I was a purging flunky. I remember back in high school when I first got whirled onto the merry-go-round called the Ferocious Foursome. I had been on a diet (even though looking back I didn’t need to lose weight) and of course the feelings of deprivation consumed me. This led to an all-out binge, in which I ate everything except the TV. (You’ve probably been there, done that, and got the tee-shirt.) So I figured there was only one thing I could do – throw up. Of course! The perfect cure-all. I tried, but was unable able to accomplish the mighty feat. So I tried again, and instantly remembered why I hated getting sick.
At first I got mad at myself for not being able to hack the act of hacking up. It seemed like quite a few people were doing it. At the time I did not know that 18-20% of people with eating disorders would die within twenty years. I thought purging was the new ‘magic weight-loss answer’. I had no idea that years later statistics would flood in about the life-threatening health concerns associated with bulimia. Many would end up accidentally killing themselves due to the horrific damage on their bodies. Bulimia would eat up the lives of many girls and women, leaving behind families who were drowning in their tears.
As a purging flunky, I skipped level three of the Ferocious Foursome and went on to the final four. I ended up getting addicted to exercise for a few years. Maybe you are wondering how anyone could possibly get addicted to exercise. The biggest reason is that endorphins are produced. Endorphins are similar to opiates, and provide a natural high. Another definition describes endorphins as morphine-like substances originating from within the body. The endorphins, combined with the payoff of looking and feeling superb, attract people into exercising more and more. If you think of over-exercising in those terms, you may begin to understand how people get addicted.
Bulimia of the purging or over-exercising type often emerges after a young woman’s boyfriend breaks up with her. ( To be more precise, one form of bulimia does not involve throwing up, but is based on over-exercising.) A young woman compares herself to other young women, and starts to believe it was all about the size of her hips. Comparing and coveting is an ugly animal, so it is no wonder that God commanded us not to go there. He knows that comparing and coveting poisons our hearts. Even so, we have all driven in the fast lane of Coveting Road, probably more often than we realize. The type of coveting I am speaking about in this case is when you see a beautiful, thin woman and you really wish you had her body. Part of you believes this would give you the perfect life. The problem is that because we live in a fallen world, there is no perfect life this side of heaven.
The “stinking thinking” (this is a twelve-step phrase) that if only I were skinny, then my boyfriend would not have left me gets programmed into her heart. So she kicks her dieting into high gear, but later on blows her diet and binges. So she resorts to purging or over-exercising. Either one of the two meet the criteria of bulimia if they are entrenched enough, according to the DSM-IV TR, which is the official manual of diagnoses.
Once the stinking thinking takes root in her heart, she feels that if she were thinner, then she could have kept her boyfriend. Sometimes the guys throw darts of violent words about their girlfriends’ bodies, but even if they don’t, the girls are often spurred into bulimia. (By the way, that is called abuse.) The hundreds of thousands of messages in the media that endlessly echo “to be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything” shoot darts into her heart until it bleeds tears.
Since they cannot stay on the diet wagon forever, girls and women (as well as a growing number of boys and men) quickly grasp the idea that they can throw up their food and get away with it. On the surface, it seems like the only solution, but decades of research shows that throwing up quickly morphs into an addiction. Bulimia is profoundly more damaging than once thought. Those of us who were “too sissy” to purge finally realized that it was a blessing in disguise. My heart cries oceans of tears for those who are entangled with the beast of bulimia. Bulimia is certainly a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it seems so innocent in the beginning.
What if you could get off the dieting/bingeing merry-go-round forever? What if you could celebrate the body that God has given you, and say goodbye to the Body Image Bandit? Continue in this voyage of healing as we share in the celebration of kicking the Body Image Bandit out of our lives.