An Exercise in Seeking Answers in Eating Disorders

When I took my Honours Journalism, I was taught this great way to help your thoughts flow.  Today they call it mind-mapping.  I’ve used it for story ideas, but in this case I used it for my Bulimia.  From the example below, I chose to expand on desires, fears, social aspects, rut, happiness.  The sub with the most circles around it was the “rut” so I’m sharing the main one and this sub.  Comments are welcome.  To me going back and looking at these notes really opens my eyes.  If I were to fill one out today, it would be so different, but I understand the emotions I was feeling then.

Lavishing In Anger – 1980’s Series

I was 18 years old in 1980 when my bulimia began.  I might have stated it in an earlier blog, but how it came to be was that I was told by my mother, after my sister had lost several pounds through Weight Watchers, that she and I were the only ones left that were fat in the family.  I had been fit until I was 16 when we moved away from a place I had finally rooted myself.  The move was devastating.  The new school had no sports, was dull and the lockers were all painted with camouflage to hide the graffiti.  My passtime became watching soap operas while eating a bag of crackers smothered with butter and peanut butter.  Then upon attaining a job at MacDonald’s I added Big Macs and fries to my nutritional diet.  Within two months I had gain 35 lbs.  I befriended a girl in school, who, word had it, had been quite large, but she was absolutely beautiful and thin and I met her.  One day she told me her secret about having her ice cream and eating it too, but not gaining any weight.  You can guess how this one went.  So I attempted this a few times without success until I remembered my CPR course.  Heimlich maneuver.  Once that was perfected, I started to lose weight and within four months I had reached my original weight of 130 lbs.  Alas, it did not stop there.  A couple of years later I was moved yet again.  A year later my younger sister was sent off to live with my older sister, so I was an only child for the first time in my life.  Expectations ran high in my family.  I was at university, and met great friends who kept me very busy, along with my writing my children’s book and my studies.  Suddenly I found myself not purging, but eating well, and back into sports, and suddenly I was 110 lbs.  My parents were frustrated and frightened.  They had found out about my bulimia, which at this time had commenced two years before.  I was now 20.  They threatened to throw me out if I didn’t gain weight.  There was a strange side of me that I remember well that made me happy that they were angry.  I was always trying to be the “good girl” and really was not noticed much.  There were four girls in our family and I was number three.  I never really felt as though I belonged.  (I still don’t).  But in this case I was getting attention.  Negative attention, but attention nevertheless.  And I kept thinking for all the times they made me angry, made me feel ashamed or not good enough (like when my mother said I was a failure graduating from university without a profession), I was doing it back to them.  Making them wonder why their child was doing this?  Maybe, just maybe, they thought what it was that they did to drive me to this behaviour?  I ignored their comments and as per my usual, I simply went into my room and hid.  Anyone out there have a similar experience?  And how did you deal with it?

Back In Time – Bulimia and the 1980’s

I’m a hoarder sometimes.  Recently, due to a financial break-down and loss of pretty well all of my material possessions, I’ve had to significantly downsize and ‘purge’ myself of files, paperwork, books, furniture, belongings.  It was difficult in some instances, particularly parting with certain objects that had sentimental value, but once done, it was like a cleansing. While foraging through the myriad of boxes, I put aside the literature that was most important.  Files of this and that of my children growing up, boxes of the manuscripts I wrote, and the letters I have saved (never threw any out) since I was 11 years old.  I like going back through them now and again.  I even have notes that were passed around in class when I was in high school.  These and all my personal pictures were treasures I kept, the autographed books from Arthur Miller, Tom Wolfe, Leo Buscaglia (and tons of letters from Leo too!), signed pictures from Clint Eastwood, Dick Van Dyke, Cher, James Stewart, etc.  and a small inventory of furniture to house me in this small apartment.  One bunk bed, one television that my nephew sat on for me because it was a great price, coffee table, cot, dining room table, two bookshelves, two dressers, some shoes, some clothes, some videos.  My only weakness is technology.  I have to myself (but share in my complex) three laptops, two desktops, two printers, an iPad, a digital microscope, and a few other small digital toys.  But that’s it.  One small truck load. While going through my stuff, I came across some literature dating back close to the time I began my bulimia.  Well, it was actually 6 years after I began, but to me, that is still ‘early’ seeing as I had it for 30 years!  Anyway, so I thought I would share some of the historic literature here.  Just a note, I will be covering one part that I found in a letter to a friend that was never delivered.  In it I wrote …”I became somewhat anorexic at this time.  At 5’9″ I weighed 110 pounds.  The only difference is that I knew I was skinny, whereas most anorexics never feel that way.  It was driving my parents nuts and I lavished in their anger.”  I want to expand on this, as I had not thought of it much until I found this letter. So attached to start is a letter from Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Illinois.  I had read an article (included) and written to them and they responded (included) – Letters From Michael Reese Hopital 1986.  Both documents are attached in that link in .pdf.  The year?  1986.  25 years ago.   If you have any comments, please submit them.  I will be posting a couple more “back in time” ‘s.  Please share your thoughts.

People with eating disorders likely to die earlier

Kerry Grensm REUTERS

First posted: Monday, July 11, 2011 10:20:30 EDT AM

NEW YORK – Anorexia increases a patient’s risk of death fivefold, and people with bulimia or another non-specified eating disorder also face an increased risk of death — about twice as likely to die as people without those disorders, a study said.

