Bulimarexia ~ The Consequence of Impossible Standards
Bulimarexia is an eating disorder distinguished by a combination of the symptoms prevalent in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa; develops primarily in teenage and young adult females. It is hard to treat because of having symptoms of both diseases.
Patients with bulimarexia usually have poor self esteem and a distorted body image. Women are more likely to develop this condition. The patient engages in an aggressive campaign designed to generate weight loss and falls into a cyclical pattern of disordered eating. This can include prolonged fasting accompanied with the use of medications like diuretics to try and lose weight, followed by a binging and purging cycle where the patient eats large amounts of food and vomits.
Health risks with bulimarexia are considerable. Patients can develop organ damage as a result of the extreme stress on the body along with issues like damage to the enamel on the teeth and reduction in bone mass leading to an increased susceptibility to fractures. Comorbidities like depression can be observed and patients may overexercise, putting additional strain on the body. Patients with bulimarexia can lose weight precipitously and will still report dissatisfaction with their appearance.
The photo above is what it feels like to have an eating disorder diagnosis. You feel alone, sad, your life feels hazy and you become a slave to your disease. You are hungry and unsatisfied. Unsatisfied with your body and there is a hunger within that is never fulfilled. Your disease becomes all consuming.
I hear people throw around the term anorexic and bulimic with no weight. These are two very serious diseases. They are more than simply not eating or binging and purging. They are punishment for a crime we didn’t commit. We punish ourselves for eating; the very thing that is needed to sustain us. It’s self-loathing. Can you imagine how that feels? Can you imagine hating the skin you are in so much, wanting to be in control of your body so badly, that you are willing to go to any lengths and risk any consequence to have that feeling of just being normal?
I do. I had what is now referred to as Bulimarexia for 8 years. I started off like most teen girls, hypersensitive to the criticism of others because of the already established need to be perfect set forth by magazines and television. My dad made a comment in passing that I needed to “run more”. He is an avid runner. This went into my ears, entered my brain and got twisted into ” You are fat. You are not good enough. If you were thinner, you would be better. I could love you more. YOU.NEED.TO.RUN!”
I went on my first diet at 12. I think it was about 5 minutes after my dad made his comment.
This went on for about 6 years. Me fighting my body to keep my curves from becoming too pronounced. By the way, I was 5’7″ and a size 8-10 in high school. I think at my absolute heaviest in high school was about 130 pounds. I thought I was huge.
Then before I left for college, everyone I encountered reminded me of the freshman fifteen (I was too young and naive to realize that the fifteen was caused by alcohol intake not food) and every girl we knew left thin and by Thanksgiving returned, at least fifteen pounds heavier. This scared me to death.
Aside from leaving my family for the first time ever, leaving my boyfriend,my friends, my hometown and going to a new city, living on my own and being completely out of my comfort zone; I felt out of control. There was no way that I was letting my weight get out of control. I had to control it. I had to control something. I restricted my calories to about 600 calories a day (max) and proceeded to throw up everything I took in (including water) and exercise for at least 2 hours a day. I remember heading down to the dorm gym in the basement at 10 pm, alone, and not returning to my room until midnight. I did a lot of things alone in those days. This started the fall I turned 18.
This is Bulimarexia
This continued for 8 years.
I was caught by a friend of mine once the first year. My parents found out. All the baggy sweatshirts and loose jeans can’t hide a 20 pound weight loss on an already average sized body. I had to return home from school mid-semester.
Even after I was caught, I never quit the bulimarexia. By that point, it was my trusted friend. I relied upon it. It was my routine. It was my safety. I didn’t care about the ramifications. I was in too deep to stop.
I got sneakier. I learned to pretend to eat and move my food around on my plate, eat off of smaller plates. I learned how to vomit silently and hide the evidence. I learned what was easier to digest and what tasted better coming up, what got hung in your throat and what did not. I learned a lot of ways to do this that I won’t share here because it would be irresponsible for me to share the intricacies of bulimarexia with you here. I don’t know who could be reading this and I refuse to give detailed instruction on how to kill yourself.
Eventually, I allowed myself to eat more and vomit more. It became the norm for me to vomit 5 times a day; some days as many times as 10 but usually no less than 5. I never really ever binge ate. Binging, to me, was weak. It lacked self-control. I remember being tired a lot, cold ( bad circulation and no meat on my bones), hungry (always hungry), puffy (my face would look puffy from constantly throwing up) and having scars on my hands from involuntarily biting down in the middle of a purge. Honestly, I’m surprised I have any enamel left on my teeth at all.
I remember people constantly trying to feed me and telling me that I looked sick. Most people had no idea that I had bulimarexia. I knew how to keep a secret. Every single time they said “you look like you are sick”, I felt validation..someone thought I was skinny. A concerned boyfriend once told me that I was getting too thin. I accused him of cheating. I preferred to give up the relationship with him than give up the bulimarexia. This was a serious relationship, not a casual boyfriend. It didn’t matter.
I stopped the behavior when I was 25. I will write about that in another post.
Bulimarexia makes you defensive. Starvation makes you mean. You’ll do anything to protect the disease. You take comfort in the control. I can tell you about this now because I am not that same girl. I am trying to not let my number on the scale rule my life. I’ve not starved or purged in almost 15 years. In fact, it will be 15 years this fall. I still have times when I consider it for a moment, but then I look at my daughters and I know I want to live. I want to be a good example for them and I can’t do that with disordered eating. I’m sharing this so you can understand that eating disorders are more than someone simply choosing to be skinny. They are not terms to be thrown around lightly because the weight and price of eating disorders is death. I was lucky, I survived my bulimarexia others do not.