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You know that feeling after a competition when you're in your "Post-comp-anabolic-rebound-I-could-eat-5000-calories-in-one-sitting" phase? It's pretty awesome isn't it?
Just eating and eating and eating until you're blue in the face. But then... the aftermath. The bloat. The carbohydrate and salt retention. The nausea, wooziness, headache, shakes... it's not so much fun anymore, is it?
Well, how do you think you would feel if you went through that every week? Sometimes twice a week. You'd feel pretty gross. So gross that maybe you would do whatever it took to purge away those feelings (and the food) so that you could continue to live normally again. Even if you knew that purging was unhealthy.
However, once you purge, you start to feel empty again. Empty and hungry. Thus creating the vicious cycle of binging and purging, also known as bulimia nervosa. It's not a fun cycle, and I can tell you that first hand. Because I'm trying to recover from it.
It all started way back in 1998, when I was 11, and didn't think I was good enough for my parents, so I just wanted to disappear. Isn't that sad? My first diet was when I was 11. Anyway, long-story short, 8 years, 3 hospitalizations, and about 25 pounds later, I was 19 and a skeletal 95 pounds with 4.9% body fat (according to a DEXA scan).
I was on the verge of death from anorexia, when I decided (thanks to the help of loving family, friends, and online support from a great fitness site's forum members) to clean up my act and get healthy.
| Anorexia Nervosa:
Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric illness that describes an eating disorder characterized by extremely low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Individuals with anorexia are known to control body weight commonly through the means of voluntary starvation, excessive exercise, or other weight control measures such as diet pills or diuretic drugs.
Long-story short again, 2 years after I decided to get better, I got up to 165 pounds, and dieted back down to 138 for a competition in November of 2008. It was thrilling to be able to see my abs, striations and veins again. What a feeling! (Those of you who are competitors know what I'm talking about).
However, with the post-contest period came the post-contest binge. It started with 24 hours; I enjoyed myself with friends and family. 24 hours turned into a week. A week turned into a month. I was still binging by December 20.
I remember the date vividly, because it was the first time I had purchased laxatives. I was with my mom in Florida, and had just eaten 5 protein bars, a whole rotisserie chicken, and a box of rice krispie squares. I was sick to my stomach, and didn't know how to make the bloat go away.
So I walked to the nearest CVS, and bought a pharmaceutical laxative. I won't go into details, but I'll just say that I felt better. But not only that, I felt purged physically and emotionally from the binge that had just occurred. I didn't feel it in my stomach anymore, and I didn't feel the guilty of going 'off my diet' because my stomach was empty again.
I thought to myself, "Man! I can get used to this! Eat as much as I want, knowing that I can just get rid of it again." So I started using laxatives. But that wasn't all. I was also doing 1.5 - 2 hours of cardio a day in addition to my weight training. I did it to help burn more calories, to allow myself to eat more calories, and again, to feel that euphoric sense of purging my emotions and the guilt associated with the binge. Clearly I was starting a dangerous, downhill slope into an unhealthy vortex.
I brought my unhealthy habits back from Florida to Canada. No one knew. Not even my mom. I'd consume a normal amount of food in public (probably even less), and then when I was alone, I'd eat whatever was in sight. Then, I'd purge. Binge, purge, binge, purge.
On and on it went. I don't know whether it was the fact that I'd always promise myself that "I'll diet tomorrow", thus giving me the freedom to eat whatever I wanted that night, or whether it was boredom, or simply the fact that I was still only 10 lbs above my competition weight, and was maintaining that quite well.
Whatever the reason, I couldn't get myself out, and I needed help. I would enter online transformation contests, or make dates to compete again, but they were all in vain, as I wasn't really getting to the root of the problem. I couldn't figure out what was making me binge in the first place.
And what's worse is that if I would start off my day with something that wasn't necessarily on the plan, then I would say, "Well, my day is officially ruined. Might as well spend the next 16 waking hours eating crap." So the cycle continued.
I'd try to go on warp speed fat loss diets, protein sparing modified fasts, grapefruit diets, but nothing was helpful because they were all bandaid solutions. Not to mention, the whole time in the back of my mind, I'm reminding myself just how badly I'm treating my body (putting your fingers down your throat, using laxatives and doing 2 hours of cardio a day aren't exactly ideal pictures of health).
