by Amy Pusey
(last updated April 17, 2009)
How many times have you thought to yourself 'I hate my body?' Whether it is realistic or not, most people, regardless of age, negatively view at least one part of their body on a daily basis. While many of us will pick apart what we do not like, and tell ourselves we will eat less junk food or exercise on a more regular basis, we generally do not mentally beat ourselves up if we fail to follow through on our self-pledges. This is not the case with individuals who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa. Their condition is unique compared to other eating disorders, but very punishing nonetheless.
You may be thinking you are uncertain of the differences between Bulimia and Anorexia. The similarities are many, but the differences can be less noticeable, which make it an extremely serious and potentially life-threatening disorder. To be precise, Bulimia is a bingeing/purging eating disorder. What this means, is that a sufferer will binge on excess amounts of typically high-caloric, comfort foods in order to deal with stressful situations, bouts of depression, or periods of self-loathing; essentially, they lose control and eventually this process becomes cyclic. Often, these comfort foods consist of sweets, cakes, cookies, or ice cream, and may consume as much as 3,000 calories in one hour. Then, to add insult to injury, the individual escapes to a toilet in order to purge the contents of their stomach because they hate themselves for gorging on bad foods, and need to prevent gaining any weight.
Generally, the public may associate this type of eating disorder with the expected industries that focus on physical beauty and form, such as modeling. However, the truth is that it can hit much closer to home, for thinness or low body weight is sought after in dancing, wrestling, and gymnastics. Many of these are every day activities in which our children participate from elementary to collegiate levels. I can recall routinely seeing high school classmates on the boys' wrestling team reducing their food intake, drinking lots of fluids, and spitting into cups, just to make a lower weight class for the next competition. It always made me wonder how many coaches and parents turned a blind eye to this practice? Coincidentally, this is not an isolated arena for this type of disorder because, believe it or not, you may potentially find it in the boardroom affecting mostly women who are type-A, overachievers.
Bulimics are very secretive about their disorder, and it is incredibly difficult to determine if someone is in the throws of a bingeing and purging routine. They often maintain a normal body weight, and in some cases may even be overweight. Also, like anorexics, bulimics will generally deny their condition. Bulimics develop a routine, and will typically purge after every binge episode, but may also force vomiting after every meal they consume. This may occur on average 2-3 times per day, up to several times per day.
Again, determining if a loved one is bulimic can be tricky, but here are some generally common symptoms to look for if you suspect a bulimic may be living in your presence:
Bulimia is like most health disorders, and when left unchecked it can develop into lingering or more serious health crises. Other health problems that may develop over time from Bulimia include: dental problems due to constant vomiting damaging tooth enamel, esophageal tears, cardiac arrhythmia, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Alarmingly, nearly 10% of bulimic patients will die from associated conditions, such as severe medical conditions, suicide, or starvation. The good news about Bulimia is that is can be overcome with the assistance of professional medical care and counseling.
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