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.

Bulimarexia, eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, restriting, body image

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.

Bulimarexia the Consequence of Impossible Standards

bulimarexia,anorexia,bulimia, eating disorders
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Comments (74)

Thank you for sharing such a powerful post! You are so open & honest, your words will be a source of inspiration for so many others struggling with the same thing. Not defining ourselves by the number on the scale is a HUGE struggle in this society~ thanks for sharing you story & helping us learn from it.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope that by telling my story I can help someone, anyone. I just think that this cycle of girls trying to hit impossible standards has gone on for too long. We need to change it for our daughters.

“We need to change it for our daughters.” <— YES. Exactly this!

I’m glad you stopped. And I’m glad you are sharing your story. Thank you.

I’m glad I did too. My life would not be the same as it is today if I were still in the throes of the disease. I would not have the husband or the children if I would have kept down that road.

Once again, your honesty is inspiring! I have never personally suffered through an eating disorder, but I imagine that if I had, reading your words would be a huge help and support. Thanks for always putting yourself out there in your writing. xoxo

Megan,

Thank you for your kind words.

Thank you so much for writing about this. I know that just you talking about it will help many women who also suffer with this kinds of disorders. Even some men who suffer from it.

Talking about this takes a lot of courage.

Thank you for being so brave and honest. Sharing this seems so hard to do but you manage to do this. I admire you for that.

I’m so happy you made it to recovery. I’m nearly 11 years of ED recovery and it was so hard but beyond worth it.

It is hard and you are amazing. I only wish that I could forget what I know. It’s such an easy trap to fall back into. We just need to stay strong, support one another and try to change the world so that our daughters don;t have to live in a society where the standard for beauty is a myth. So proud of you for having the strength to stay in recovery.XO

I’ve dealt with the outskirts of disorders my whole life. Never full on, though, not sure why my brain won’t let me go all the way. Anyway. It’s brave of you to share – not everyone would – and this will help others. I promise. Being silent is never the answer.

Be glad that your brain won’t let you go all the way. I’ve an all in kinda girl in everything I do ,which is good but in this case, it was very, very bad. Thank GOD your brain won’t let you go all the way. Thanks for calling me brave. I;m not brave. I’m just so far past the middle of it that I need to share it . I am compelled to do anything in my power to stop one more girl from ever getting this horrible disease.

Yep, eight or nine years of it, I love myself so much more now but I am still obsessed with food every second of every day. Sigh.

Thanks for writing this.

Keep me posted on your endoscopy. I am so glad that you are passed it. I know the obsession. Just don;t let it be all consuming. I know it is ever present and looming. Stay strong my friend.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this. Till now, I have felt completely alone in my ED. I am anorexic, but…no…I’m not, because I throw up and give into the hunger after a very long stretch of restricting. I also do not binge on a large amount of food for the very same reasons you didn’t. I also throw up several times a day while only consuming say two cookies and a chocolate pudding cup. You get my point. I never would have thought there was anyone else out there who threw up water. I always feel like I’m extra “crazy” for doing this. The thing that is most disheartening about this disease is that this is my third time being completely held prisoner by it. I almost died from a severe electrolyte imbalance twice, and here I find myself, again-alone, scared and feeling helpless.

Dana,
I am so sad that you are going through this . You are not alone. THere are many of us. I am here. You are not alone. I know it seems like this disease won’t let go of you.Stay strong sweetie. Just keep fighting it. Keep fighting it until it lets you go. I know its hard and all consuming and it sucks. It hurts. BUt you are not alone and you are not crazy.

Helen Keightley

I too suffered with anorexia and still have certain foods I avoid, although I have now beaten it. My biggest fear is that one of my children will develop this cruel and destructive illness!

SO glad that you have beaten it. With our awareness and living through this disease, we must change it for our children. Stay strong my friend.

I have a thin build, and have all my life. But I am not toned at all, and I’m not happy with my body at all. I sometimes catch myself telling my girls that “mommy is fat” even though I am nowhere near “fat” and at the low end of weight for my height/weight range.
I do not want my girls to grow up and think back to me saying I am fat…especially if they battle their weight. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin, to love their bodies..to love themselves.
Thank you for sharing this – you are going to help more women than you know by being so honest and open about this! xoxoxo

My biggest fear is that I pass along my body issues to my girls. I fight these demons daily. I want better for my girls. Nat, you are beautiful. I know we all are our own worst critic but I am telling you…YOU. Are. BEautiful. Just look into the eyes of your children and see what they see.

this was an incredibly brave post, and so full of amazing information to present to someone who has never struggled with an eating disorder. I’m no stranger to depression and anxiety, so there are ways i can relate to the feelings you had. and we all have the tendency to become addicted to things that take pain away. Im sad for teenage and young adult you, in these times youve written of. But so grateful your journey has led you here were you can give insight and a first person account as a survivor. Thank you so much for hitting publish, and for linking up to PYHO today.

