Monday, November 10, 2014

Woman With Signs Of Bulimia Wonders If She Is Doing Something Wrong

Dear Tazi-Kat:

I think I might have an eating disorder, but I am not sure because some of my behaviors seem quite normal. I love food – a lot – but I don’t like gaining weight. I enjoy sitting down to a big meal with family or friends and not worrying about how much fat or calories I am ingesting; but I hate gaining weight.

When I was younger, I could always eat what I wanted, and as much of it, without gaining weight; but since I turned 30 I have discovered I must exercise harder to remain at my goal weight. I have also discovered that there are certain foods I can no longer eat because they cause me severe stomach upset – to the point of vomiting or diarrhea.

Lately, if I don’t feel like exercising after a particularly large meal, I have been sure to include a portion of one of these foods that “doesn’t agree with me”, as my Grandma used to call them, to ensure that my meal will exit my system with minimal caloric absorption. I don’t do this all of the time – most of the time, I will just run the treadmill for an extra hour or two, until the excess calories have been burned. I don’t think this is a problem, but at the same time I find myself hiding my behavior from my husband and children, like it is something that I should be ashamed of doing. What do you think, Tazi-Kat? Do I have an eating disorder? Or is my behavior perfectly normal?

Not Overweight…Yet

Dear Not Overweight…Yet:

The behavior you describe is the classic behavior of someone who suffers from bulimia nervosa – bulimia for short. Bulimics are generally people of normal weight who have difficulty maintaining their weight. Most of the time, they eat sensible portions of food; but every now and then they will go on a binge. Some binges can last only a few minutes, when food is stuffed into their mouths as fast as possible; other binges last over days or even weeks, when the bulimic throws nutrition and sensible eating to the wind and eats whatever they want, whenever they want, and however much they want; and then there is the type of binge that occurs over one meal. Regardless of the type of binge, the end result is the same: the binger “feels fat” and seeks a way to purge as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

There are three types of purges, and although many bulimics prefer one over the others they are not mutually exclusive. In your letter, you have described to me all three types of purges:

• The vomiting purge, which is the purge most commonly identified with bulimia
• The laxative purge, in which laxatives and diuretics or foods with a laxative/diuretic effect are ingested as a way to quickly evacuate food from the body
• The exercise purge, in which excessive amounts of cardiovascular exercises are done as an attempt to burn the extra calories.

These practices may seem like a good way to eliminate excess calories, but they really are not. Vomiting and laxative use will purge less than 50% of caloric intake; diuretics only 10%; and prolonged exercise results in diminished results as your body attempts to conserve its energy (until you feed it again!).

You do not say for how long you have been practicing these purge methods, or how frequently you employ them. However, the fact that you actively seek to hide these behaviors from those closest to you reveals that you do understand that they are not normal, and certainly not healthy. It appears that if you are not already a full-fledged bulimic that you are on the road to becoming one.

Bulimia may seem like an easy and painless way to maintain your weight, but there are several severe health conditions associated with repeated, long-term purging, including:

• Halitosis
• Erosion of tooth enamel and gum disease
• Throat cancer
• Heart conditions
• Kidney disease
• Stomach ulcers
• Dehydration
• Weight gain due to chronic metabolic disruptions

Not to mention your face ends up resembling Uncle Fester of the Addams Family, due to the combination of dehydration and cardiovascular issues.

I suggest that you speak with your doctor or other professional health counselor about seeking help for the dangerous habits you are developing, as well as seek the advice of a certified nutritionist who will be able to assist you in meal planning. Some sessions with a mental health counselor may also be helpful in getting to the root of your love of food, and why you enjoy eating to the point of gluttony. Only by getting to the root of the problem can the weed that is bulimia be destroyed.


P.S. I realize that as a cat, I am an expert on the subject of vomiting, but that is not bulimia. That is a furball problem.

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