Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Day 3, Bulimia Nervosa

Its day 3 of Eating disorders awareness week 2014, and today I'm writing to tell you a bit about Bulimia nervosa. 

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating (eating, in a small amount of time, an amount that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar amount of time, and where the person feels a loss of control over eating); and recurrent disordered compensatory behaviours being used to prevent weight gain, such as self induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, fasting and excessive exercise - these are known as purging. In bulimia binge eating and purging takes place at least twice a week for a minimum of three months. People suffering from bulimia also evaluate themselves largely on their shape and weight, it is one of the most important things to the sufferer. Anyone can suffer from bulimia, male or female, of any age, race, religion or culture. 

In the past few weeks I asked a couple of friends of mine from Minds Like Ours to share their experience of having and eating disorder, and here is what Helen wanted to say about her Bulimia Nervosa:
"During my teenage years I was very depressed. I began binge eating – in fact I barely tasted the food I ate. I was comforted by the feeling of eating but couldn’t appreciate food. It was completely unsatisfying. When I was 18 I began to feel extremely uncomfortable after bingeing and I turned to purging. I started eating very little and when I had to eat meals around family I purged afterwards.
It created distance between me and my family. Covering up for purging is difficult and makes you very secretive. At the start I lost weight and it initially did boost my self-esteem. Then your body stops being able to process food as well. I was lucky that I did not end up with too many mineral imbalances that can end up in heart failure. Most of the time I was close to fainting and you can’t think right when you’re body is starving.
Although I am much healthier now I will have the effects of my bulimia for years to come. My stomach can barely process food and I have really bad acid reflux. My body still thinks it is starving so hoards the food I eat. I can only urge anyone with bulimia to ask for help now. Before your teeth rot. Before you end up with lifelong health problems. Bulimia can kill and there’s so much life to live out there if only you ask for help. Taking antidepressants helped me feel better and counselling can raise your self-esteem so you don’t need to empty your body of food to feel good.
If you believe someone you know is bulimic please approach them carefully. Remember that their behaviour has a deeper cause. You can’t just tell someone to snap out of it because that is unlikely to work. What you can do is let that person know you are there for them and encourage them to see a doctor about it. My mother tried to ignore it for several years and occasionally just told me to stop. It only made me more secretive and helped to prolong my illness.
I can only hope that one day I no longer dream of my teeth falling out and the medication I take will eventually settle my digestive system. Now I taste the food I eat and generally eat much more healthily. It’s nice to be out of the grip that bulimia had on my life for so long."

I'd like to thank Helen, very much, for her brave and bold sharing, well done!

The first port call for treatment is generally your GP. They may refer you on for talking therapies, a dietician, community mental health teams, inpatient wards, outpatient clinics, day patient clinics or general hospital if necessary. CBT is the main therapy used for bulimia, and can have very positive outcomes.Your GP can also keep a close watch on your physical health, which is very important as bulimia can have severe physical consequences, especially if your electrolytes are imbalanced, although most can be reversed by recovery, they can and do lead to death if untreated. Family and friends are also key in recovery, and it is important that people with in your support system have a knowledge of the disorder, even if they don't understand themselves. It is also important to keep social activities going if possible, as bulimia can be quite a lonely experience, and sufferers often shut people out because they feel they don't deserve friendships, or because they are so focused on food. There are also helplines like Beat ( and Anorexia Bulimia care ( or websites like Minds Like Ours (

Some helpful books for sufferers and those supporting them include:
Overcoming Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder - Peter Cooper
Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e), a survival kit for sufferers of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders - Ulrike Schmidt and Janet Treasure
Overcoming Binge Eating - Christopher G Fairburn
Life without ED - Jenni Schaefer

And of course, for me, as a christian, I believe that God is key in recovery, its able to take place because of him, happens through him, and you can do it with him. You can trust him to help you through the darkest of times, and he will never leave you, and he loves you dearly and cares about your health, mental health included.

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