THank you, sweet friend. I am glad that I am around to be the woman who can spread the story of that girl. I want people to know just how awful it is and that we need to , as a society, so NO MORE to these crazy standards we set for our children.

I’m so glad that you shared this, Deb.

It’s honest and transparent and {I hope} will help someone who may need to rad and learn from you.

Much love to you, friend.

If one girl could be spared this fate because of my post, I would be thrilled. XO

Powerful stuff, Debi. Thank you so much for sharing. And fighting. You’re beautiful inside and out. Xo

THank you Jenny. Thank you for spreading the word ,as well:) Miss you.

Thank you for sharing this. It’s important for people to hear how it starts (and how subtle it can be) and how hard it is to stop.

I try hard to compliment my daughters in ways that don’t reference their physical attributes. I hope they won’t have the body issues that I grew up with. While I never had an eating disorder, I still suffered from depression at being overweight and not being good enough, body-wise.

Eating disorders are a tough subject in our family – my husband lost his mother to bulimarexia when he was 19. She had battled it all her life, and eventually her heart gave out after a relapse. He watches me carefully when I have tried to lose weight to make sure I don’t do it too quickly, and gets very touchy when women make negative comments about their own physical appearances.

Congrats on 15 years – that’s a great accomplishment!

I’m so sorry for your husband’s loss. I can imagine he is hypervigilant that those he loves do not suffer her same fate. I think it is is great to tell our daughters they are beautiful, so long as we don;t put all their worth in their looks. We have to remember to not ONLY tell them they are beautiful. Of course, every girl wants to hear she is beautiful on occasion. You are a great mom because you are even aware at all:)

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I’m so sorry you went through this. I can’t even imagine the torture it was. I’m glad you were brave enough to share this and talk about how it can turn so big from an “innocent” comment. xoxo

Jess,
DOn’t feel sorry for me. I am lucky, I survived. NOt everyone does. I have to tell this story because if it can save even 1 girl from this fate, I will shout it from the roof tops.
THe comment was taken as it was because 1) society had already conditioned me to think that I needed to be perfect. When my own father inferred that I needed to “run more” in my brain, it was solidified. I had to control this and not be at the will of the weight.
I realize it sounds crazy but it is how my mind wrapped it up and processed it.

You are so strong to overcome it. And brave to share. xo

You inspire me weekly with your PYHO. I am finding the more transparent I am becoming, the weight on my shoulders, onmy mind, is slowly dissipating. There is comfort in transparency.

I want to write words about how we eating disorders are dangerous, but it wouldn’t even do justice to this piece. So I’ll say this. I’m so glad you are alive. You are a eating disorder survivor just like me…our paths were very different, but we are like sisters understanding the world of shame together. XXOO

Indeed, the sisterhood of the eating disordered. What a stringent initiation process to get into a sisterhood. I’m glad we both survived and have come out the other end strong enough to share our stories and try to help others understand and avoid this path. You are doing great things my friend to help so many. XOXO

Deb-
Your bravery and transparency in writing this will only help others and raise awareness.
I’m glad you battled the disease and won – even if the thoughts creep in from time to time.
Sometimes we hold ourselves to impossible standards… in many areas of life. ANd sometimes those standards are dangerous.
You are fucking amazing.
PS- I am trying to only curse now when I fucking mean it.

Jenni,
I think you for your kind words. The impossible standards of perfection take hold of a young mind and twist it into something almost unrecognizable to even itself. I wish I could say that I never have these thoughts anymore but at least I can tell them to shut the fuck up:) ( I only cursed it because I fucking meant it:)LOL

Such brave words, and what a blessing they will be to those who really need to read them. When the blogosphere delivers posts like these, that can make a difference for others … it really is a community of caring.
What a road you have traveled, but look where your journey has brought you xxx

Thank you. I hope that I can help someone, anyone.

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Honey Rowland (@Mondorfment)

As a mom and aunt I’m terrified for my daughters and niece and even my son as eating disorders are not just a “girl thing.” We have always tried to focus on vitality, health, joy/life force rather than weight but still I’ve heard the kids say things like they don’t want to grow up to be fat. I too remember my dad making a comment and it’s still in my head to this day.

Is there any comment or moment or deed that would have helped you sooner? Something you could recommend to help parents raise children with healthy body images? Prevent eating disorders?

