Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anorexia or Bulimia?

for the first ten years of life, i was a compulsive eater. i grew very quickly and always out-grew the weight gain. at ten i got my period and stopped growing and the compulsive eating caught up with my waist-line. and my hips and face and boobs...

the next phase was starvation -- i just stopped eating until i'd lost 60 pounds, but then craved food all the time. Welcome, Bulimia. over the years, i'd do some combination of compulsive eating, starving, binging and/or purging.

i'm not sure how to label myself. bulimic? sometime anorexic? compulsive eater?

are they different? are there different reasons and feelings associated with each?

i never considered myself anorexic, although i certainly exhibited anorexic behaviors for long stretches. in my head, i'll always think of myself as a compulsive eater.

from reading blogs and literature, i see that many anorexics believe their disease is caused by nature, not nurture and peer pressure. that never resonated with me, although it makes sense.

i've never felt that my disease was based on brain chemistry. my mother wanted me thin, desperately, all the other kids teased me and the popular girls were always light weights. unfortunately, my body wanted big weight. and my misery wanted food. my mother and father comforted themselves with food, what else did i know?

during the years when i ate compulsively and/or binged and purged, i hated myself and loathed my life.

during my starving mode, i resented the world -- everyone else could eat, but i didn't allow myself anything other than lettuce and, well, lettuce. still,i thought my body looked pretty good, although i barely had the energy to walk up stairs. and i hated myself a little less -- at least i wasn't eating! was that a brain mis-fire or just my mother's voice cooing at my little body?

do you consider yourself anorexic or bulimic or EDNOS. what do you relate to? do you think the different disorders have different causes?

Today's gratitude list:

I slept a lot last night and didn't have to go to work today.

I let myself be depressed and just went with it for a while. it was okay

I'm reading a nice, new book -- now that's lovely!


  1. I think I will always be an explosive cocktail of all three. I think most people have an eating disorder of some form these days. I could heckle the media and blame their part in it but there's much more deeper ruses. Like how much control you have in your life, and how you seek to obtain it if you don't.

    I know it can't be weight itself because when I achieve it, or something closer to it, I sabotage it or want something else. It's a mirage of a dream, that I may never reach.

  2. I'm not anorexic or bulimic, but I have an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. This only began in my mid-40's, prior to that I had never had much trouble with weight or my body. But after gaining 35 pounds due to being on anti-depressants and then losing the weight, I am now obsessed with my weight. I don't meet the criteria for an eating disorder, but I would say that I have disordered thinking about food.

  3. I'm a recovering anorexic, but I think all eating disorders share a common link in that they are, for the most part, coping mechanisms.

    I definitely think eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and as far as nature vs. nurture, I think it's both. My therapist puts it this way: Genetics loads the gun, and environment/society pulls the trigger. People who have eating disorders in their family are more susceptible to developing and ED themselves because they are genteically predisposed, and they become even more at risk if they are in an environment that promotes abnormal eating behaviors (eating too much, eating too little, constantly dieting, etc...) or environments where a lot of emphasis is put on having a thin body.

    Great post! Very thought provoking. I'm glad you got some rest and I hope you enjoy your book :)


  4. I have really struggled with this issue too. I have only been "classically" anorexic (severe food restriction and compulsive exercise) for a minority of the time I've struggled with an ED. Each time I've made a stab at recovery, I've improved my eating habits but have tightened down on the exercise obsession to compensate, to the point that now I eat a fairly "normal" amount for someone my age and height, but often feel as entrapped as ever by the working out (which, if taken away for some reason, is compensated for by a backslide in eating). Someone who looked at my food intake for the day would never peg me right off as an anorexic. I had a therapist that called exercise "purging" behavior, which I argued with her about, wrote a post or two on that when it happened. My main argument was that I exercise whether I eat X or Y, and if given the choice between cutting food and working out I'll work out, but even if I don't eat I'll work out too, so it's more compulsive than ridding myself of calories...but maybe she had a point, dunno.

    I think the issue is that EDs exist within a vast web/continuum in which no two experiences are exactly the same, but we feel like we have to find a specific box to fit around ourselves to feel legitimate. I think the key in the whole thing is the word "disorder". If the behaviors, to whatever degree and in whatever combination, are negatively affecting you and controlling your life or worming into your thoughts, you're as legit and worthy of concern as any case in a textbook.

  5. VV: great point -- it can't be weight itself, because i am never happy either, no matter what i weight. but it was weight that got me here, initially. and yes, control of my life is the big thing here.

    ahh, if only it were just weight.

    Harriet; was the anti-depressant weight hard to lose? is it less easy to maintain your preferred weight than it used to be? i had weight problems my whole like, so i can't imagine 40 some years w/out the obsession. that change must have been really, really unpleasant. i think when we feel we have to restrict anything, we can sort of obsess. especially if we're restricting food, because we MUST's interesting for me that i MUST give up alcohol, one addiction, but i MUST eat, another addiction.

    Nicole; i like how your therapist put it. it makes sense. i guess i did have a predisposition to all addictions and my environment was super heavy on food and diets and being thin. thanks, you really clarified some things for me.

    Cammy; i've always wondered about the exercise piece. i hate to exercise and never do (i really do need to do something, for health). but i see my sister, who never stops moving and freaks if she doesn't get a lot of exercise in. she eat fine, but i know she's really involved in how fit she is. is she too overly involved? i don't know -- what is healthy?

    i agree with your last paragraph wholeheartedly. if the behaviors are negatively affecting you and controlling your life, you R as worthy of concern as any case in the book. when i stopped eating until i dropped from 190 to 120, i was starving and so disordered and obsessive, but because 120 looked fine one me, no one would accept that i had a problem. it terrified me.

    great points.

  6. Just started following you and found this to be an interesting read!
    I could relate a lot to certain aspects of what you wrote.
    I think I, personally, would use the term 'disordered' [for myself] but not necessarily attach a specific label to it.

  7. This is a powerful topic that really resonates with many people. I was certainly touched. Thanks so much for posting. I look forward to learning more.

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  8. Alexandra Rising: Thank you for writing! i think "disordered" really is the right word for me too, especially at this point. and i think it should be given the same TLC as any other issue.

  9. I did the same things. Well I was a lot larger then went on a Doctor supervised weight loss and lost over 50% of my body weight. I fit many of the guidlines for Ana, binge eating, bul (if you cound exercise as purging). Right now I'm just trying to live normal. Not that it is working out right now but it will someday.

  10. Eating Alone: It will work out. this is really hard -- to lose sooo much weight and still not feel comfortable in your body.

    Hang in there, David. it will get better. keep writing