In our last post we discussed a newly-identified eating disorder, Orthorexia, an obsession with healthy eating that sometimes so severely limits food intake that it leads to health problems. Let’s continue now with a discussion of Bulimia.
As with many eating disorders, Bulimia involves a distortion of the body image. There are two kinds of Bulimia–a purging and a non-purging type. Both are characterized by insatiable overeating followed by some depression and anxiety and by a way to rid oneself of the calories consumed. The purging type involves vomiting up the food just eaten. The non-purging type might include one or more of the following: excessive exercise, fasting, consumption of diet pills or consuming laxatives. There is always some kind of calorie intake “restriction” process that takes place after a binge. Needless to say, the consequences of Bulimia can compromise the health of the Bulimic.
The emotional component of the binge/purge cycle also triggers the release of endorphins, which then trigger the compulsions that continue the cycle. Mood swings, depression and increased anxiety usually follow.
Key to treatment of this condition is addressing the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of this and any other eating disorder.
A careful look at the diet and nutritional needs is important. Binging may have begun with the body’s craving of substances that are missing in the everyday diet. The introduction of supplements and increased nutrition may help with the cravings as well as supporting the body through the purging. Oftentimes, a Bulimic will crave and binge on unhealthy and caloric foods such as sweets and simple carbohydrates that they may not let themselves eat at other times.
Practices such as yoga or meditation can be highly effective in bringing the patient back into the present moment, and into the body. Both provide a level of mental and physical control which may be lacking during a binge/purge cycle.
Therapy, of course, is also a necessary component of treatment. Uncovering the foundational self-critical thoughts and emotions and then adjusting those can lead to improved self-image. Attention is given to breaking the binge/restriction cycle by learning to recognize and avoid triggers. A structure for self-care and behavior changes is added.
Bulimia, and indeed any eating disorder, can have devastating effects on one’s well-being. We encourage you to reach out for help if you or someone you know suffers from this disorder – treatment is very effective.
(Image credit MR GC)