You have probably heard about Anorexia but what do you know about Bulimia. Bulimia is an eating disorder. It is defined as the practice of vomiting regularly (without medical reason) to control weight.
Bulimic’s may also binge eat, go on stringent diets, use laxatives, diuretics, or any combination of these, but the crucial factor for Bulimia is the voluntary vomiting of food, whether mechanically induces (e.g. finger in throat) or at will (mind over matter).
Bulimia is nearly 100% a problem that affects women. It occurs in a wide cross-section of the female population, and is not confined to any particular age or social group. ACT Health workers report that the incidence of Bulimia patients they treat has exceeded the already alarmingly high rate of anorexic patients.
Bulimia is not a new phenomena, this reported trend is probably linked with the fact that only recently has the problem, been identified, thus allowing women who have had this problem to come forward and seek responsive help.
Much of the work done in the field of eating disorders has been done by feminist health workers, identifying eating problems they have either experienced themselves or those of others. These women have contributed greatly to the success of therapy aimed at giving women the knowledge, strength and support to combat this debilitating problem.
Bulimia is very much a hidden problem. Bulimics display few outward signs that anything is wrong; most Bulimics feel real shame and guilt about their vomiting, and often go to great lengths to keep it secret.
Consequently many women are Bulimic for the greater part of their lives, without any one close to them able to detect this serious health problem. The secretive nature of Bulimia, ultimately means that unless a woman confides in someone else, she must carry her secret for a long time, and often Bulimics only seek help when they reach an absolute physical crisis regarding this problem (such as vomiting blood).
On hearing of Bulimia for the first time some people may express shock, disbelief or disgust at such an extreme self-induced behavior. This kind of reaction only makes things worse for Bulimics, whose immediate need when confiding is for sympathy and support.
Also when you consider the lengths that women go to control their weight such as self starvation on any range of diets, spending vast sums of money to be ridiculed and subjected to tyrannizing weight loss programs, stomach stapling, jaw wiring, programs of exhausting and debilitating exercise, laxative abuse, injections of miracle diet aids, and even fatal surgery. It appears that Bulimia is just one of the many “extremes” practiced in the search for “slimness”.
In light of the other “extremes” available, bulimia isn’t so shocking; it is an ingenious way of controlling weight, and control is the key word here. Bulimics may feel that they are totally out of control regarding their food intake and consequent vomiting, but in reality they are practicing an extreme but effective pattern of self-discipline and self-control. The only problem being that excessive induced vomiting, causes severe health problems that can be irreversible or even lead to death (see list).
Bulimics are usually seen as attractive and successful by others, particularly because as women we are so often judged by our appearance, the Bulimic usually weights the “right” amount for their body and thus achieves this arbitrary ideal – slimness at a price.
Since Bulimia is so widespread, a Bulimic may be the woman next to you at dinner who eats heartily, even has desert, whom all the other dieters envy, she may be a mother who dutifully serves delicious meals for her family, or someone at college that “pigs out” with the rest and still remains slim, what of course no one realizes is the agony involved in maintaining this desirable ideal of slimness – the fact that after any of these gastronomic events the Bulimic will vomit all she has consumed.
The Bulimic, like all others with eating disorders is not trying to achieve slimness for slimness alone. Slimness for women in our society has strong connotation, it is equated chiefly with such basic needs as sexual desirability, confidence, success, acceptability, health and happiness. So many feeling about ourselves are tied up with how we feel about our appearance.
It is no wonder when you consider the pressures on women to conform to this ideal and thus attain these elusive needs, that so many women will risk their health and even lives to try to achieve slimness.
Because so much of our self-worth is linked with ours and others feelings about our appearance, many of us spend our lives focusing on our appearance believing such things as “if only I was slim then everything would be alright”. It is easy to fall into this pattern of thinking, and much more difficult to confront the real problems in our lives; most of us need support to break such a pattern of anxiety and self-doubt.
List of Health Risks:
- disturbance with body chemistry (electrolyte levels) due to lack of nutrition, vomiting or purging may result in HEART FAILURE
- sleep disturbance
- dry skin
- abdominal pain – especially after laxative abuse and/or vomiting
- swollen salivary glands – from repeated vomiting
- dental deterioration stomach acids “eat away” at teeth
- fluid retention
- brittle hair and nails
- feeling cold
- chronic hoarseness of throat (due to repeated vomiting)
- rupturing of blood vessels
- alienation of “self” from own body
- poor nutrition