The cause of deaths wasn’t always clear, but among anorexics who died, one in five was a suicide. The other deaths were attributed to the eating disorders’ brutal effects on the body over time, researchers wrote in Archives of General Psychiatry.

“Of course, eating disorders have serious physical consequences,” said lead author Jon Arcelus, of Loughborough University in the UK.

“The study could not identify how people died, but there is no doubt that the reasons behind this are related to the physical problems of the illness,” he told Reuters Health in an email.

His group carried out a meta-analysis of 36 studies published between 1966 and 2010, which included 17,000 people with an eating disorder, of whom 755 died.

Their analysis showed that five of every 1,000 people with anorexia died each year, which was five times greater than would be expected for comparable people in the general population without an eating disorder.

Among those with bulimia or other eating disorders, the death rate was twice as high as expected compared to those without an eating disorder.

One reason for the results is that people with anorexia nervosa have both psychiatric and medical problems, but most facilities that treat anorexia focus only on the psychiatric problems, said Laird Birmingham, medical director of the Woodstone Residence, a residential facility for people with eating disorders on Galliano Island in British Columbia, Canada.

He noted that most people with anorexia also suffer from depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.

“Almost all centers only treat (the) anorexia, not the other disorder. Unless both are treated, they won’t get better,” he told Reuters Health.

The higher risk of death among those with anorexia reflected the more serious consequences of the disease, he added.

“They are very malnourished. That isn’t the case with the other disorders,” he said.

Arcelus and his colleagues wrote that the results highlighted the seriousness of eating disorders, noting that people who are diagnosed with anorexia later in life, those who are already severely underweight when diagnoses and those who also abuse alcohol seem to be at the greatest risk of dying.

“This sort of study reminds people that a significant percentage of people die of this disorder,” Birmingham said.

Rise in male eating disorders tip of iceberg: Charity


Alice Baghdjian, REUTERS

First posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 1:37:00 EDT PM



British health service (NHS) figures showing a 66% rise in hospital admissions for men with eating disorders in England over the last 10 years are just the “tip of the iceberg,” a UK charity said on Wednesday.

More than a million people are affected by eating disorders in Britain and up to 20% of those are male, according to British eating disorders charity Beat.

An exact figure is difficult to ascertain due to the reluctance of men to seek treatment for an eating disorder and a failure to diagnose the illnesses in males, Beat said.

“The 66% increase in hospitalization of men in England with eating disorders is the tip of the iceberg. There are many others who find it difficult to acknowledge that they have the illness or to seek help,” Beat said told Reuters in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

“That, coupled with the fact that not all GPs (General Practitioners) recognize the symptoms in males shows that there are still many people unable to access the treatment they so desperately need.”

The figures challenge the commonly held assumption that the illnesses like anorexia and bulimia only affect women. Cultural pressure to have the ideal body is among the many factors that can trigger eating disorders – and UK charities are keen to stress that this body dissatisfaction is not confined to women.

“Exercise is a major factor with eating disorders in men who can become obsessed with exercising every day. Males are under similar pressures to women nowadays to achieve that ‘perfect shape’,” Beat said.

The rise in the number of men with eating disorders is ‘not a surprise’ to Sam Thomas, founder and project leader of Men Get Eating Disorders Too, a UK charity.

“Men are subject to all kinds of different pressures. This rise could indicate an increased awareness of eating disorders among men, but it could also signal a genuine rise in the illnesses in males due to increasing pressure on men to look good, pressure in the workplace, and even financial worries,” Thomas said.

“There are certainly many different factors involved and I think it’s a combination of all of them.”

There are three official categories of eating disorder – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). The onset of the illnesses generally take place during the mid-teens, though it has been known to begin in adulthood

Don’t you ever feel like you’re nothing – You are perfect – Pink!!

Why do I do that?  It’s a question we always ask ourselves in this world.  But we have to know we are less than perfect, but we are perfect in our inperfections!!

Anorexia, Bullimia, Bullimarexic – What is the difference? I’ll tell you

Beauty or a beast?  This is the worst of it.  This is the biggest killer of eating disorder.  This lady probably… no… most likely… no… does… think she is too fat.  This picture IS Anorexia.  I was bulimic.  To see someone that emaciated was painful.  I could feel their pain.  But comes the weird thing about having an eating disorder.  You could anorexic, bulimic, or a bulimarexic (do both – smaller than a bulimic, larger than an anorexic), but even seeing overweight people makes you want to cry because you know.  You know there’s something inside that’s not working right.  Like alcoholics, or like drug addicts, whatever the coping mechanism.  I can’t advocate for any of this.  I do however ask why this has become so rampid.  Why are there so many lost souls?  I’m not sure.  Why do so many of us look to the coping mechanism.  Some less threatening than others.

I had a friend with anorexia.  If you saw her face at the time, you would swear she was a walking skeleton.  Then they put her into the hospital.  30% chance of survival.  They plugged her with an IV and when she walked out she was 170 lbs.  They managed to save her, but they didn’t save her from her coping mechanism.  Later she joined my club of bulimics.  Haven’t seen her in a long time, but if you did you wouldn’t even know she was or maybe even still is bulimic.  We’re not as transparent and we like it that way.

Karen, Nancy, and all my other friends that suffered through this – and that I don’t see anymore, I hope you have found solace like I have.  But it was a journey!

So bulimia is – eat your emotions and throw up.  Anorexia is a slow form of suicide and wanting to disappear by being small and unnoticed.  Bulimarexic is in between.