More than a Weighty Issue – Bulimia Nervosa

by Insomniac Mummy on April 5, 2010

Diets. We love to hate them, but for many women, they can be a trigger for much deeper issues.

To coincide with my return to work, I decided that now was the time to muster up the will power I used to have in abundance, and shift some unwanted pounds. After weighing up my options, I decided to stick with what I knew and rejoined Weight Watchers.

Twice in the past I have managed to slim down to a respectable size 12 with Weight Watchers. It’s the only diet that has ever really worked for me and kept the weight off. I find the points system comforting and it allows me to control what I eat just enough, without becoming obsessive.

You see, obsession with food intake has been a problem for me in the past, and dieting is often a danger zone where my mental health is concerned.

During my late teens and early twenties I suffered with bulimia.

The details aren’t pretty.

I was a slave to a starve, binge and purge cycle. I’d starve for days on end then binge eat until I had to make myself physically sick. Often eating in private as I didn’t want to be seen eating. Then came the release of the purge. The false feeling of control and power it gave me kept me locked in the perpetual cycle.

I was once almost shamed into stopping by my brother. I’ve never quite gotten over the embarrassment of him coming to stay and finding an un-emptied bucket of sick in my bedroom. You’d think a wake up call like that would stop me. But sadly no. Yes I felt ashamed but to give up would be to lose control.

Back in the mid 90′s when my illness was at it’s most ferocious, I couldn’t get through a day without making myself sick. It was like a control mechanism, the one aspect of my life that I had power over. I even had friends who wanted me to teach them how to vomit on demand. Bulimia was almost considered fashionable, which was possibly why so many people just let me get on with it, like I was following some sort of twisted trend.

I was prescribed antidepressants for depression, and in spite of having told the doctor about my eating habits, I was not offered any other help.

To look at me you would never have known I had an eating disorder. I suspect genetics played a hand in making sure I never dropped below a UK size 10. When I was going through rough patched I’d go through weeks where I’d eat nothing more than a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps each day. If I got hungry, I’d cook myself a huge meal, then I’d feel that sense of shame and self loathing welling up inside, telling me that I’d lost control and to regain it I’d have to purge myself.

It was a vicious and dangerous cycle. I made myself sick so often I’d often bring up blood from rips in my oesophagus caused by the constant retching. I also had episodes of self harming.

There was no medical intervention for me. No rehab or counselling. It was an illness that I had to conquer alone. It’s subsidence coincided with meeting my husband and the control it ‘gave’ me gradually became less and less significant.

I’d like to tell you that I’m completely cured, but I think that once you have suffered with an eating disorder, there are always triggers that can begin to occasionally let those negative controlling habits creep back in. My triggers are certain foods and stress. These days I probably have one single relapse a year, but I try not to dwell on it if I do.

So, it is with much trepidation that I have begun dieting again. I’m careful to lose weight slowly and sensibly. The second it becomes the number one obsession in my life, is the second I stop and take stock.

My one hope, in all of this, is that I do not pass these neuroses about food onto my children.

That is one thing I pray is not beyond my control.

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Ellie is a working mum. In her spare time she spends far too much time waffling on the internet. She's a Twitter addicted Facebook fanatic, and an all round social media butterfly. You can also find her on Google + as Insomniac Mummy. She once walked across England and is planning on walking 100K in one day in May 2014 for Cancer Research. All she really wants is a good night's sleep...

Drop Ellie a line, if you like!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

The Moiderer April 5, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Good luck. Can you exercise instead of diet to lose weight?
I have never suffered from an eating disorder myself but like many I have an emotional relationship with food. I actually am the opposite to many people in that I starve myself when I am depressed. It is my form of punishment because I love food so much. If only it were a simpler addiction to conquer

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:21 am

I sometimes go to Zumba (although alot less frequently since returning to work).

Yes, if only it were simple….((Hugs)).

x
.-= Ellie´s last blog ..The Gallery – Ugly Duckling =-.

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Baking Mad Mama April 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I think it’s incredibly brave of you to post this Ellie. I am horrified that you weren’t offered any medical assistance despite gathering up the courage to tell your doctor what was going on. I think your self-awareness will prevent you from passing on any negative food thoughts on to your children but can understand why you would be worried too. Wishing you the best of luck with everything xx
.-= Baking Mad Mama´s last blog ..We’re in…. =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:23 am

Thank, I feel a bit silly now :o .

I think back in the mid 90′s it wasn’t taken seriously. I was a student and perhaps the doctors saw it as the illness du jour. Who knows.

I am very aware of passing good habit on to the kids. We all eat the same and always will.

x

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princess_l April 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm

So brave of you to post this and a really excellent description. It’s awful you didn’t get any proper help but more power to you for beating it on your own.
I hope your diet goes well :)
.-= princess_l´s last blog ..Welcome to my new home =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:24 am

Thanks. I’m feeling pretty level headed about the diet at the moment. Only losing a pound or two a week so nice and steady.

:)

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deer baby April 5, 2010 at 11:36 pm

What a brave post. I am glad you have conquered it and know your demons. And can see the triggers if it ever threatens to come back. I wish you had not had to fight it on your own though and got more help. But the fact that you know it’s triggers, will help you fight it. Especially with the love and support from your family.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:25 am

Thanks lovely.

I had one of my triggers to0day for lunch and was fine. I think being in a good place mentally helps.

