Bulimics are often caught in a web of bingeing and purging. Merlene Michael of HealthAnswers finds out what is making women so wasted these days.
As a teen, Linda loved to hang out at the shops. But instead of checking out boys or the latest fads offered by Sportsgirl or General Pants, she stalked the aisles of the food court. Linda was fat as a child. And although she had shed most of the excess weight during adolescence, maintaining it was a struggle. It did not help that her family was always bickering. She could not talk with her mother without breaking into an argument and found that food was the only companion she could turn to when depressed. Walking around the mall, bingeing on pastries gave her the anonymity she desired. It was in food that she could find relief.
But for Linda and others like her, there is a very different quality to their overeating. They suffer from an eating disorder what experts term a secret disease - bulimia.
They are filled with shame and remorse for having binged. So much so that they counteract the "fattening" effects of foods by self-induced vomiting or by taking laxatives, diet pills and appetite suppressants or drugs, and alternating periods of starvation and excessive exercising.
People often dismiss an eating disorder as a manifestation of vanity, immaturity, madness.
Slave To Food
Bulimia has increased at a greater rate than anorexia over the past several years. It is estimated that up to 1 in 6 Australian female tertiary students are suffering from the disease at any given time.
Estimates of the prevalence of bulimia nervosa among young women world over range from about 3 percent to 10 percent. Some experts claim this problem is grossly underestimated because many people with bulimia are able to conceal their purging and do not become noticeably underweight.
A distorted thinking about weight, shape and food, along with bingeing and purging, is a hallmark of bulimia. In fact, the most bewildering symptom of bulimia is the distorted body image. Bulimics are more likely to overestimate their size. There is a greater disparity between what they want to look like and what they think they look like, and they describe their own bodies as larger than they are when food images are present.
If they never feel thin enough, bulimics may diet and purge more and more until eventually they eventually lose interest in food altogether and resort to starving. Once they reach this stage, they develop anorexia nervosa.
Nine out of ten patients with eating disorders are female.
The Role Of The Media
Many reasons have been suggested for the development of an eating disorder such as bulimia. Many focus primarily on society's obsession with beauty, particularly when it comes to women, and the fact that scrawny, prepubescent models' bodies are constantly paraded in front of today's teenagers as a message of what ought to be.
Starve Wars: Glamour magazine's article on the incredible shrinking trend
among A-list stars such as Portia de Rossi from Ally McBeal.
Another example is British model Kate Moss has made millions from her 1.8m, 46kg figure. This kind of popularity is the perfect example of how society rewards women for being thin.
Britain will be the first country in the world to monitor the number of TV appearances made by thin celebrities as part of a campaign to cut the growing number of girls suffering from serious eating disorders. According to Ms Susie Orbach, the psychotherapist who treated Princess Diana for bulimia: "Society has to get the message across that women do not have to change the size of their bodies to be happy and successful."
Fashion magazines in London have also announced a code of conduct that would ban images featuring badly underweight models. This means that if an agency sends a publication a very thin model whose bones were showing through her skin, editors would send her back and write to the agency as well as other magazines telling them not to use her.
"Teenagers who look up to these celebrities as role models perceive that thin is 'in' and suddenly obesity becomes a moral issue. To be overweight is deemed to be evil and disgusting." In fact, fear of food has become so rampant among young people that hundreds of 18- to 25-year-olds told Esquire Magazine they would rather get run over by a truck than gain a lot of weight.
In tomorrow's article, we highlight the health problems bulimia exposes you to and how you can save yourself from bulimia.
Date reviewed: 03 July 2000