Are you obsessed with your weight? Does food and dieting dominate your life? Do you ever eat until you feel sick? Do you feel guilty or upset after eating? Do you vomit or take laxatives to control your eating? If you answered yes to more than one question, you might be suffering from an eating disorder.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating. People with bulimia binge on average between 3000 to 5000 calories in one hour and afterwards they panic and turn to drastic measures to undo everything, such as; vomiting, taking laxatives or going for a long run.
Dieting triggers binging. The more strict the diet, the more likely it is that you’ll become obsessed with food. When you starve yourself, your body responds with powerful cravings—its way of asking for needed nutrition.
As the tension, hunger, and feelings of deprivation build, the compulsion to eat becomes too powerful to resist. A “forbidden” food is eaten; a dietary rule is broken. With an all-or-nothing mindset, you feel any diet slip-up is a total failure. After having a bite of ice cream, you might think, “I’ve already blown it, so I might as well go all out.”
The relief that binging brings is extremely short-lived. After binging, guilt and self-loathing set in. And so you purge to make up for binging and to regain control.
Signs and symptoms:
- Lack of control over eating.
- Secrecy surrounding eating.
- Eating unusually large amounts of food.
- Disappearance of food.
- Alternating between overeating and fasting
- Going to the bathroom after meals.
- Using laxatives.
- Smell of vomit.
- Excessive exercising
- Scars on the knuckles or hands.
- Puffy cheeks.
- Discolored teeth.
- Not underweight.
- Frequent fluctuations in weight.
Effects of bulimia:
The most dangerous side effect of bulimia is dehydration due to purging. Vomiting and laxatives can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, most commonly in the form of low potassium levels. Other side effects may include:
- Weight gain
- Abdominal pain, bloating
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Chronic sore throat
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Swollen cheeks
- Weakness and dizziness
- Tooth decay and mouth sores
- Acid reflux or ulcers
- Ruptured stomach or esophagus
- Loss of menstrual periods
- Chronic constipation from laxative abuse
In most cases, people suffering with bulimia have trouble managing emotions in a healthy way. Eating can be an emotional release so it’s not surprising that people binge and purge when feeling angry, depressed, stressed, or anxious. People with bulimia have poor body image and a low self-esteem. They may also have a history of trauma or abuse in their lives.
If you are living with bulimia, you know how scary it feels to be so out of control. But take heart; change is possible. Regardless of how long you’ve struggled with bulimia, you can learn to break the binge and purge cycle and develop a healthier attitude toward food and your body.
Admit you have a problem, talk to someone, stay away from people and places that may trigger the temptation to binge or purge and seek professional help. Follow through with therapy and resolve the underlying emotional issues that cause the bulimia in the first place.
If you suspect that your friend or family member has bulimia, talk to the person about your concerns. Your loved one may deny bingeing and purging, but there’s a chance that he or she will welcome the opportunity to open up about the struggle. Either way, bulimia should never be ignored. The person’s physical and emotional health is at stake.