Bulimia: A Cycle of Restriction, Self-Hate, and Silence
More than 30 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder. Of those suffering, ten million are men. In the last decade, the rate of children under twelve being admitted to a hospital for eating disorders rose 119%. Over 70% of those who suffer will not seek treatment due to stigma, which inspires me to write this article today.
I have been struggling with my body image for many years. “I hate my thighs” and “my calves are too big” are remarks that could be heard coming out of my mouth at one point in time. Finally after being in denial for months, I now recognize how victimized I have been by society’s plea to be smaller. In the summer following the first COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to lose some weight for that “perfect summer body.” I figured that 1,500 calories daily would be sufficient since that allowed for a projected two pounds to be lost per week with exercise.
However, the diet came to an end when the cravings became too much, and I began bingeing immense amounts of food. This kicked off a seven-month-long cycle of restriction, binging, and then purging to avoid weight gain. Instead of being in balance with my nutrition, I would go through cycles of overeating and undereating that exacerbated an already fragile mental state. I had pushed my body to the point of collapse to achieve a smaller jean size. Little did I know at the time, the years of antibiotics administered to resolve my Lyme disease had directly led to a severe fungal infection. Caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast, Candidiasis constantly left me feeling faint, sweaty, and out of control around food. A condition not allowing me to digest my food in conjunction with poor body image created the perfect storm for Bulimia nervosa to take over.
At this time in my life, the only mental clarity I could find was through purging, as it allowed me an opportunity for a second chance of better eating. These second chances consumed my every thought, and in turn, kept me restrained to the toxic cycle of restriction. With the help from a psychiatrist, a new functional medication plan, and further self-education on the science and impact of eating disorders, I can say now that I am finally in recovery.
One small intention to lose a few pounds can lead to the most life-threatening of eating disorders. Bulimia does not discriminate and can affect anybody of any size and at any age. However, people who exhibit personality traits of perfectionism, neuroticism, and impulsivity are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Exposure to media that promotes small, lean physiques plays another significant role in affecting one’s impressionable body image. It’s exhausting, unattainable, and unhealthy to try and mold your body to fit a specific image. Instead, we need to celebrate our bodies for all they do for us. Inclusivity and self-compassion need to replace self-hatred and body trends for diet culture to loosen its grip over us all.
Throughout my ongoing struggle with food and body image, I have found some solutions. We were not born hating our bodies, so it’s obvious this is a developed trait society has subconsciously taught us. To truly recover from either an eating disorder or body/food-related insecurities, it’s vital to practice self-compassion. You are enough being who you are in your own skin.
To address social media, I suggest changing the influencers you follow. For example, University of Southern California alum Victoria Garrick is a fantastic role model for body positivity and self-love. Her Instagram posts touch upon all societal “scaries” such as stretch marks, bloated stomachs, and acne. The amount of time we spend on social media is at an all-time high, so it is vital to use that integral time for something positive, not degrading. In addition to detoxifying my social media feed, I put away the calorie counters and low-calorie snacks and traded them in for nutritious foods that my body deserved. Food equals fuel, not stress and anxiety like diet culture wants us to think.
The pains of comparison, self-hate, and moralization of food are what fund the diet industry. Together, we need to redefine what it means to be “healthy.”, as this seven-letter word has been wrongfully oversimplified. In my eyes, health and well-being are achieved when the relationship between mind, spirit, and body is cohesive and equally attended to. Like a domino effect, when recovering from an eating disorder, if one component fails, all the others fall. With 7.6 billion people on this planet, no two bodies are the same.
Image Source: Here