What is bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa is more common than anorexia. It is a cycle of feeling compelled to eat large amounts of food, and then trying to undo the effects of doing so. Therefore sufferers of bulimia nervosa are caught in the devastating and addictive binge-purge cycle. The sufferer eats compulsively and then purges through self-induced methods. (See blow).
Bulimics, like anorexics, are also obsessively involved with their body shape and weight. The medical complications of the binge-purge cycle can be severe and like anorexia nervosa can be fatal. Media attention has to some extent glamorised and trivialised the seriousness of bulimia nervosa.
The Flourish Programme is excellent at helping people with bulimia nd other food binging disorders.
If you have bulimia nervosa you are likely to:
- Eat in binges – large quantities all in one go
- Starve yourself after eating – go on fasts
- Make yourself sick after eating
- Use laxatives after eating
- Use diuretics
- Go on strict diets for a short period
- Chew-spit to get the flavour but not swallow the food
- Think constantly about eating
- Eat in secret – then regurgitate
- Have irresistible cravings for certain foods
- Think of yourself as fat
- Exercise vigorously
- Lie to those around you
If you are a bulimic your weight stays about the same. Therefore; people are less likely to spot the problem you have so will not offer help without you asking for it.
Sufferers take great care in keeping their bulimia nervosa hidden from those around them. Most bulimics dread being fat and believe that they should be skinnier than is healthy.
Destroying the myths around bulimia
The eating and weight control behaviours usually don’t help the sufferer to lose weight. This is because:
- Laxatives don’t cause weight loss – they affect only the colon. The colon does not really absorb much in the way of calories. The apparent weight loss is just water in the form of diarrhoea
- Being sick does not empty the stomach. It only gets rid of about 40% of the calories eaten
- Diuretic drugs only rid water. They have no effect on the amount of calories absorbed or fat in the body. The perceived benefits of the above are temporary. The body soon returns to normal after drinking as the hydration level rises again.
The negative health effects of bulimia nervosa:
- A stretched colon, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can occur with excessive use of laxatives.
- Development of painful piles, (haemorrhoids)
- Heart disease as laxatives and diuretics deprive your body of vital water soluble vitamins and minerals
- Muscular weakness can arise from frequent vomiting
- Fits from the dehydration
- Poor skin due to dehydration.
- Tooth decay caused by stomach acids eroding tooth enamel when vomiting and minerals loss
- Menstrual periods may become very irregular or stop altogether and may cause fertility problems later in life