Bulimia is an eating disorder that stems from a loss of control over eating habits and a longing to stay thin. Many people associate the condition with throwing up after eating. But there is much more to know about bulimia than this one symptom.
Here are 7 facts about bulimia to change misconceptions you may have about this dangerous eating disorder.
1. It’s rooted in compulsive habits
If you have bulimia or another eating disorder, you may be obsessed with your body image and go to severe measures to alter your weight. Anorexia nervosa causes people to restrict their calorie intake. Bulimia causes binge eating and purging.
Bingeing is consuming a large portion of food in a short period of time. People with bulimia tend to binge in secret and then feel immense guilt. These are also symptoms of binge eating disorder. The difference is that bulimia includes purging by behaviors such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, or fasting. People with bulimia may continue to binge and purge for a while, and then go through periods of not eating.
For certain individuals (myself included) they may not binge in secret or not eat and the eat excessively. I was diagnosed with ‘selective eating’. I didn’t know this was a thing he sent why I was in doubt for so long that I had an eating disorder. It basically means that you restrict for so long and then eat at certain times. Which tend to be when you’re going out on social events or externally hungry. You can eat the smallest ‘meal’ I.e a slice of bread and nothing else all day, and that’ll be your binge for the day.
If you have bulimia, you may also exercise compulsively. Regular exercise is a “normal” part of a healthy lifestyle. But people with bulimia may take this to the extreme by exercising for several hours a day. This can lead to other health problems, such as:
- body injuries
2. Bulimia is a mental disorder. NOT an eating disorder
Bulimia is an eating disorder, but it can also be referred to as a mental disorder. A fact which I feel needs to be more widely known is that eating disorders such as bulimia are the most fatal mental conditions. This fact is attributed to long-term health problems, as well as suicide. A lot of people with bulimia also have depression, myself included . Bulimia can cause people to feel shame and guilt about their inability to control compulsive behaviours. This can worsen preexisting depression.
3. Society can be the cause
There is no proven cause of bulimia. However, many believe there’s a direct correlation between the American obsession with thinness and eating disorders. Wanting to adapt to beauty standards can cause people to engage in unhealthy eating habits.
4. It affects men too
While women are the most prone to eating disorders, and most commonly associated with it, the disorder is not gender specific. I don’t know any stats but what I do know is, men are often less likely to exhibit noticeable symptoms or seek appropriate treatments. This can put them at risk for health problems.
5. People with bulimia can look healthy & normal
Not everyone with bulimia is ultra-thin. Anorexia causes a large calorie deficit, leading to extreme weight loss. People with bulimia can experience episodes of anorexia, but they still tend to consume more calories overall through bingeing and purging. This explains why many people with bulimia still retain normal body weights. This can be deceptive to loved ones, and can even cause a doctor to miss the diagnosis.
This is another reason why I was in denial for so long. I was thinking I looked “happy”, “healthy” & “normal” & I was getting compliments such as “you look great, have you lost a bit of weight?”. Comments like this aren’t necessarily taken as compliments. They’re more taken with the mind set of “oh! So did I not look great before?.. now I have to try my hardest to maintain it to maintain people’s validation and love”
6. Bulimia can have serious life long health affects
This eating disorder causes more than just unhealthy weight loss or gain. Every system in your body is dependent on nutrition and healthy eating habits to function properly. When you disrupt your natural metabolism through binging and purging, your body can be seriously affected.
I haven’t gained all of the filling but I have been affected by a lot of them. When in recovery, the worst one to try and get better is metabolism. Nothing will change unless you get a higher metabolism which is easier said than done as an adult.
Bulimia can cause:
- low blood pressure and irregular heart rate
- dry skin
- decreased electrolyte levels and dehydration
- esophageal ruptures from excessive vomiting
- gastrointestinal problems
- irregular periods
- kidney failure
7. Antidepressants may help
Antidepressants have the potential to improve bulimic symptoms in people who also have depression. I’m not sure of any facts to back this one up if honest. However, bulimia & all eating disorders can cause severe depression. I’ve come onto antidepressants 1/2 way through my recovery and really noticed them helping me conquer my body dysmorphia. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there!!!! But it’s more manageable now. I can have a shower without crying or feeling guilty for having dinner.
Bulimia is treatable, like I’ve said before…. I’m not recovered yet. But I have relapsed a lot of times. symptoms often come back without warning. I’ve been to so many doctors, therapists, councillors, dieticians etc. In the past 7 years and Ive identified underlying cues and warning signs.
For example, if depression is your trigger, then pursue regular mental health treatments. Seeking treatment can help prevent relapses in bulimia.
For me, my triggers tend to be stress & abandonment issues related to my childhood. So I’ve stayed with a separate councillor outside of rehab to work in that. To work towards finding a stress & sadness relief that I can turn to other than food or laxatives.
It’s taken me years to get to the point where I am now. I’m nowhere near recovered but I am at a stage where I’ve come to terms with the dangers and I’ve faced up to what I’ve done to myself. As well as needing to change if I want to fulfill my dreams and aspirations.
The real solution for long-term weight maintenance is a sensible diet and exercise plan. Bulimia ultimately disrupts normal weight maintenance, which sets up the body for greater challenges as the eating disorder progresses. Working to develop a healthy body image and lifestyle is a must. See a doctor right away if you or a loved one needs help treating bulimia.