Bulimia – the Sad Secret

Bulimia – the Sad Secret

You can hardly drive down any street without passing several fast food drive-ins or restaurants. The sight of food commercials on television is enough to send you running for the refrigerator.

With food everywhere, no wonder Americans are overweight! Yet movie stars and fashion fanatics tell us that thin is in. Trying to get these messages straight sends too many young women (and these days, men, too) to extreme weight loss methods that turn into emotional disorders.

As high school girls try to meet unreasonable standards of perfection that they see in the teen magazines, healthy eating isn’t a fast enough fix for them. In a weird right of passage, many girls learn in middle school how to “barf away” the calories. Sounds simple, to eat whatever you want and never get fat by vomiting it up before digestion.

This is really the introduction to Bulimia, a serious eating disorder. Bulimia comes from a Latin word that means “ox hunger.” Overwhelming a female disorder, women get caught up in a vicious cycle of binge and purge followed by crushing depression. Of course the way out of depression is through a cheesecake or a dozen donuts and then the cycle begins again.

The amount of food a woman with bulimia can eat in one sitting would feed a football team. That’s where the shame and fear come in. With bulimia, you eat alone, literally shoveling food into your mouth so fast that you try not to see what you’re doing. But then you see the leftover wrappers or think about what you’ve done and rush to vomit.

Bulimia quickly stops being about controlling weight and becomes an addiction in the way it drives a sane person to act that way with food.  And bulimia is done in secret because of the shame, so it may be months or years before anyone realizes what’s going on. By that time, major physical and psychological damage is done.

Here’s where your dentist is often the first line of defense. All of that vomiting of stomach acids damages the backside of the teeth. If your dentist shows you the damage and recommends counseling, listen and take the advice. You might insist that you can stop anytime, but truth is, you can’t.

Bulimia isn’t about losing a few pounds. Bulimia is about using food as a weapon to harm yourself. And the damage that happens to teeth, bones and organs after even a year of bulimia is extreme and often irreversible.

It’s not enough to promise to avoid the bakery or pizza take-out number. This is an emotional problem that needs professional help from a licensed therapist with experience in treating eating disorders. Until you get your thoughts and feelings grounded in reality, food will be your enemy and your emotional self will be trapped in this sad secret.

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