What is Bulimia?
Bulimia, sometimes referred to as Bulimia Nervosa, is an obsessive eating disorder that refers to any method used to remove food from your body before it has fully digested.
The logic behind this eating disorder is simple:
More calories = more weight gain.
Ordinarily, when you eat food, it will take your body 6 – 8 hours to fully digest it. After this time, your body will have obtained the maximum amount of calories from the food.
If you suffer from bulimia, you’ll try and get rid of those calories well before the 8 hours are up. By any means possible.
Bulimia is an unhealthy way of avoiding calories – if your body hasn’t completely digested the food, you have essentially cut those calories.
When you think of the word bulimia, you likely think of sticking your fingers down your throat to throw up after a meal – forcing yourself to vomit.
You are correct. But it may surprise you to learn that bulimia also refers to any other method used to quickly get rid of the calories inside that meal you just ate.
Other methods include:
Taking any medication or food that fast-tracks your trip to poop town. Laxatives make food move through your system quicker, lowering the amount of calories your body absorbs from the food.
If you have eaten a large meal, or slipped up and eaten a whole packet of Tim Tams, you over-exercise to make up for the calorie intake. You want to burn off the calories with exercise – such as spending the whole afternoon jogging around your neighborhood.
Skipping a meal so that the calories consumed at the last meal don’t stack up.
Inappropriate use of medication that suppresses hunger, so you can easily skip meals.
Unfortunately, most of these activities can be hidden – it’s easy to justify them as a lifestyle choice when, it’s actually a serious mental health problem.
Because of this, bulimia can go undetected for a long time. Often by the time bulimia is diagnosed, long-term damage has been done, such as chronic digestive issues.
Do you think you may have bulimia? Don’t worry, you are not alone…
Suffering from bulimia is more common than you think. In 2012 it was estimated that 100,000 Australian men and women suffered from Bulimia
Bulimia should be treated as soon as possible – your future self will thank you!
Are you ready to beat bulimia once and for all?
Book your free, no obligation phone consultation now!
As we covered in the last section, bulimia is all about restricting calories.
In any situation where you want to restrict calories, bulimia is a potential solution – a tool that can be used to purge your body of that last meal.
Based on the clients we have successfully treated, bulimia is typically caused by a discovery of an easy weight loss strategy that turns into an obsession. In particular:
Obsession with body image
You can’t put on weight if you aren’t digesting your food. Bulimia is most commonly used as a way to control body image – where your goal is to obtain an attractive body shape.
Obsession with dieting
Some people see bulimia as a form of dieting, an effective way to reduce or control their body weight.
Obsession with control
Certain personality types appear to be more attracted to bulimia than others. In particular perfectionists who are overly critical of their body. Bulimia can provide the ultimate control of your body’s calorie intake.
However, it is also worth mentioning that bulimia can be triggered by other eating disorders…
Binge Eating After binge eating, you feel sick and lethargic from eating too much food. One solution is to stick your fingers down your throat, purging the excess food out of your body.
Food addiction Eating large quantities of addictive high calorie foods can quickly lead to weight gain. Vomiting or overexercising is used to balance the additional calories.
Bulimia is used to purge the body of food, so that you can eat again – you will have room for your next meal.
Yes. If untreated, bulimia is dangerous.
Bulimia increases the risk of premature death. No one wants to die before their time. But bulimia increases your chances of an early death.
But even if bulimia doesn’t kill you, there are many other nasty medical complications that it can cause…
Vomiting leads to an imbalance in electrolytes, which can make it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body and eventually fail.
Your dentist has probably already told you that acidic foods are not good for your teeth. Well, stomach acid isn’t either. Regular vomiting can wear down the enamel of your teeth.
Regular vomiting can lead to a sore throat. When you vomit, stomach acid comes into contact with vocal cords and the surrounding areas, causing burns and irritation.
Acid reflux and esophagus pain
Constant vomiting also exposes the esophagus to stomach acid, which irritates and burns the esophagus.
Extremely bloodshot eyes
Excessive vomiting can cause bleeding behind the covering of the eye. While it may be harmless, it’s freaky to look at.
When you purge food is not given the opportunity to provide your body with essential nutrients
Lack of energy
Food is fuel. When you purge, you are depriving your body of this fuel. This can lead to you feeling constantly lazy or tired.
Laxatives deplete the body of water leading to a risk of dehydration.
Mental Health Issues
Calorie counting stress
Even the basic task of eating causes stress as you need to work out the exact calories in each meal (or where you are going to find a bathroom to purge)
It’s hard to concentrate when you continuously feel tired, hungry and can’t stop thinking about food.
Changes to your personality
– Stress placed upon your body due to lack of nutrients, increases chances of anxiety, depression and emotional outbursts.
You withdraw from your friends and family for fear of smelling like vomit and being found out.
You avoid situations where you are exposed to food, such as work functions, or even walking through a food court.
Giving up hobbies and interests
Due to a lack of energy and thought-space taken up with body image and exercising, you lose enthusiasm for your usual hobbies and interests.
If you are still reading this, you are likely thinking:
Oh no, I have bulimia!
And you might. But don’t panic just yet.
Firstly, you can’t have bulimia without purging. This is the defining factor of bulimia.
Purging behaviors include:
- Forcing yourself to vomit
- Using laxatives or enemas to poop faster
- Using diuretics to empty your bladder
- Over-exercising to burn off your last meal
- Excessive fasting
- Abusing weight loss products.
If you are not purging, you do not have bulimia.
If you suffer from bulimia, then this purging behavior is often associated with other symptoms
You have an escape plan
When you eat you have an exit strategy, such as quickly going to the bathroom to vomit during a dinner party.
You constantly worry about your body weight, size and proportions.
You count the calories in your food. Your intention is to purge these additional calories.
It is worth mentioning that many symptoms of bulimia overlap with Anorexia. While similar, the key difference is that anorexics desire to reach an extreme thinness – you don’t need to be thin to suffer from bulimia.
To make things more confusing, it is possible suffer more than one eating disorder at a time. For instance, you can suffer from bulimia and binge eating or anorexia. Or even have symptoms of all three at once.
Fortunately, there is a simple test you can take to determine if you have an eating disorder, and which one. All you have to do is take a test…
The Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). This test accompanies a medical examination (called the EDE) that will be administered by your doctor, who will diagnose your eating disorder and prescribe treatment.
You can also take this test yourself online for free, however it will only reveal if you potentially have an eating disorder. It won’t provide a diagnosis or further details – you need to see your Doctor for that.
If your Doctor determines that you do have an eating disorder, you may be eligible for medicare funded treatment under one of two different plans:
1. Eating Disorder Management Plan (EDMP) – allows eligible clients with an eating disorder to access medicare rebates for up to 40 sessions of Psychological under an eating disorder psychological treatment plan (EDPT.)
2. Medical Health Care Plan (MHP) – provides up to 20 individual and 20 group sessions of Psychology therapy per year.
Please discuss these options with your doctor. Happy Body Clinic is able to provide treatment under both of these plans with a referral from your doctor.