The anorexia has left me permanently barren (not able to have children), and I'll be lucky if my estrogen levels will ever get up to the low side of normal. So compound those previous problems with the ones I could be causing myself now, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The problem is, I don't know how to stop. To the average person, the answer is easy, "Don't binge." But if you've never had an eating disorder, or if you don't have an addictive personality, then you really don't know what it's like to crave something so badly that it literally starts to hurt after a while. This is how it feels if I don't get a "fix", and then how it feels again when I do get a "fix", but don't purge.
As of this week, I've enlisted the help of a psychologist (one who helped me during the anorexia), and hopefully the talk therapy will help get to the root of my issues.
In the meantime, I have the most incredible support group of people on my fitness journal who encourage me daily (it's very hard to tell my friends in person, as they tend to act somewhat distant and tread too carefully when we're together), and whom I consider like family. So that's where I'm at in my struggle right now. What does 'therapy' consist of, and how does someone take that leap?
Everyone's mind works differently, and everyone's personalities are different, so you have to find a talk-doctor (that's what I call them), that meshes with you. If you don't feel comfortable around your psych, then there's no point in going to him/her, because chances are, you'll hold back, and the problem won't be resolved.
The difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor. A psychologist may hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) and be called "doctor"; but, is not a medical doctor (M.D.). So a psychiatrist can prescribe you meds if you're depressed, but a psychologist can't (Note: I am not on medication).
The best way to go about finding a doctor is by word of mouth, or hospital referral. I found my psych by contacting the Hospital for Sick Kids, and asking who they would recommend that specializes in eating disorders. I used the same doctor for 2 years after I was discharged from hospital with anorexia, and am not going back to the same doctor (because I believe he had a lot to do with my recovery the first time).
If you don't think a psychologist/psychiatrist is for you, that's OK. There are other ways to work out solutions. It's been proven in research that social support groups and networks are an integral part of people's desire to stick to a goal. When you tell people what you want to achieve, you create an element of accountability and trust.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Social Support Groups And Networks Are An Integral
Part Of People's Desire To Stick To A Goal.
The more people you tell, the more accountable you are. That's why joining a BodyGroup, starting a blog or a journal online, or just getting together with a group of friends who have the same goal can be exponentially more effective than trying to do something for yourself.
My journal in the Derek Charlebois section of the forums has been up and running since September 2007, and I have no plans to go anywhere else. The support, encouragement and motivation I get hourly, have done wonders for my self-esteem, confidence and willpower to stick with my recovery. I couldn't ask to be surrounded by a better group of people. They're like my family.
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Different Types Of Disorders
I am going to read off the clinical definitions of the types of eating disorders (according to the DSM-IV), as I feel these will cover all the bases, and give you the most solid descriptions of them.
1. Bulimia Nervosa:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
- Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
- Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting, or excessive exercise.
- The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors occur, on average, at least twice a week for three months.
- Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
- The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of Anorexia Nervosa.
2. Anorexia Nervosa:
- Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
- In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.
3. Binge-Eating Disorder:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode is characterized by:
- Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short period of time (within any two hour period).
- Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (i.e. the feeling that one cannot stop eating).
- Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eating much more rapidly than normal.
- Eating alone because you are embarrassed by how much you're eating.
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.
- Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
- Binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for six months.
- The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behavior (i.e. purging, excessive exercise, etc.) and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.
4. Sham Eating:
This one is relatively new, and not necessarily an 'Eating Disorder' per se, but rather, it involves severely disordered eating. It occurs when the person puts food in their mouth, chews it, and then spits it out (so that
calories are not absorbed).
|FOR MORE INFORMATION ON EATING DISORDERS|
While I don't wish an eating disorder upon anyone, I hope that if you're out there reading this, and you have one, you learn from my mistakes, and catch it early. Don't let something like this fester, or assume that you can get better on your own. I've tried. And failed, miserably. It doesn't mean you're a weak person. On the contrary!
Related Eating Disorders Articles:
It takes a very strong person to admit they have a problem, and need help. So seek out professional guidance, and do as much reading as you can about the disorder. If you know anyone who you suspect might have an eating disorder, I encourage you to talk to them and get them help. This isn't the kind of thing you want lingering.
Check Out Jaime Filer's Contest Prep Blogs Here.