“Bulimia Took Over My Life”

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Stuart L. Brogden

“Bulimia took over my life, slowly and surely it swallowed me alive.  I was afraid to be myself, afraid to be in my own skin.  Its’ a little devil on your shoulder whispering to you ‘Lose weight you fat a**, you worthless piece of crap.’ I’m afraid to live like this.” (All quotes by anonymous Pentucket student)

Bulimia:  the second most common illness in the United States, a serious disease that involves the consumption of large amounts of food (bingeing) and is followed by a form of purging, the most common form being vomiting.

Bulimia affects as many as ten million people in the United States alone, and in a group of 100 people, on average 2 to 3 of them will have been diagnosed with bulimia.

In women, the average age for bulimia to begin is twenty.  However, this is not always the case.  A study by Walden Behavioral Care states that:

•15% of women 17 to 24 have eating disorders

•40% of teenage females have eating disorders

Bulimia is becoming increasingly more popular in young girls, one student claims, “I began binging and purging at, probably, twelve years old.  I always looked at myself as fat and was made fun of for being ‘ugly’.  It started as just another way to lose weight, but it quickly turned into so much more than that.”

It is unclear to say exactly what causes bulimia, but there is a rough idea of things that can trigger someone to start.  The first, and probably most popular, is poor body image.  The way society and the media puts thinness on such a high pedestal often makes people start to compare their bodies and want to change the way they look.

Another is having low self-esteem. The individuals who feel worthless, useless, and unattractive have a greater risk for bulimia.

The last triggers are having a history of abuse, major life change, or appearance-orientated activities or professions.

Currently many girls begin a weight loss process at obscenely young ages. A study claimed that 91% of young girls, ages 9-14, have attempted to control their weight through dieting.  This obsession with weight at such a young age leads to eating disorders, a lack of self-esteem, and a constant need for utter control.

One teen claims that her eating disorder became a part of her; bulimia was the only thing she was able to control in her “messed up life.”  This is a common theme in bulimics, the feeling that the disorder is the sole thing the individual has complete control over.

Teenagers with bulimia may often try to hide it and be in denial about it along with their families.  The refusal to admit there is a problem allows the eating disorder to grow even more, to the point where it may be too late to get help.

“When I was first diagnosed it was terrible, my parents crying asking, ‘why, why, why.’  They just did not get it.  After that was the ignorance, pretending as if I didn’t exist, like looking at me might make them realize the truth.””

Signs that you, or someone you know may have bulimia are being extremely concerned with body weight and shape, and maintaining a distorted image of one’s body or of reality or making complex schedules to incorporate time for binging and purging.

“At my worst times I completely just cut off my friends, it was too hard to see them and keep up with throwing up as much as I did.  I had to cut them off.”

Bulimics are often socially withdrawn, depressed, hyper-sexual, self-critical and obsessed with weight loss and controlling what they eat.

Other signs may include: (by Walden Behavioral Care)

•Eating unusually large amounts of food without any changes in weight

•Hiding of food

•The frequent presence of a large number of food containers and wrappers

•The frequent smell of vomit

•Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals

•Excessive use of diuretics

•Going to the kitchen frequently when everyone is sleeping

•Excessive, rigid exercise

Physical signs may include: swollen glands, discolored teeth and calluses on the hands caused by self-inducing vomiting, staining or deterioration of tooth enamel, broken blood vessels around the eyes, stomach pain, and increased weakness or fatigue.

Some of the risks that come along with bulimia are damage to organ systems and body parts, including the brain, liver, kidneys, heart, GI tract, bones, teeth, skin and hair.

“Yeah, I guess I’ve experienced a number of symptoms from my disorder.  I got 10 cavities last year, had to get those all drilled, that sucked.  My hair falls out in clumps in the shower, I sleep a lot, probably too much.  Pretty much you just feel like crap.  Don’t do it kids.”

If left untreated, bulimia, and other teen eating disorders can result in osteoporosis, retarded growth, kidney problems, ulcers and heart failure. In severe cases, eating disorders can also lead to death.

Bulimia is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can results in major health and psychological problems.  Although it may calm you in the moment, it is hazardous and damages your body.  However, understand that it is possible to change and overcome the fear within yourself.  No matter how long you have struggled with bulimia, it is possible to fight it, and learn once again how to have a healthy relationship with food, and be comfortable in your own skin.

“I am working on my bulimia problem because that’s what I can call it now, ‘a problem.’  At first I thought it was all I had, and it was for a while, but once it starts destroying your mind, body, family and relationships, that’s when you know.  You can no longer be in this state of destruction towards yourself.  Every day is a struggle, the temptation; the thoughts of not being good enough, not being pretty enough, but I do what I can to fight them off.  If I had to give a fellow bulimic advice on how to move on it would be to stay strong, and look to the positive side of yourself and drown out the negative.”

The first step is to realize the problem, and talk to someone about it.  Seek out professional help immediately.

 

1-858-481-1515

National Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

International treatment referrals and prevention information

[email protected]

 

1-800-931-2237

National Eating Disorders Association

International treatment referrals and information

 

1-617-558-1881

Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association, Inc Helpline

Staffed by trained/supervised individuals.

M-Friday 9:30-5:00pm.

Wednesday evenings until 8:00pm