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An RD Confesses: "I Had Bulimia"

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The Breaking Point

My friends, who were unaware of my late-night bingeing and purging, continually praised me for all this hard work. But as the months and years went by, throwing up felt less and less like an easy (albeit shameful) solution. Now it just felt gross, emotionally agonizing -- like an obligation. I knew it was bizarre and abnormal; I knew the sensible way to lose weight would be simply to eat less in the first place. Still, I just couldn't stop.

Based on what I now know about the disorder, it makes sense: Some experts suspect that dysfunctional eating behaviors actually "help" a stressed-out brain relax. Bingeing, starving, exercising, vomiting -- they all affect brain chemistry as powerfully as drugs. As with an addict who promises to quit, when the next stressor hits, the behavior returns. Instead of quitting, I just worked harder and harder to keep my habit hidden. Secrecy was crucial.

Confrontation: A Reality Check

One day during the summer after I graduated from college, my mother confronted me. We had gone out to eat at a Chinese buffet; starved after a day of fasting, I had gorged myself, then run to the bathroom to vomit. When I returned to the table-hair disheveled, eyes watery-my mother asked, "Did you make yourself throw up?" I lied and said, "How could you even think that?" She dropped it, but the conversation jolted me into reality. Keeping food out of my stomach felt good; Mom noticing felt bad. (I found out later that she herself had frequently purged as a child, after her mother force-fed her a full breakfast before rushing her off to the school bus. Maybe that's how she recognized the signs.)

When people ask me whether it's smart to confront someone with a suspected eating disorder, I tell them to handle it the same way they would if they thought their friend was drinking and driving. Regardless of how she acts in the moment -- with denial, anger or a promise to change -- the most important thing is that she now knows you care and will stick by her. And that might be what saves her life.

Next:  Starting Over


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lilgirl024680 wrote:

THANK YOU for writing this. I wish more people would. Strength comes from numbers.

1/23/2012 08:04:33 PM Report Abuse
jbworkman1 wrote:

Wow it's like this is my EXACT story. Same name, even 1 semester from being a RD. I've struggled for about 6 years but finally quit about a year ago when I truly saw my image in the mirror 5'10 &120 lbs. Only a few slips in a year¿s time. I try hard to get the message across that we are worth more than being another thin girl in America. I still struggle with the idea that my body is okay the way it is , by faith I get through. We all have struggles, this WAS ours.

11/11/2009 08:12:23 PM Report Abuse

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