Bulimia, More Than Just An Eating Disorder

Bulimia is more than just an eating disorder, it’s a serious illness that affects many people world wide. Having an Eating disorder does not just affect what you put into your mouth but your entire life is affected. It affects your friends, your family, your work your home life, your social life, everything. It is a very difficult illness to overcome because your whole thought process is altered and the negative thoughts and self doubt become strong motivators to continue on a path of the illness.

I saw a lovely client this week who has been suffering with Bulimia for the past 33 years and has only just started seeking help this year. Consulting with her about this illness brought back memories from my younger years when I was a sufferer.

What Is Bulimia

Bulimia is the act of binge eating then purging. Those with the condition will deprive themselves of food then in the comfort of their own home binge. After a binge session feelings of guilt, anger and sadness come rolling in which then brings on the act of purging to “get rid” of not only the food but the emotions.

It is common to see sufferers skip meals during the day when they are at their place of work or in public and binge when they return home. In doing this they are depriving their body of essential nutrients assimilated from food.

I Was A Weekend Binger

I would be very strict with my eating during the week, around friends and family. I would only fresh fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. I had a reputation of being “so healthy” to maintain and would refuse any junk food that I was offered. I would sit at McDonalds with all my friends after school and sip on a medium diet coke while they all ate burgers and sundaes. I was sick and had an extreme fear of weight gain. Looking back on photos of myself I was no where near fat, but because I looked “healthy” no one ever suspected my disorder. Bulimia sufferers are excellent at hiding their disorder and can be years before the recovery process begins.

Compulsive Exercise

I suffered with Bulimia from the age of 15 through to 17. At age 15 I also developed an excessive compulsion to exercise. I would wake up at 6am every morning and do Aerobics Oz Style on the TV before school…big daggy I know! After school I would go for a run before my sport training; I played netball, basketball and also did swimming training. Late at night I would complete 100 Situps, 100 Star Jumps and 100 Squats before I retired to bed. On Friday and Saturday nights I would binge on whatever minimal junk food my mum put in the pantry and purge. My Immune system was hit the hardest and after having recurrent tonsillitis every couple of months I had to slow down on the exercise. My immunity was so weak that eventually my bouts of tonsillitis developed into Glandular Fever. I was run down for the better half of 6 months and even to this day my immune system is one of my weakest aspects of my health.

Effects of Bulimia

The damage from Bulimia doesn’t just include a sore throat and sensitive teeth. Bulimia also can cause more serious long term effects like enamel erosion, hormonal imbalance, low blood pressure, anaemia, ruptured oesophagus, reflux, kidney and intestine damage as well as an irregular heartbeat and heart failure.

Acknowledge Bulimia

If you have an eating disorder the first step is to acknowledge it. It took me 2 years and my client 33 years to acknowledge the illness. It isn’t easy but is essential for the first step of recovery. There is a lot of help out there and it is so important not to feel ashamed or embarrassed by it. It is a mental illness and there is no shame in owning the illness and moving forward to seek help.

Eating For Health Not Weight Loss

Funnily enough once you start to recover and develop a healthy relationship with food your weight naturally falls off. Eating becomes an enjoyable experience and eating healthy food is rewarded by feeling good about yourself. It was not until I started studying Naturopathy that I realised the principle of eating for health rather than weight loss. The media constantly shoves images in our face that to be successful and popular among our peers we should be slim. Too much focus is put on weight rather than dealing with the causes of weight gain like stress, anxiety and eating disorders.

Optimise Your Body

I wish there was more education when I was at school regarding this because it was not until I started learning about it myself with my course that I started eating to be healthy not thin. If you are getting adequate nutrients through regular healthy meals your body starts to operate properly and you start to feel healthy. Your immune system becomes strong, you digest your food well, you have energy, you sleep improves, you crave healthy food, your hormones are balanced and then you lose fat. More importantly you develop a positive relationship with food and start to enjoy eating. Once you are in this head space, then incorporating a  regular sensible exercise plan will assist you to lose fat and gain lean muscle.

If you would like to know more about a holistic treatment plan to recover from an eating disorder like bulimia please contact kathryn@inaturopathy.com.au

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