Eating disorders are some of those most common and yet, most difficult disorders to cure. Why is that? Why are some people anorexic and some people bulimic... how are some people neither?
I will admit, bulimia intrigues me much more than anorexia. This is because anorexia is very straight forward. How individuals end up with anorexia may differ, but the end goal is the same: to lose weight. To be as thin and frail as possible. In the end, every anorexic starves themselves and gets thin, weak, and sick. Bulimia, however, is a puzzle.
First of all, let me get out of the way a basic understanding of bulimia for those of you who have not ever seen, met, or heard of a teenage female (I say this sarcastically since if you have any connections to a teenager, you have heard of or even discussed this topic....)
Everything about bulimia is very dramatic and excessive. This is evident from the very first part of bulimia: binging. Now, everyone pigs out now and then. That’s fine and normal. You’re sad or bored or anxious or just in the mood to nosh, and you might end up eating every food item that you come across. However, when a bulimic individual binges, they can take in literally thousands of calories in only a couple hours, or less! That could mean someone is eating an entire box of chocolate, an entire cake, a pound of M&Ms, multiple bags of chips, and still searches for more! This could sound like someone who just doesn’t care or has no self-control, but these individuals explain that it is not by choice. It is an unstoppable force and they need to eat uncontrollably. It’s as if there is a demon inside them who just wants to eat lots of candy corn and pork rinds.
But hey, if once in a while a person wants to stuff themselves to the point of exploding, who am I to judge? You see, the problem arises with the next step, and that is purging.
Purging is the overwhelming urge by the person who just binged to make up for all the eating. This urge comes along with fear, guilt, and shame regarding all they have eaten. Purging comes in different forms. Some choose to force themselves to vomit, others take laxatives or water pills, some follow the binge with starvation, and of course, there’s always excessive exercise.
The sad irony is, all these things often lead to weight gain! After all, laxatives release things that have already been made use of (meaning, the calories have already been absorbed into the body...) And lots of liquid. Which just means loss of water weight leading to dehydration. Not very useful. Puking is unpleasant and doesn’t do much either for the same reason, while corroding teeth and the esophagus. Nonetheless, binging and purging tend to occur 2 times or more per a week for at least 3 months for afflicted individuals.Not to mention, even when the B & P twins are not showing up, there is still a major obsession with food. Usually this is a negative relationship that takes up all of the individual’s time and thoughts.
Of course, being concerned, or overly concerned with image and body weight is very common in today’s world. However, bulimic individuals take it one step further. Their weight and appearance determine their worth, self-respect, and entire ability to experience happiness. No matter how intelligent, beautiful, or successful a bulimic is, if their tummy isn’t trim enough or their thighs touch, they don’t consider themselves good enough.
There’s also the aspect of control. This may be self-control, control of their habits and body, or just general control in their lives. Food and our relationship with it have been known for ages to be a metaphor for our outlook on the world and our views on our selves. For many, controlling one’s eating means control over everything else in life that they may find difficult or displeasing. For this reason, bulimia can be found in the thin, the heavy, the intelligent, the dull, the male, the female, and of people of all ages.
Upon a friend’s mention of it, I became very intrigued with male bulimics. When I corrected his assumption that I would be writing about females with the condition, he was a little taken aback by the concept of male bulimics. He knew of their existence, but did not immediately infer that from my mention of the word. This is what makes the subject even more intriguing, just how little male bulimia is discussed! This prompted me to seek out something written by a male with bulimia. As I hoped I would, I quickly came across a blog written by just that! On bulimicboy.blogspot.com, I read into the emotional and physical state of a sufferer. A paragraph that I felt particularly helped my understanding, or at least went into a similar thought pattern was as follows,
"Some days have been worse than others. Not every binge has been massive. But it’s not really about that. It’s about whether I’ve been in control or whether I’ve let the urge get the better of me. And I have let it get the better of me. I’ve stopped fighting. Every morning I’ve woken up and thought ‘It’s a new day, so dust yourself off and start again’. But by evening I’ve lost the willpower and just submitted to it. And for the last few days that’s been making me feel pretty terrible.
...today it’s got to the point that I have to try something. I’ve been starting to feel hopeless again. As though there’s just nothing that I can do about it. As though bulimia inevitably wins, and the best I can do is find a way to tolerate it while it has its wicked way with me. And I haven’t felt like that for several months. Even when I’ve had setbacks it’s seemed like a blip, but I’ve still been moving in the right direction. It’s become pretty impossible to make that case to myself just recently. So I have to do something. Maybe writing will help me to rediscover some resolve...."
A common trait of bulimics is depression. This in itself leads me to a theory. That is, the metaphor of bulimia. Food is a VERY commonly used cry for help in individuals. Sometimes it's someone eating more and more to fulfill their need for control, sometimes they eat less just for the sake of getting someone to notice their need for help. In the case of bulimia being paired with depression, maybe weight loss was the individual's attempt at taking hold of his or her own life. Proving that by making the right changes and doing things "right", maybe they too can be thin... or maybe they too can be happy. However, upon noticing that he/she is not thin enough or they are not seeing the change, hope is lost. Now this person has realized, or it has occurred to them, that maybe they aren't ever going to reach that goal. No matter how much they do things like they think they should to get what they what, no matter what steps they are taking, it will never be enough. Happiness/thinness will never be attained.
Food for thought, eh? Pun intended.