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When I made myself throw up for the first time, bulimia heart problems were the last thing I had on my mind. I wanted to stay thin. I wanted to eat...
Throwing up my food would help me have both of these things.
But there was something that I didn't realize as an 8 year old kid throwing up behind the huge lucky bean tree in our garden:
Bulimia would also escort me all the way to deaths door.
Never in a million years did I realize exactly what I was getting myself into...
The side effects of bulimia entered into my life slowly, but steadily...
First of all came the mood swings. I know these aren't really dangerous as such, but as a young child battling bulimia, I did swing a few punches at my poor sisters!
Then began the gradual thinning of my hair. This happened over many years and so I didn't even register what was going on... I just though I had bad 'hair genes!'
Then my teeth began to rot. Fillings, root canals and false teeth galore!
As I got older and my bulimia went from one extreme to the next, I began to dance with the most dangerous bulimia side effect of them all...
My electrolyte imbalances were caused by purging - often more than 15 times per day! Vomiting upset my body's natural balance of fluids and ions and over time this lead to imbalances in my electrolytes such as potassium.
Even back then I knew that electrolyte imbalances could cause a fatal disruption of the normal heartbeat rhythm (aka: a bulimia heart attack), but I pushed this terrifying thought to the back of my mind. I tried not to think about it.
But as time passed, I was forced to confront it...
First came the chest pains: The feeling that somebody was sticking a knitting needle into my heart.
Secondly came extreme muscle weakness: To the point that I would dribble all over my pillow because I could not force myself to move... I felt semi-paralysed at times!
And then I began to notice my heartbeat was irregular. Sometimes it would race, then slow, then it would seem to miss a beat. At these times it felt like I was going to feint.
I began to get visions of my mom walking into the bathroom... Finding me dead on the floor in a puddle of my own puke. I'd seen a similar picture on the internet and it had been burned into my mind.
In a way, it was my extreme fear of having a heart attack that forced me to begin walking the first shaky steps towards recovery.
Steps like opening up about my bulimia, talking to a counselor and researching different recovery techniques.
It was these first steps that ultimately lead me to where I am now - complete bulimia recovery for over 6 years!
But that road did take time to walk. It was 7 months before I managed to have even a single day without bingeing and purging...
My recovery was a gradual improvement.
For many months in my recovery I was still binging and purging. It had been such a deeply engrained habit and it was going to take time to overcome completely.
While I was working on this I wanted to make sure that my electrolyte levels returned to healthy levels...
I wanted to make sure I would not have a bulimia heart attack!
The way I did this was to drink an electrolyte replenishing smoothie at least once a day - and to keep it down!
This was a challenge of course, but the fear of having a bulimia heart attack made me do it (most of the time at least).
If you think you might have an electrolyte imbalance - please do as I did and drink this smoothie at least once a day. Here's the recipe...
2-3 dates (medjool dates are best y-y-yum!)
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup of calcium enriched milk (use rice or coconut milk if dairy gives you bloating)
Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. It may help to heat the dates in some hot water for 1 minute before blending (to soften them)
Pour the smoothie into a nice glass... We all know things taste even better when they look nice!
Drink it slowly and savor each sip. If you find it hard to keep anything down - then drink it before bed so that you can digest it while you sleep. If you think you can manage, drink it for breakfast - it's a healthy start to the day.
Try not to focus on any negatives whilst drinking and digesting this smoothie... Focus on what it's doing for your health and how it will help your body gain strength to beat bulimia!
Try your best not to throw up for at least a few hours after drinking this smoothie. This will allow your body to absorb the electrolytes from it.
NOTE: You can experiment with the recipe as long as it includes the dates and bananas :)
Drinking electrolyte replenishing smoothies, eating potassium rich foods and taking supplements (visit your doctor to get these prescribed) will help to hugely reduce your chances of having a heart attack...
But the only way to guarantee you don't have a bulimia heart attack is to beat bulimia... Of course.
Now please don't let your heart sink because bulimia recovery is completely possible!
Yes, it's a long journey full of plenty of ups and downs... but if I recovered then I know without a doubt, that you can too!
Take one step today that gets you closer towards recovery... It could be:
Whatever you decide to do remember that bulimia recovery is amazing and it's worth every challenge along the way!
You have so much strength within you and I know you can fight through this!
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community