Bulimia is a serious eating disorder where people feel that they have lost control over their eating and evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. People with bulimia are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called ‘bingeing’), and then vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics (called purging), in order to prevent gaining weight. This behaviour can dominate daily life and lead to difficulties in relationships and social situations. Usually people hide this behaviour pattern from others and their weight is often in a healthy range. People with bulimia tend not to seek help or support very readily and can experience swings in their mood as well as feeling anxious and tense.
They may also have very low self-esteem and self harm. They may experience symptoms such as tiredness, feeling bloated, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular periods, or occasional swelling of the hands and feet. Excessive vomiting can cause problems with the teeth, while laxative misuse can seriously affect the heart. Bulimia in children and young people is rare, although young people may have some of the symptoms of the condition. Bulimia usually develops at a slightly older age than anorexia. In some instances, although not all, bulimia develops from anorexia.
- Bingeing – eating large amounts of food
- Purging after bingeing – vomiting, over exercising, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting
- Preoccupied with thoughts of food and life may be organised around shopping, eating and purging behaviour
- Usually secretive about bulimic episodes
- Mood swings
- Feeling anxious and tense
- Distorted perception of body shape or weight
- Feeling of loss of control over eating
- Feelings of guilt and shame after bingeing and purging Isolation
- Can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, misuse of alcohol and self-harm
Physical signs of bulimia
Some of the more common signs of bulimia nervosa are:
- Excessive exercising
- Misuse of laxatives and diuretics
- Disappearing soon after eating
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Feeling bloated
- Stomach pain
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Periods stop or are irregular (amenorrhea)
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Calluses on the backs of the hand from forcing down throat to vomit
- Electrolyte abnormalities/ imbalance
- Gastric problems
- Regular changes in weight
Worried you have an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are complex; there’s no single cause and not all symptoms will apply to all people. You may feel that you have a mixture of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder or even alternate between them. Some people also find they are affected by other mental health issues, an urge to harm themselves or abuse alcohol or drugs.
Even if you don’t have these symptoms if you are worried and upset by something, anything, it is important you find someone to talk to. Don’t bottle it up.
Sometimes people worry about talking to someone because they feel their eating disorder isn’t serious enough, they don’t want to worry people or waste their time, or because they feel guilty, embarrassed or ashamed. Whether your eating difficulties began recently, you’ve been struggling for a while or you’re finding yourself relapsing, you deserve support and with this support you can overcome your eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses and you deserve to have your concerns acknowledged respectfully, to be taken seriously and to be supported in the same way as if you were affected by any other illness.
Discover more about the different types of eating disorders or how to access help and treatment as well as information and inspiration about recovery.
Body Image is our idea of how our body looks and how it is perceived by others. Having a negative or poor body image is strongly associated to Anxiety and Depression as well as eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia. Obsessive and exhausting over-exercising behaviour, yo-yo dieting, reluctance to socialise, difficulties with relationships and financial problems are all associated with body image.
BEAT, the UK’S leading eating disorder charity, estimates that 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. 1.4 million of these people are female. People most at risk of developing an eating disorder are young women aged between 14-25. 1 in 10 secondary school students are affected by eating disorders.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and many young people who develop anorexia or bulimia (as well as other eating disorders) will suffer serious long-term health consequences.
Body Image and Young Children
A lot of research on body image focuses on adolescents. However, there is now evidence that suggests children develop negative body image much younger than we think. Children as young as 9 and 10 show disturbing levels of anxiety about their weight and physical appearance. By the ages of 10 and 11, 1 in 8 girls want to be thinner.
10 Steps to Positive Body Image
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you–as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
- Do something nice for yourself–something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
This week the UK’s eating disorder charity BEAT has released a poster that educates the first signs of an eating disorder. There are a range of eating disorders and these do display different symptoms, however there are some general signs that could signal a problem.
The TOP 3 Early Signs of an Eating Disorder:
– Has their attitude towards food changed? Have they started measuring foods, counting calories, or cutting out foods they used to enjoy? Do they love cooking for others but don’t eat the meals themselves? They may also begin showing secretive behaviour when it comes to food or meal times. Be aware that it may look like they’re eating but they could be being secretive (such as throwing food away when you’re not looking or taking it to their room and then not eating it).
Distorted body image
– Has the person lost weight but still say they’re too fat and that they look terrible? In the first stages of an ED the person will make these commons frequently. Later, when suspicions are raised, they will start to become more quiet and withdrawn. Realise that ED thoughts occur for some time before the person loses a significant amount of weight – step in before this physical symptom.
The emotional roller coaster
- -Are they experiencing changes in their mood? Are they becoming more irritable, over sensitive, a perfectionist, compulsive, depressed, more anxious or wanting to be alone?