:)

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Jo Beaufoix April 6, 2010 at 12:08 am

I will email you lovely. Struck a chord for me here. xx
.-= Jo Beaufoix´s last blog ..Easter Monkeys =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

((((Big Hugs Lovely))))

xxx

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beth April 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

Your story is one I know well! between the ages of 13 and 21 I was anorexic and an obsessive excerciser – food and excercise ruled my life (bit bizarre that I now run a food blog – but hopefully shows how far I’ve come!). Having recently had my second baby, and finding it difficult to lose the baby tummy, my family and husband are concerned I will slip back into old ‘bad’ habits. It is a constant battle and I don’t think you can ever be ‘cured’ of an eating disorder – you have to learn how to control it. But now, unlike before, I have other people to think about (hubby and 2 kids) and don’t have time anymore to be selfish. At the end of the day my kids deserve more and I’m conscious of my daughter (she’s only 3) picking up on things. Although I don’t have the figure I used to (I’m only a size 10 but when you’ve been used to being a size 6 for so long it comes as a shock), I am SO much happier. Glad you shared your story and hope you keep on track.
p.s In terms of medical intervention – I did have counselling etc but it didn’t help me. It has to come from you and I finally started to recover when I started to realise myself that I had a problem, not just being told I had from family/doctors etc. As it happens, my Mum and I now have such a close relationship because of her total and utter support through that time. My Dad told me recently she used to cry herself to sleep every night for years with worry – that broke my heart. x
.-= beth´s last blog ..Chicken Enchiladas =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:27 am

((Hugs))

So good to hear a positive story like yours. It does stay with you, but once you understand how to control those triggers it gets easier.

xxxx

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Dymphna April 6, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hugs Ellie. Very brave of you. D xx
.-= Dymphna´s last blog ..My Handbag =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:28 am

Thanks lovely. xxx

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Mummy Owl April 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

((((((HUGE HUGS)))))) x x x x x x x x

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:28 am

Back at ya! xxx

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Liz (LivingwithKids) April 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Really honest post and I applaud you for writing it. Good luck with Weight Watchers – it certainly worked for me, although I’m currently on Slim Fast! xxx

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:29 am

Slim Fast is the devils food. In a moment of temporary madness I started using it in January but soon realised I preferred actual food!

xxx

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Mwa April 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Wonderful post. Good luck with the diet! I hope you manage it the way you want.
.-= Mwa´s last blog ..A new strategy =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:29 am

Thanks lovely. xx

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kelloggsville April 6, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Yup – me too – now I slip a couple of times a year and the sense of release is the same, I try to over exercise now instead. But I have gained weight. Weight watchers is also the only on thing hat has worked for me. I think the obsession with the binge/purge cycle was replaced with control in the points – it’s still a sense of control. My teeth suffered, as has my throat. I now have a damaged nerve for which I take dreadful tablets that affect me. And yes I told my doctor at the time and I too was offered no help. Stay in control – you know you can and you don’t need to purge. Good Luck
.-= kelloggsville´s last blog ..Plastic Joy =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:30 am

You’re right about the control. The points gives me just enough control bnut not obsessively so.

Good luck to you too lovely lady.

xxx

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CJ April 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I do hope this post gets read by many, particularly those youngsters who are currently suffering with an eating disorder. You are a remarkable person and have come through something without help that most would without doubt need medical intervention for.

CJ xx
.-= CJ´s last blog ..Forever Young =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:33 am

I think it’s only by being honest about experiences like these that some people will realise they perhaps have the same issues.

I’m lucky that I managed alone, I’m sure these days any doctor would take the issue far more seriously than they did all those years ago.

xxx

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SandyCalico April 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I am shocked that you got no medical help for your eating disorder. Well done you for recognising your illness and taking steps to get through it. x
.-= SandyCalico´s last blog ..The Gallery: How Not To Decorate =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:34 am

Thanks Sandy. xxx

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Rosie Scribble April 7, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Rarely has a post touched me as much as this one and I’ll admit, I’m in tears. I’m so pleased you have written about this, there will be many people who can relate to it and it is really good that you have given an open and honest account of what it is like to have an eating disorder.
I agree, you never recover completely, it is a vulnerability that is always there. I’ve been open on my blog (although it took a while) that I have suffered from anorexia. I was ill for a very long time and spent a long time in hospital. I was lucky to get help an very alarmed that you were offered nothing. That is just appalling when you took the brave step of speaking to your doctor. She should not have been left to deal with this alone and it is so sad to think of you having to do so.
I’ve met many people with bulimia and I know how dreadful it is. I friend made herself sick using a knife and cut through her throat very badly by accident. I write that to highlight, just as you have, how dreadful an illness it is an how desperate it leaves people feeling.
Do tread with great caution when it comes to dieting. It isn’t something I could ever do because it is such a fine line, for me, between dieting and slipping into anorexia. It isn’t a risk I can take. Another thought, it is never too late to get some professional support if you feel there are still underlying issues you need help with. Do be kind to yourself. Please do email me *anytime* and I do mean that. You know where I am. Hugs xxxxxxxx
.-= Rosie Scribble´s last blog ..I have been told I cannot go to Cybermummy =-.

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Ellie April 8, 2010 at 12:37 am

((Hugs Rosie)) I didn’t mean to make you cry. xxx

I’ve read your posts on anorexia and been moved by your honesty.

You’re right about the vulnerability with dieting. It is a fine line but I’m so much more aware of it these days. It’s dieting mixed with stress that I have to watch out for. That’s when I crave the control.

((More Hugs)) and ditto re the being here anytime for you too.

xxx

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deluded woman April 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

Hi there. I was really moved by this post – I put a post on my blog last week about my obsession with my weight…and how I can get obsessed with food and calories. I’m around 9 stone and 5 ft 3 so no way am I ‘big’ – however, I feel enormous and cannot get through a day without thinking about how heavy I am. Totally mad I know! It is a control thing though – the one area of my life that I am really in charge of. However, I’ve got a 16 year old and am really trying not to give her my hangups…..it’s working so far…..I hope. Mae xx

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