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Problem Solving

by Zoe

I think that one of the hardest things about Bulimia for me is that I'm not sure how to get rid of it. I am an intelligent person, and one of my greatest pleasures in life is problem solving. I love to look at things rationally and objectively and sort out a plan or method to resolve them, but with my eating disorder this approach just never works. I think I have found the root of my eating habits and for a while I seem to be improving, but then a few weeks later I get worse again and the reasons behind it just don't seem to be the same. Bulimia is a very complicated illness! I know it relates to my anxiety about absolutely EVERYTHING, and to my very underdeveloped self-esteem, but I have so many other 'triggers' too - i just wish it were clear cut, or at least 'cut' in the sense that there is a cause-effect-resolution pattern. But there just isn't!

Because of this I decided to look back at each binge and try to figure out what caused that specific binge. In time I have compiled a list of 'triggers' for my reference, and can put the into 5 main categories:

1. Worry
I have always had a very big imagination. I was that kid who wouldn't sleep unless the cupboard had been scoured for monsters before lights out, the teen with a pattern of weekly panic attacks, the young adult who never makes any life choices because when each choice reaches the 'pros and cons' stage in my mind it enters an endless cycle of being analysed and worried about, and nothing is ever definitively done. I over analyse everything, and always think of the worst case scenario. I also find ambiguity to be particularly stressful; not knowing about something, having no control over something, not being able to make concrete plans; I just can't deal with things being up in the air.

I think my bulimia is absolutely intrinsic with this anxiety; my 'worry' is not only for situational and external things such as 'when will he let me know if I have the job or not?' or 'I can't go to India! What if I get some hideous disease?'. It can be for ANYTHING, and while I will use binge eating as consolation for ANY source of stress, I know that my anxiety over looking stick thin and my unrealistic expectations on how thin I should be and how quickly I will become HUGE if I don't stick to my diet, greatly contribute to my Bulimia.

2. Boredom/loneliness/depression
These are 3 separate things, yes, but for me they all relate. I am bored. I am lonely, therefore I am bored. I am depressed, therefore I isolate myself and am lonely, and I find less enjoyment in life and am bored. I eat to fill that hole. Food is my companion, she comforts me. And yet, even when eating I don't actually feel satisfied! It's because food is not the answer to my problem; I am bored? I need to change my attitude. I am lonely? I need to look at why. I am depressed? Yes, it is clinical, and I can talk to my counsellor and try to regain a more positive outlook. Eating just doesn't help; only I am constantly convinced it will.

3. Previous binge/purge (cycle)
I find that if I binge once it is very very hard to not binge the next day, and the next, etc. I sort of lose control! For me purging is a mixture of fasting and exercise (I don't vomit or make myself poo, largely because I have tried and don't like either method). So if I binge I spend HOURS obsessing over how many meals I have essentially covered in said binge, and miss those meals accordingly. Of course, this makes me absolutely ravenous so the next time I allow myself to eat I end up eating MUCH more than I need, and the purging cycle begins.

4. Dissatisfaction with myself (body image)
I am thin. I am actually underweight according to my dietitian (a fact which, I am ashamed to say, made me feel so very good about myself). I happen to really like my weight; I feel beautiful because of my flat flat stomach and lean legs, my sticky arms and tiny waist. I panic at the thought of losing that because to me my outer appearance is what makes me loveable! And I am convinced that if I just let lose and allow myself to eat when I am hungry rather than restricting and restricting, I will gain weight! I guess what I need to ask myself is...
What do I dislike about my insides so much that my outsides are so important? Isn't it character which makes a person? How can I love me?

5. Need for control
I am 19 and very emotionally mature, and I still live at home. Yeah yeah ok so as a 19 year old I probably should be at home still, I mean, I'm still young. I get it. But I don't feel young! Like I said, I am emotionally mature. I am currently 2 weeks away from a 5 month trip of solo travel for which I have saved myself, and the visa/passport/police check/vaccinations/packing/flights/itinerary/etc for which I have dealt with completely on my own because I love to be independent. I love to have control in my life. And you know what I think my Bulimia is often a symptom of that - I still live as an extension of my parents, and I love them so very much but you know what I really need to get out and start fending for myself. Food and my weight/appearance is one of the few things that I can be completely in control of.

So, now if I find myself spiralling downwards again (and believe me it happens a lot) I have a list of 5 things I know can trigger my habits to look at as a starting point to figuring out why on earth I've suddenly gone backwards! Often it takes a bit of digging but I find that if I know why I can sit back and look at my choices a little more calmly, and figure out some way of addressing them. Problem solving. Bulimia is NOT black and white, and it is NOT clear cut, but it is also NEVER without a cause and the sooner we sufferers take the time to figure out what the causes are for us, the easier recovery will be.

Stay strong everyone!

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
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