Also one thing we did…we got rid of the tv. After years of being tv free I thought it’d be cool to have hdtv/discovery/history (I’m a nerd yes) and I noticed the girls began asking questions like, “does this look good on me?” instead of kid speak for is this weather appropriate? They can wear a bathing suit in a snowstorm as long as they’ve warm clothes on under it. I didn’t catch on to it for a few months but cable’s gone and I now have a huge monitor. But, the damage is done…and it’s hard if not impossible to erase what they have “learned”..

Sorry for the unorganized comment. And I’m glad you’re healing/healed. You’re an amazing woman and I find you funny, smart and you’re the only other person I’ve ever read or met that has understood the horror of partners who have no issue with ‘releasing the kraken.’

~Honey

My biggest suggestion is to NEVER make weight an issue. Obviously, we can’t raise our children in a bubble ( though believe me it would be a great alternative to some of the shit that is affecting our children these days) but if we raise them to be strong, self-confident people and always support and love them unconditionally, I think that would be a great start. The crazy thing is anyone else in the world could have told me to run and I would NOT have taken it to the extreme that I did. A parent’s love is supposed to be unwavering and never conditional, we have to make sure the kids know that. Love your kids, love them like crazy.

Thanks for your kind and compassionate words.
LOL! About releasing the Kraken:)You must be an aiming low fan!XX

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Good post, adding it to my blog now, thanks. >

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I’ve been dealing with this since I was nine and my 18th birthday comes up on the 23rd. It is complete hell. I throw up at least 7 times a day. It’s not easy.

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Thank you. I’m 15 (almost 16) and i’m so alone. Don’t ask how i found this page because i don’t actually remember. I don’t binge because i vomit as a result of it, forced or not, and i’m fighting purging with everything in me. I am a soprano singer and the constant vomiting has been making it increasingly difficult to reach the higher notes. I went from vomiting around 3-7 times a day (after eating nothing, almost nothing and even water) to not doing it for 2 weeks on thursday. I still don’t eat and when i do i feel super sick. At my school there are 3 girls who have already been hospitalised for Ana (2 just got out and 1 going in soon) and people say that i am too happy to be depressed and too fat to be ED. I hate this. Knowing that people at school are believing lies about me because they don’t believe that i am sick (I haven’t told anyone outside my closest 3 friends. The rest of the school heard rumors) and think i’m attention seeking with this and my self-harm. This is destroying me. Most days i feel i can’t go on because nobody listened to my cries so i gave up on trying for help. My own parents yelled at me and said that i’m a lying, attention seeking, lazy bitch. The school thinks i’m a lying, attention seeking bitch. I can’t take it anymore. There is nobody. I honestly feel completely alone. It is nice knowing that there is actually someone who has been through this and gotten out the other side though.

Zoe,

YOU are NOT alone. There are people who will listen. I will listen. I believe you and I think you are very brave to tell someone and try to get help. I am sorry no one is helping you. Here is the phone number and email to an Eating Disorder hotline:

The ANAD Eating Disorders Helpline 630-577.1330 is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm, Central Time.

ANAD also has a special email address, anadhelp@anad.org which may be used by those who prefer email instead of phoning.

I am so proud of you for not throwing up for 2 weeks. I know its hard but you have to reintroduce nutrition to your body.Please call the hotline. There are people who will help you. You are not alone.
I dealt with this for 8 years. I honestly never thought I’d survive it, yet here I am ; married to my best friend with 2 beautiful daughters and I am happy. You can be happy too. But first you have to take care of yourself. Start by calling the hotline or emailing. I know you are not lying. You are brave. You can do this.

You serious? It is so hard.
There are only 2 people in the world who i have actually talked to and they listened but i know i can’t depend on them all the time. Even when i feel like giving up. One has pulled me out a couple of times when she knew i was going to give up but on the daily basis i’m just the stupid attention seeker nobody cares about. My dad takes the piss by saying “You don’t have and Eating Disorder do you?” and laughs when he sees me not eating and he got pissed at my teacher for “putting stupid ideas in my head” and mum yells at me which only makes things worse.

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This is honestly such an insightful piece. I feel like this is the first piece of literature that has really exposed the consequences, side effects, and routine of eating disorders. I’m constantly at war with my body, which is so unfortunate because there are probably better wars to invest my time in. After boarding school and college, I gained the freshman 15 twice. Food is my comfort and my source of pain, because I can never seem to get enough or get rid of it fast enough. I hope that one day, I’ll be back at peace with my body. But with these impossible societal standards, the perpetuation of this idealized body image seems to get worse.

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