Why can’t I be like “normal” people…? How did I get this way? Will I ever be able to eat food without feeling like I have to throw up afterwards…?
Sound familiar? More than likely, since over seventy percent of us obsessed with body image (mostly women) suffer from the eating disorder known as bulimia… According to Dr. Manohar Shinde of the Eating Disorder Institute of California (EDIC), it’s a malady of epidemic proportions, and the sad thing is that most of us never admit that we have the problem in the first place. We’d sooner cop to a drug and alcohol addiction than admit we spend time puking up our food… I guess it’s just not a sociably acceptable addiction, and don’t kid yourself, it is an addiction.
And bulimia isn’t just an eating disorder… It’s also an emotional disorder. It’s about getting rid of the negative feelings that do their best to tear us down, primarily guilt, insecurity and shame… I find it an interesting paradox that some countries in the world fight to stay physically alive due to a lack of food, yet bulimics fight to stay emotionally alive by getting rid of their food. Think about it… Have you ever heard of a bulimic Ethiopian? I doubt it. And you know what else I can’t figure out? Why does the high-fashion industry pay millions of dollars to models who go out of their way to look like Biafra poster children. Something’s not right.
Most of us, no matter how well-intended our parents were when we were growing up, suffer from some kind of emotional handicap. It’s no great secret that we develop the basis for our personalities long before the age of three. And since most of us experienced poor parenting skills during that time, it only makes sense that seven out of ten people today suffer from a self-esteem problem. So what happens to us later in life? Well, we spend most of our time and money trying to escape the pain of it all, either by denying that it exists to begin with, or by trying to overindulge our senses.
I know! I’ve been a bulimic for 11 years, and I can safely say, “once a bulimic, always a bulimic”… The trick is becoming an inactive bulimic. But first, we have to learn how, when and why this disorder surfaced its ugly head to begin with.
For me and my twin sister, food has always represented the good times. Therefore, whenever we’re down in the dumps, Jackie and I like to pig out to bring back those “good time” feelings… Food, having always been used as a reward throughout my life, never fails to provide me with that “instant gratification” in times of stress — you know, those moments when we experience fear, insecurity, guilt or shame. For me, it’s usually after an acting interview or conversation where I don’t feel good enough or pretty enough to get the job. Then I comfort the ill feelings by eating. After all, who’s got time to worry when your devouring a bowl of carob almond clusters.
I grew up with a lot of abuse (sexual, mental and physical), and eventually overcame a drug and alcohol problem. I was able to change from a couch potato to a hard working athlete. I really thought I was on my way to becoming a strong, confident woman. The problem is, I forgot to face the real demon… bulimia. I figured that if I stopped taking drugs and alcohol, and began exercising like a mad woman, I’d eventually stop wanting to binge and purge. Boy was I wrong.
I remember the nights when my boyfriend (who eventually became my first husband) would no sooner eat his dinner when he would fall asleep on the living room couch. God it was a horrible feeling. But you see, I took everything personally in those days and didn’t realize at the time that he was the one with the real problem, not me. What I was experiencing was a terrible sense of rejection, not realizing that I was somebody special and deserved a man that really appreciated me. So what did I do? I filled my emptiness with the richest foods I could find, worrying later that no one would love me if I turned into a fat pig. God, what a vicious circle.
Eventually, sticking my finger down my throat seemed to be the only logical answer. I could eat my way into oblivion, my husband would never know the difference, and best of all, when it was all said and done, the calories would instantly disappear! I felt so light — free from fat, oils and those horrible feelings of disapproval. I was back in control again… or was I? I guess those little feelings of disgust over what I was doing to my body really didn’t matter as long as I didn’t tell anyone. Wrong!
With time, things got worse and worse. My stomach began to ulcerate, my immune system weakened, my neck swelled, and the enamel on my teeth began eroding away. Quite simply, I was a mess and totally out of control. I kept trying to fool myself, but I finally had a nervous breakdown.
Hello therapy…! During my first session, my therapist, Pam, asked me if I had ever been abused, and if so, did I ever have bulimic tendencies. I denied it at first, but when I got tired of wasting my time, I decided to open up. And thank God I did. Pam clarified that when a bulimic shoves food down his or her throat, he or she is actually shoving down unresolved emotions carried over from childhood… She went on to explain that in the mind of a bulimic, if he or she can bury their feelings deep enough, they don’t have to face them eye to eye.
The problem is, and what I didn’t understand at the time, is that these feelings are like little gremlins that like to crawl up your throat, and unless you’re a very unique person, the only way to effectively eliminate them is to seek professional help… Either that or you’ll end up backing yourself into a very lonely hole.
My road to recovery began with several exercises that Pam liked to equate to potty training. For example, she would point out that during the first stage of infancy, we simply pee in our diapers… During the second stage, things begin to change and we become aware that we pee in our diapers. And during the third and final stage, we stop ourselves before we pee in our diapers and head for the bathroom.
In other words, if you’re bulimic, the first step is to admit it… And when you feel like binging, ask yourself what you’re afraid of — what you’re feeling. What exactly happened today that’s making you feel uncomfortable…? If you can answer these questions honestly, you’ve entered into stage two of “potty training.” It doesn’t mean you’re beyond binging and purging, but at least you’ll know what instigated the urge, and you’ll be a step closer towards reaching stage three.
Take it from me, the road to recovery can be a lonely one, so it’s really important to affirm the following: That you’re a child of God; That God loves you unconditionally, understanding you when everyone else misunderstands you; That God is the lover who cherishes you always no matter what your mistakes.
Right now, right this second, regardless of how silly it may seem to you, I’d like you to look in the mirror and say, “I’m lovable and valuable just because I’m me, and something I really like about myself is…….” When you finish the sentence, this exercise will bring you to the understanding of self love. The kind of love we have for babies who really don’t do anything to achieve it. They just are. They just exist. They cry, poop and sleep and yet we love them, no questions asked.
My advice to you is to never stop working on yourself, and sooner or later, the binging and purging will begin to fade away, and you’ll be on your way to stage three… I believe it was the enlightened Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in America, that said, “If you keep on trying, you will improve, for remember, a saint is a sinner who never gave up.”
In closing, I’d like to point out that recovering from bulimia isn’t just a mental battle, but also a physical one. You have to heal your body as well as your mind, and it’s very important to nutritional support yourself. I recommend taking easily digestible vitamin and mineral supplements along with acidophilus or megadophilus which will stabilize the intestinal bacteria and protect your liver. The first thing that bulimia attacks is the gastro-intestinal system.
With respect to protein replacement, free-form amino acids work the best, and when taken in conjunction with a vitamin-B complex, promote proper cellular function and aid in the digestion of foods and the assimilation of all nutrients including iron.
I know it can be frightening to think about eating solid food when you’re trying to stop purging… After all, bulimia’s not like other addictions where you can just eliminate whatever it is that’s causing the problem from your life. But If you stop eating, you stop living.
So with that in mind, I’m including a couple of fruit smoothie recipes to make it easier and start you off guilt free. They’re low in fat, jam-packed with nutritional goodness and are easy to digest…