bulimia can be a long, hard road. However, it is possible to get better. Find out how, with a little support and persistence, you too can be healthy again

Bulimia Nervosa, often referred to as bulimia or ?mia?, is a serious and worryingly common eating disorder, affecting over two million adolescent girls and young women in the United States alone. Surprisingly, females are not the only ones to be susceptible to bulimia. In America, about 10% of the individuals diagnosed with bulimia are male.

Sufferers find themselves trapped in a destructive cycle of extreme dieting, binging and vomiting, sometimes labelled ?purging?. Some bulimics also use laxatives, diuretics and intense exercising to achieve the same effect.

How it all Begins
A number of distressing or disturbing life events can trigger bulimia. These triggers can range from going through a painful divorce to being made redundant. Pressure to be thin, from friends and the media can also have a negative impact on the body image of individuals of all ages and can lead to an abnormal obsession with the body and food. In addition to this, research has shown that bulimia can be hereditary, passed down through the family.

Bulimia usually starts with the decision to go on a strict, calorie controlled diet. The dieter will abstain from food, thinking that this will help her lose weight. However, the body is not designed to accept starvation and food cravings soon kick in. The dieter will not be able to think of anything but food and eating. At some point, the dieter?s resolve crumbles and he or she gives into the cravings. They are often unable to control themselves, due to their intense hunger, and they will devour an enormous amount of, often unhealthy, food. After the binge, the individual feels overwhelmed with guilt and terrified of the calories that they have consumed. In some cases, this guilt will be awful enough to drive them to the bathroom to be sick. Sadly, bulimia is an incredibly addictive condition and even purging once can be enough for you to become trapped in the cycle...

The typical bulimic will vow never to purge again each and every time they do it. Unfortunately, the fear of getting heavier will always lead to more extreme dieting which, inevitably, leads to more bingeing episodes and more purging. They live in a world of contradictions, berating themselves for vomiting but also relieved at getting the much hated food out of their body

The bulimia habit often snowballs at an astonishing rate. It can also prove a very difficult companion to get rid of. Many individuals suffer from bulimia for years before facing up to it. Many other people never overcome it.

Is Someone Close to You Suffering?
Unlike anorexia nervosa, which can be spotted as a result of the massive weight loss and obvious abstaining from food, bulimia can be very difficult to pinpoint. Bulimics often become very skilled at covering up their disease. They will run the bath or the tap while they are vomiting to cover up any noise and will remain apparently enthusiastic about food. On top of this is the fact that many bulimics often don?t change much physically. Some sufferers may even put on weight, due to the fact that vomiting and other types of purging are very inefficient ways of removing calories. However, there are a number of signs that you can watch out for should you be concerned about a friend or member of the family:

  • Swinging between eating large amounts of food and skimping and meals
  • Abrupt changes in mood and depression
  • Red and grazed knuckles
  • The smell of toothpaste at odd times of the day, from the sufferer cleaning her teeth after purging
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Swollen cheeks and glands
  • Unusual dental problems
The Road to Recovery
It takes a lot of guts to make the decision to stop being bulimic and recovery can be incredibly difficult and stressful. However, with enough willpower and support, the cycle can be broken. If you suspect that you, or someone close to you, are suffering from bulimia, there are a number of things that you can do to make the process easier and smoother.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Breaking up with Bulimia II

Breaking up with Bulimia II
by Jennifer Boyes
Mar 16, 2008

In this second of two articles, find out what you can do to make the eating disorder recovery process easier, smoother and much less stressful.

If you think about food and eating constantly, you are terrified that once you start eating you won?t be able to stop and if you are sick or take laxatives after you have eaten then you are probably suffering from bulimia. It can take a lot of willpower and mental strength to make the decision to stop -- some people never do. It is a good idea to seek help from a professional should you suspect that you, or someone close to you, has bulimia. However, there are a number of things that you can do yourself to make the process easier.

Remind Yourself of the Damage
When you are caught in the throes of this eating disorder, it is quite easy to ignore the negative physical effect that bulimia is having on your body. However, in order to recover you must accept the destructive reality of bulimia. You need to start seeing the disorder as the enemy rather than as a friend.

Some of the effects of bulimia are:

  • Dehydration and deficiencies in minerals such as sodium and potassium
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Erosion of tooth enamel
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Weight gain (that?s right...bulimia will not keep you slim and most bulimics actually put on weight over time)
  • Heart damage
Stay Close to Loved Ones
Anorexia nervosa is often, mistakenly, seen as quite glamorous. This is largely due to the extensive numbers of celebrities, who are considered beautiful and popular figures, that have suffered from it. Bulimia, on the over hand, is still seen as a dark and embarrassing secret which should be hidden behind closed doors. Because of this view, sufferers from bulimia often feel cut off from friends and family as they don?t feel able to confide in them.

Even if you don?t feel quite ready to bare your soul to your loved ones, being around friendly faces will keep you occupied and will take your mind off binging and purging. Being around people will also prevent you from sneaking off to the bathroom without being detected.

Keep Busy
Many individuals recovering from bulimia have found that taking up a sport or a hobby has helped them tremendously. Becoming passionate about something other than your body and eating, whether it is swimming, knitting or joining a public speaking class, is great for self esteem and confidence. Time spent dedicated to your chosen hobby will also mean less time contemplating your weight and food.

Throw Out the Scales!
Bulimia sufferers are usually both terrified of and addicted to jumping onto the bathroom scales. Getting rid of the scales, preferably by putting them out with the trash, is a major step in the right direction. Even though you will find the absence of the scales tough for the first few days and weeks, things will get better. Whenever you start to think about weighing yourself, go and have a nap or make a cup of tea. This will keep you occupied until the thought passes.

Fill Your Cupboards with ?Safe? Foods
If you want to recover, you will have to make sure that you have as little access to ?triggering? foods as possible. This will not have to be the case forever but during the vulnerable, early stages of recovery it is a necessity. ?Trigger? foods include anything that you would instinctively reach for during binges. This might include white bread, ice-cream, milk and cookies. Remove them from the house as soon as possible.

Seek Professional Help
It is highly recommended that you seek professional help when battling bulimia. Counseling sessions can help with the poor body image and low self-esteem that is usually at the root of this eating disorder. On the physical side of things, a doctor will be able to ascertain whether any long term damage has been caused as a result of the vomiting and binge eating. There are a number of help-lines you can call to get information and advice on beating bulimia.

In the United States you can phone the National Eating Disorders Association?s toll-free hotline at 1-800-931-2237 and in the United Kingdom you can call the Beating Eating Disorder helpline at 0845 634 1414.

This article has covered just a small number of the things you can do to make your recovery from bulimia easier. However, you really have to want to beat bulimia in order for recovery to work. No-one can make you give it up. The road is tough but the rewards are more than worth it. A life that is not dominated by food and your body is a wonderful one. Freedom, happiness and health will all be waiting for you at the other end.
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