Other warning signs and symptoms include:
- Constant adherence to increasingly strict diets, regardless of weight
- Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating
- Secretly bingeing on large amounts of food
- Hoarding large amounts of food
- Increase in consumption of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills
- Exercising compulsively, often several hours per day
- Using prescription stimulant medications and/or illicit stimulant drugs to suppress appetite
- Withdrawal from friends and family, particularly following questions about her disease or visible physical/medical side effects
- Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present
- Preoccupation with weight, body size and shape, or specific aspects of one’s appearance
- Obsessing over calorie intake and calories burned via exercise, even as one may be losing significant amounts of weight
Physical symptoms of anorexia may include:
- Underweight, even emaciated appearance with protruding bones or a sunken appearance to the face
- Dizziness or fainting
- Brittle nails
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- Baby fine hair covering face and other areas of the body (lanugo)
Emotional and behavioural signs of anorexia nervosa may include:
- Refusal to eat
- Denial of hunger
- Excessive exercise
- Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
- Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
Symptoms of bulimia may include:
- Abnormal bowel functioning
- Damaged teeth and gums
- Sores in the throat and mouth
- Scarring on the back of the hand/fingers used to induce purging
- Swollen salivary glands (creating “chipmunk cheeks”)
- Menstrual irregularities or loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- Irritation and inflammation of the esophagus (heartburn)
Behavioural symptoms of bulimia may include:
- Constant dieting
- Hiding food or food wrappers
- Eating in secret
- Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
- Self-induced vomiting
- Laxative use
- Excessive exercise
- Frequent bathroom trips after eating
I was on instagram last night when I went onto my instagram profile. I decided to just stroll through my pictures and found some from 2014/2015. For those who know me, you’ll understand that during this time I was in the depths of my eating disorder. At the time, I didn’t really know this. I thought I was okay. I thought I was better than I’d ever been. How wrong I was though. June 2014 consisted of doctors appointments, hospital appointments, blood tests, scans, meetings with college, intervention from community mental health teams and social services. My weight was drastically dropping by each day. The calories kept getting lower and lower.
Whilst going through those pictures last night; I had the realisation that I was actually really sick back then. How I had managed to feel so healthy I have no idea. How did I survive on no calories for a week? How did I manage to exercise every waking hour of the day?
I knew that I was sick, I just don’t think I realised how sick I was. I thought I was getting healthy and stronger, not unhealthy and weaker. I remember getting every single illness going; my immune system was very weak. I was always cold yet I still took freezing showers. My muscles always ached and bruised but I would walk for hours on end.
All I wanted to do was sleep and food plagued every single thought.
Anorexia is such a wretched disease.
It stops its victims even noticing theres something wrong. It refuses to let them see their true self or feel any sort of happiness.
Anorexia is strong, but Savannah is stronger.
- Recovery is about enjoying all types of food and not giving them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labels.
- Recovery is about not sticking to your meal plan and being able to enjoy extra treats and snacks with friends.
- Recovery is about not tracking every calorie, every gram of fat, and every step you take each day.
- Recovery is about not planning meals in advance and being able to eat whatever you want.
- Recovery is about being able to enjoy a meal out with friends without having a panic attack over the calories or food.
- Recovery is about being able to enjoy your birthday, Christmas and that late night McDonalds or pizza with friends.
- Recovery is about drinking alcohol without skipping meals to allow the excess calories.
- Recovery is finding exercising and walking relaxing and not just a means to count calories and lose weight.
- Recovery is sleeping in sometimes or not moving from your bed because you don’t have to be on the go all day.
- Recovery is being able to have more energy to hang out with friends and family because you are not always cold or ill.
- Recovery is allowing things to be imperfect.
- Recovery is learning to eat in front of others without feeling that you are being judged.
- Recovery is feeling comfortable outside of treatment so that you can lead a fulfilling life.
- Recovery is accepting a relapse as a challenge to recover stronger.
- Recovery is understanding that an eating disorder does not make you feel safe, nor does the dependency on others.
- Recovery is feeling all sorts of emotions but learning to cope with them.
Recovery in an eating disorder is many things…but overall it is the journey to finding yourself. Recovery is a long process – sometimes there are 2 steps forward and 10 steps back (okay, most of the time), but even through the downpour and the days where you simply can’t get out of bed, you’re one step closer than you were when you were submerged to your illness. Recovery teaches you that nothing is perfect. Emotions are not straight-forward. People are confusing. Plans change. Relapses happen.
Recovery is painful, tiring and emotional. Refeeding causes horrible side effects that leave you ready to give up. Getting every illness under the sun is normal…BUT
Recovery is a process and takes heaps of time. Just because its dark today, doesn’t mean the light won’t rise tomorrow.
You’re beautiful. You’re strong. You’ve survived every bad day to date and that is rather extraordinary!
[inspired by Alice]
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the SacconeJolys. I have been watching them for nearly two years now and began watching their videos during the grip of my eating disorder. Watching the SacconeJolys each day has brought me such happiness and positivity and when I watch them I feel so much better. When you’re struggling with mental health problems, the simple things like laughing mean so much.
One of the reasons why I was so incredibly excited to meet Anna and Jonathan yesterday is because their videos have helped me through the darkest of moments. Anna helps inspire me and is a positive role model. Her character is amazing and she is such a hard working, fun loving mum and wife. Jonathan is the funniest person I’ve ever come across with a wonderful passion as a father and always puts others first.
Not many people know but in 2006 Anna Saccone (Joly) went through a battle with the eating disorder Bulimia. Desperate to control something in her life, she turned to the “perfection” of numbers on a scale, calorie intake, measurements…the list of things which she could control were endless. Like most eating disorders, hers started with a diet. A need for order and perfection in a world which she seemed to be losing control of.
I started watching the vlogs at my lowest weight, when my eating disorder was likely at its worst and my body was shutting down. I was at the point where I wouldn’t eat at all until I was about to faint and I refused to drink water. Watching their vlogs whilst curled up on the sofa made me feel in another world where I was happy and could actually laugh. Slowly I discovered Anna’s personal youtube and began watching her videos on her eating disorder, health and fitness.
I am nowhere near content with the weight that I am now (gaining back in recovery was such a treacherous emotion) and I felt slightly embarrassed meeting my role models when I am ‘no longer thin’. It left some emotions that I needed to deal with but I felt so entirely blessed to have met such a strong woman (and Jonathan too) in person!
I am so thankful that the SacconeJoly vlogs brought some life into my weak body and taught me how to live again.
Thank you Anna for being so amazingly strong, and being raw and honest in your struggles.
Willow and I were lucky enough to be in tonight’s vlog also which is truly amazing!