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Bulimia Basics and Health Related Problems
Bulimia is a potentially VERY serious eating disorder, one that affects a startling number of people in the Western world. There are a lot of different factors that can cause the eating disorder, but suffice it to say that it's a problem you want to nip in the bud before it gets out of hand.
What is Bulimia?
People suffering from bulimia use a "binge and purge method" (eating large quantities of food and vomiting immediately) to control their intake of calories. By bingeing on food, they satisfy their body's demands for nutrients and calories. Then, vomiting helps to prevent those calories from actually being absorbed into the body, thereby preventing weight gain.
Purging is done to rid the body of the food and to prevent weight gain. Purging is commonly done by forcing vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, excessively exercising, or even not eating at all for a period after the binge.
The problem is that bulimia has NOTHING to do with the food itself. There are a number of factors that play a role in the eating disorder:
- Body issues -- This goes beyond people needing to lose weight. Many people are dissatisfied with the way they look, even if they aren't overweight or obese. They purge in an attempt to lose weight and reach their "ideal" shape.
- Psychological issues -- A loss of control in one's life can often lead to bulimia, and the eating disorder is often accompanied by a wide range of other psychological and emotional issues.
- Societal, cultural, and family issues -- For many people, there is outside pressure to look a certain way or conform to a certain standard of beauty. All of these things can lead to eating disorders like bulimia.
The truth is that bulimia is usually caused by more than one factor. Many different things combine to cause young women (90% of bulimia sufferers are women) to "binge and purge".
Those most at risk for developing bulimia include:
- Adolescents under the age of 25
- Athletes (especially gymnasts and dancers)
- High academic achievers
- Those who have suffered abuse as a child, physically or sexually
How Can You Tell if Someone is Bulemic?
Here are a few of the symptoms that may indicate that someone you know suffers from bulimia:
- Their mouth and lips are always dry
- They develop rashes and pimples on their face and skin
- They have small calluses and cuts on the tips of their fingers, caused by forcing themselves to vomit
- They have broken blood vessels in their eyes, caused by the strain of vomiting
- Their cheeks look "pouchy" and droopy
- They spend a lot of time in the bathroom immediately after meals
- They eat an excessive amount of food (bingeing), but they gain no weight
Bulimia can become serious if left untreated, but thankfully it's not a problem that requires hospitalization (unless it's accompanied by anorexia or depression). There are many options for treating bulimia, including:
Support groups. This is a chance for them to talk about whatever is causing the problem, and find help from others who are dealing with the same issues.
Medications. There are no medications to deal with the eating disorder, but there are options for treating the underlying emotional and psychological issues that are causing the problem.
Counseling. Psychologists and psychiatrists can help bulimia sufferers understand what's really behind their eating disorder, and provide them with the tools to lead a healthy life.
The sad truth is that bulimia is not an easy illness to overcome. There's no "quick fix" for the eating disorder. It's going to take years of battling body issues, emotional problems, psychological issues, and even major health problems (as a result of regular vomiting and limited calorie intake). However, you CAN put the problem behind you and return to a normal, healthy life!
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