The Truth About Bulimia
How to break the bonds of an eating disorder.
by Laurie Glass
Do you panic after you eat? Do you sometimes binge and then feel a strong urge to get rid of what you’ve eaten in one way or another? Is it difficult for you to find healthy ways to express your emotions? Is most of your self-talk negative?
Whether these things are true for you occasionally or regularly, you know deep down you have a problem. Perhaps you have bulimia or a similar type of eating disorder.
Those with bulimia tend to eat uncontrollably and then rid themselves in some way of what they have consumed. They struggle to allow themselves to keep food down, and they may be unsure of how to express their emotions.
Although bulimia is most common among teenage girls and college age women, there is an increase of bulimia in adult women. Males are also affected by it.
A lot of information is available about this difficult and sometimes life-threatening eating disorder. This article offers some symptoms, health problems, and underlying issues associated with bulimia and provides encouragement for recovery.
Common signs and symptoms
Although other factors may also be present, here are some of the common signs and symptoms of bulimia. (Keep in mind that only a professional can diagnose you.)
- obsession with weight and body image
- bingeing followed by purging
- taking laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills
- exercising excessively
- following stringent diet plans
- restricting food intake between bingeing and purging episodes
As with any eating disorder, bulimia can bring on serious physical consequences. Here are just some of them.
- gastric rupture or tearing of esophagus
- dental problems
- disturbances in blood sugar level
- electrolyte imbalances
- heart problems
Bulimia can also cause organ failure and can even be fatal.
What drives a person to such self-destructive behaviors? There are numerous possibilities, depending on a person’s upbringing, personality, and life experiences. Below is a list of some of the common underlying issues that drive a person to bulimic behaviors.
- inadequate coping skills
- loss/grieving of any kind
- negative self-talk
- strong desire for control
- distorted body image
- difficulty dealing with trauma
- inner pain
- difficulty defining accurate identity
- inability to express emotions in healthy ways
- struggle to heal from abuse or neglect
If you are engaging in bulimic behaviors, please reach out for the help you need. God wants better for you. With Him at your side and with other assistance, you can work through what is driving you to self-destruction.
Eating disorders are complicated, so it’s best if a treatment plan addresses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Trying to change the food-related behaviors alone isn’t going to bring about lasting change. Here are some options.
- A medical provider monitors the person’s health and weight.
- A nutritionist educates and advises regarding an individualized meal plan and sometimes offers counsel about attitudes and beliefs concerning food.
- A therapist helps address underlying issues. Some offer telephone and online options.
- A Christian counselor provides faith-based counseling to work through underlying issues and apply biblical principles to recovery. Some counselors offer telephone and online options.
- A pastor can assist in seeing God’s role in the recovery process. Some pastors may offer Christian counseling.
- Support groups, online message boards, and chat rooms assure the bulimic that he/she is not alone, and can provide needed validation and support.
- Inpatient programs closely monitor a person’s health.
- Residential programs provide a supportive setting for focused counseling, nutritional education, and aids for continuing recovery at home.
- Outpatient programs and day or partial hospitalization care can provide intense treatment and flexibility during non-treatment hours.
Several treatment combinations are available. Even people who live in remote areas or have limited financial resources can explore various options. For example, perhaps an area clinic provides medical treatment at reduced cost for those who are uninsured. Or maybe the individual who lives in a remote area can explore online options for counseling. Even if the person’s choices are limited, the key is in making the most of whatever is available.
If you struggle with bulimia — even if you’ve done so for many years — there is still hope for recovery. You don’t have to continue living in bondage. Below are some biblical principles to help you invite the Lord into your recovery.
When you are tempted to engage in bulimic behaviors, God will help you resist: “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even when the temptation is strong and it seems impossible to say no, pause and meditate on this verse.
Examine your thoughts, recognize the lies and negative self-talk that drive you to bulimic behaviors, and endeavor to replace them with truth and positive statements. Consider how doing this could help you change. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
In other words, changing your thoughts can change your behaviors. Wouldn’t you like to be transformed?
When you fear food or weight gain, or when you doubt you will break free of bulimia, remember the power that you have through Christ (2 Timothy 1:7). Also, focus on God’s love: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
As you can see, God’s love is a fitting and powerful antidote for fear. Meditate on scriptures about His love. Listen to music about His love, and look all around you for reminders of it. Hold tightly to that love and let it drive your fears away.
You can pray anytime, anywhere, and under any circumstance. God is always ready to listen. In spite of the voice in your head that tells you otherwise, the Lord will meet you where you are. “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12).
Realize there is One who knows you and your struggle better than anyone. The Lord stands ready to help and heal you. He wants you to live free of the bondage of bulimia. Why not surrender your recovery to Him today?
Perhaps you would like to say this prayer to help you do just that:
I realize that bulimia is too complicated to recover from alone, and I ask that You help me be open to getting the support and accountability I need. Please lead me to learn new coping skills, to resist the temptation to engage in bulimic behaviors, and to face and resolve underlying issues.
Thank You for Your love, patience, strength, and power. With You leading my recovery, I know that one day I will be free.
In Jesus’ name,
Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.