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Posts Tagged ‘bulimia’

On my blog entry entitled Good Article on Overcoming Food Addiction, a reader posted the following comment:

and its just came to my mind the way that one reader wrote a letter to her body, during my therapy I was required to write a letter to my eating disorder treating it as a friend. It went like: Dear ….(whatever eating-disorder it is),

I would like to thank you for….
ie. always being there for me, for always protecting me…etc

It totally helped me change my perspective cos then I was able to see how much I got out off that “relationship” with my eating disorder and why it had been such a faithful companion to me. And step by step I was able to see my needs behind it and learned to fulfill those needs in a more constructive way ~ Queen of Acknowledgement

I have been thinking about this comment all week and trying to decide how I feel about viewing my eating disorder as my “friend.” I also talked with an off-line friend about this theory. She rejected the notion of viewing an eating disorder as a friend outright, but I am much more open to the idea, although I confess that I have never once considered doing so.

On the one hand, I have one offline friend who told me that it is important to distance yourself from what ails you. She says that I should not call compulsive overeating “my” eating disorder because I don’t need to claim an attachment to it. Her advice is contrary to what Queen of Acknowledgement is saying.

I have been thinking about the advice I give repeatedly – that the key to healing from child abuse is to love and accept every part of yourself, expressing your feelings and emotions as you experience them. Isn’t what Queen of Acknowledgement advises doing just that? Rather than reject the part of myself that found comfort in food when my life had little comfort, perhaps I need to honor and accept the creativity I found in surviving the unsurvivable. Perhaps Queen of Acknowledgement is onto something really profound. What do you think?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have shared on my blog many times about my struggles with an eating disorder (binge eating/compulsive overeating). I actually had an 11-month stretch when I appeared to have beaten it, but I fell back into it again and have struggled ever since.

I had renewed hope after participating in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study. I have written quite a bit about some of her words of wisdom about “breaking free” from any strongholds (obstacles) in our lives. I had about given up ever mastering the eating disorder, but her study gave me hope that nothing is impossible.

I have learned some surprising things through prayer and meditation that I would like to share with you. I have come to understand that our bodies are “powered by” energy, and we “fuel” our bodies in three ways – through sleep, rest, and food/drink. We need a healthy balance of all three to be successful. Because I have a Type A personality that rarely rests, I had thrown my body off balance.

I had already completed the first steps. #1 – I needed to learn how to process my emotions rather than “stuff them down” with food. #2 – I needed to stop hating my body and, instead, love and accept it. I had already succeeded with both but was not losing weight. Then, I added #3 in April – Develop a healthier lifestyle. I joined a gym and have been working out for an hour a day (45 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of weights) for 3 to 6 days a week. While my body has toned up, my weight refused to budge downward.

These last few weeks have opened my eyes to the lack of balance I had in my body. Because I was never resting my body, my body was constantly in a state of deprivation. Since I refused to rest it, my body did the next best thing – it “stored up” energy through constant overeating in anticipation of continued energy deprivation. The problem is that food does not equal rest and stored up food equals fat. Until I chose to start fueling my body through rest, I was never going to get out of this vicious cycle.

I instituted Thursdays as my “day off” a few weeks ago, and I felt an immediate difference in my body. It had been years (yes, years) since I had spent 8 or 9 hours in a row doing whatever I felt like doing. I chose Thursdays because this needs to be “me” time, not taking care of my family time. I also tried to slow down my pace and allow myself more down time during the day, such as actually taking a 30-minute lunch break.

Then, beginning on Monday, I found my way back to the “energy” of eating health – the same place I was during those wonderful 11 months of successful healthy eating. I realized that, even though I was now meeting my body’s energy needs, my body had not accepted that it was no longer being deprived. I memorized a Bible verse about manna, which represents your needs being met as you have them rather having to “store up” for future needs. I promised myself to eat whenever I feel hungry and stop eating as soon as I no longer feel hungry.

Guess what? In four days, I have lost 3 pounds effortlessly. Can you believe it? I am eating very small portions of food and feeling satisfied. I feel really great physically (no lightheadedness or hunger as I typically feel when “dieting”). I keep reciting that Bible verse in my head and listening to my body’s signals.

I know I have a long way to go before I can declare myself “cured,” but I am feeling more hopeful than I have in a very long time. I know that I can do this because I have done it before (for 11 months). Here’s hoping this is a permanent change for the better.

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As I shared here, here, and here, one of my focuses (obsessions??) over the past five weeks has been fighting my eating disorder (binge and compulsive overeating). I am happy to report that I am making good progress. I measure progress in two ways – by what is going on in my body as well as by what is going on in my head.

Let’s start with my body. Since I braved stepping on the scale five weeks ago, I have lost ten pounds. That averages out to two pounds a week, which is what, by all accounts, is considered a healthy rate of weight loss. I am feeling better about my body physically. My “fat pants” are annoyingly loose, and I am now wearing a pair of jeans that I have not even bothered trying to wear in a very long time. So, I am on the right track physically.

When it comes to an eating disorder, emotional progress is a completely different animal. You do not want to go from one extreme (binge eating) to the other (starving yourself). Instead, you want to find a healthy medium that enables you to feel like the eating disorder is not controlling you. I really battled the first couple of weeks, but I have now worked out a rhythm that is working for me.

