You may not call yourself bulimic, or admit to your relatives or friends, but deep inside you know that eating a whole bag of Oreos and a gallon of ice cream is not healthy. Or normal.
Let’s face it. Most people would be sick from eating that much sugar. And you probably are too. That’s why you have to get rid of the food in a way you probably think is unique to you. You may throw up, take laxatives, run for 5 miles, or collapse onto your bed and sleep fitfully for 10 hours — anything to undo your frightening lapse of control and discomfort. And you’re convinced that you’re the only one who is haunted by these feelings.Â You hide your secret from everyone–even yourself. Denial can be very strong. Then you read something like this — and your stomach drops, your hands sweat… and you know.Â So you head to the bookstore, or go on-line, seeking information. You come across the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” of the American Psychiatric Association. Quickly, you turn to the page on Bulimia Nervosa and find out that people who have this condition:
Binge on large amounts of food in a short period of time…more than others could.
Feel no control over the amount of food they eat.
Resort to inappropriate ways of avoiding weight gain, such as using diuretics and laxatives; inducing vomiting; and excessive exercising and fasting.
Base their self-worth on how thin they are.
And suddenly your feelings and behavior don’t seem so unique. You have a condition with a name. Bulimia Nervosa. Finally, it all makes sense.
A Day in the Life of a Bulimic
Do you lay in bed at night reviewing your day through the lens of everything you ate and how you looked? Mary did. Let’s travel with her through her day.
7:00 a.m., Monday. The alarm goes off. Mary wakes up and instantly checks her stomach to see if it’s big or flat. She decides that it’s BIG, bigger than it was yesterday. She knows immediately that she’s going to have a bad day. As she showers, she touches her stomach and thighs. They all feel flabby. As she squeezes into her size 4 outfit, she looks in the mirror. “I’m so fat and ugly,” she thinks, “I hate myself.”
9:00 a.m. At work, Mary can’t concentrate on anything but the tightness of her clothing. She drinks Diet Coke, coffee and water. After a morning of caffeine jitters, the bloating goes away but her self-consciousness does not. She wonders if everyone notices how fat she’s looking. Though no one has said a word about her appearance, she’s convinced that they’re all making comments about her — which makes her feel even worse. Mary’s day-to-day well-being depends on what she thinks others think of her, and today she’s sure it’s all in the minus column.
12:00 noon The only thing that relieves Mary’s misery is the growling of her stomach. If she’s hungry, she’s happy. She can picture how flat her stomach will look tonight and how good she’ll feel. All she has to do is keep fasting. Skipping lunch, she focuses instead on what she’ll eat for dinner: 3 ounces of tuna and a salad –nothing more.
5:00 p.m. Mary leaves the office. She drives home, unlocks her door, and runs straight for the kitchen. Her stomach has never felt emptier; she needs something to eat quickly, just to tide her over until she can make her salad. She opens the bread box, thinking that one piece of bread won’t hurt her. But suddenly she’s in a frenzy; she tears open the wrapper — and snaps. As if in a dream, she devours the entire loaf, slathering each piece with globs of peanut butter and jelly.
5:45 p.m. When she comes to her senses, she panics. “Oh my God,” she thinks, “I’ve got to get rid of this right away or I’ll get fat.” She rushes to the bathroom and vomits until she is depleted. Then she drops on her bed and says to herself “Oh God, I’m so unhappy. I swear, I’ll never binge and purge again. I promise. Tomorrow, I’ll be perfect.”
Bulimia: Do You Have A Problem?
Are you like Mary? Let’s ask the question in another way.
Do you feel your value is in your thinness?
Do you think about food all the time?
Do these thoughts interfere with your concentration?
Do you avoid social situations because you feel fat?
Do you avoid situations where there’s food?
Do you feel your life would be better if you lost 5 or 10 pounds?
If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, you are having a problem with food and body image. It may be that you have an obsession, which means that thoughts about food and your body go round-and-round in your head and you can’t stop them. If you don’t pay attention to these obsessive thoughts, you may begin to act in ways that can be harmful to your health.
DON’T WAIT ANOTHER DAY. The sooner you get help, the better your chances of recovery.
Bulimia: How Can I Get Help?
Talk to your friends and family. Let them know about your condition, and tell them what you need from them to speed your recovery from bulimia.
Join eating disorders support groups and attend regularly. Becoming a member of an eating disorders support group is a vital part of recovery from bulimia nervosa. It helps you break through the secrecy of bulimia and feel connected to others struggling with the same issues you are.
Seek psychotherapy with a mental health professional who has experience treating eating disorders.
Hire a coach to work with you virtually, by E-mail and telephone. A coach is not a psychotherapist, but someone who can help you set goals and accomplish them. By joining a virtual teleconference class, you will be linked with others like you all over the country. Yet you can remain anonymous. It’s a great way to start to BEAT BULIMIA from the privacy of your home or school.