Another part of emotional progress is how you feel about yourself. Most of the time, I drive a diet by degrading myself. I tell myself that I am a fat cow who does not deserve to eat, etc. I use my self-hatred to fuel the weight loss. I am not doing that this time. Instead, I am trying to listen to my body and feed it small portions whenever it is hungry. I might eat five or six times a day with most of those times being a healthy 100-calorie snack.

Another measure of progress is my reaction to messing up. Let’s face it – I have been binge eating since I was 12 years old, so I am going to “fall off the wagon” from time to time. That happened when I went to the movies last weekend. A friend bought a huge tub of popcorn for us to split since I paid for the tickets. I was only going to eat “a little bit” of popcorn. Uh … that’s not exactly what happened … the best laid plans and all…

Instead of getting angry with myself, I went to bed with a slight stomachache and began the next day back on track. I am coming to realize that one overindulgence from time to time is not going to make or break my weight. My body size is reflective of how I am treating my body over time, not one instance.

So, right now I am feeling pretty good about myself. I am eating in a way that works for me. It is not a “diet” so much as a lifestyle change. I am still very susceptible to feeling the pull of the eating disorder, but I am trying to meet those emotional needs in other ways. When that doesn’t work, I have a glass of wine or take a Xanax (this is mostly an issue in the evenings). If that isn’t working, then I’ll have a small snack rather than a binge. Then, I start fresh in the morning. So far, so good.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Magenta Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

I had an appointment with a new doctor yesterday. I have had bad luck with retaining primary care physicians (PCPs). For whatever reason, they keep leaving the practice!

I have been without a PCP for a while now. I do not generally need to see a doctor until cold and flu season. I figured I had better go ahead and find a new doctor now that this time is upon us.

So, I found a doctor who is new to a practice near my house. I did not know a thing about her other than that she takes my health insurance, which is obviously a plus. I had my “well visit” today to get to know her and transfer over my medical information.

I really like her. We established a good rapport pretty quickly. She is very knowledgeable about a number of issues in my health history, so I feel really good about this relationship.

So, when we were finishing up, I found the courage to say the words, “I used to have an eating disorder.” Man, that was hard. I felt the tears hovering a few times, but I was able to hold them back the whole time. This is not information that I usually share with my medical professionals.

She was so cool about it. I told her that it was binge eating but not purging. She asked, “Do you mean bulimia?” I said, “No. I do the binge eating, but I don’t throw it back up.” She looked at me funny and said, “Then how do you stay so thin, because you are clearly not overweight.” (Did I mention that I really like this woman!?!!) She asked if I starved myself afterward, and I said no.

I told her that I have been managing it much better for the past 18 months but that I still never got obese because I typically binged on lower fat and lower calories foods. She confirmed that what you eat can be just as important as how much you eat.

She looked back over my recent blood work and could tell that I am eating better these days. Apparently, eating disorders can cause red flags in your triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels.

She cautioned me that, once you have an eating disorder, you will be vulnerable to it for the rest of your life. I told her that I knew this. One difference is that I have healed most of what fueled the behavior. Also, when I “fall off the wagon,” I no longer beat myself up over it. I just pick myself up and try to do better tomorrow.

I am really proud of myself for opening up to this new doctor.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Frog Statue (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Many abuse survivors struggle with eating disorders. Eating disorders are a way to manage emotional pain. For many years, the only form of eating disorder that most people acknowledged was anorexia nervosa. However, today we recognize that there are many different forms.

Anorexia Nervosa

People who struggle with anorexia nervosa greatly limit their caloric intake and can become very thin. In most cases, the drive behind the disorder is control. In the case of an abuse survivor, she had no control over her body when she was being abused, but she can control what goes into it today. Many women who struggle with anorexia nervosa also feel a strong drive to be invisible. By becoming physically smaller, they feel more shielded from others. Eating a regular portion of food is very difficult because the person fears losing control and being “seen.”

Bulimia

People who struggle with bulimia compulsively overeat and then force themselves to purge the food they have just eating through vomiting, laxatives, or both. The drive behind this disorder can go in two directions. The appeal to some is the “stuffing down” of the painful emotions. By overeating, they are able to “stuff down” the pain so that they do not feel it. The purging is more of a way to control weight gain. For others, the appeal is the purging aspect. When they purge the food, they symbolically purge the pain so they do not have to feel it.

Compulsive Overeating/Binge Eating

People who struggle with compulsive overeating and/or binge eating have a similar disorder to bulimia without the purging. These people might exercise frequently or eating lower calorie foods to manage their weight because of the vast quantity of food they are consuming. Others might want to be in a larger body because they equate being in a smaller body with being vulnerable to abuse.

A binge is when the person cannot get enough food into her body fast enough. Compulsive overeating is less intense and rushed but still involves eating much more food than the body needs. By binging and overeating, the person “stuffs down” the painful emotions.

Other Eating Disorders

There are many other forms of eating disorders, but all center around using food to manage emotions. The eating disorders can manifest in a variety of ways. Some people starve themselves all day and then binge at night. Others limit themselves to only one type of food for days or weeks at a time. While these forms of eating disorders might not be as well known to the general public, they are a very real struggle to those who wrestle with them.

If you struggle with an eating disorder, you are not alone. Eating disorders are very common among adult survivors of childhood abuse. Recognizing that your eating patterns are not normal is an important first step to healing from them. An eating disorder is a coping tool you are using to manage your pain. The more you can lean on more positive coping tools, the less you will need to lean on your eating disorder. See Positive Coping Tools for Healing from Childhood Abuse for a list of positive coping tools.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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