Eating issues... sigh.
November 16, 2005 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Help! I've been suffering from a mild form of bulimia for four years and really need to stop.

Oddly enough I'm not a teenage girl; I'm a 26 year-old male, approximately 180 lbs, college educated, and successfully employed. In general I have my shit together except for my disordered eating, which strikes approximately once a week. These episodes, which last a couple of hours, usually occur in the morning or evening, before the start of my day or upon the conclusion, respectively. The binge and purge sessions are preceded by anxiety or exhaustion. I suspect that this tendency is a knee-jerk, low-level comfort and relaxation mechanism. After episodes I usually tidy up my living space and self, vow never to do it again, and return to my regular routine even more motivated. The whole ordeal is time-consuming, exhausting, and just plain dumb. It distances me from friends, ruins plans, causes absenteeism from work, and harms my health. I am so sick of it!

I suffer from mild depression and have been taking medication to treat it for over eight years. In attempt to regain control over my eating, I saw a counselor but eventually quit when our progress seemed to plateau; I read a book on the subject; I've rid and filled my house with sweets and snacks; I've structured and relaxed my diet; I've meddled with veganism, eventually settling on vegetarianism for unrelated reasons; I've made promises and kept journals; I've structured and unstructured my day. In general my tendency is to become more disciplined and structured, that is more obsessive-compulsive, rather than more relaxed.

Prior to my eating disorder my priorities changed, I started exercising and eating healthier. I went from weighing 230 to 190. I observed a change in the attitudes of those around me, dates became easier, and I felt better about myself. I suppose I pursued this end to the extreme and eventually lost control, leading to the situation I now find myself in.

Physically, I exercise nearly every day with climbing, jogging, yoga, and hiking being the most common activities. While I really do enjoy exercise, I am also partially motivated by a sense of guilt and obligation. Socially, I have a group of a dozen or so friends in the area and more scattered around the United States. Although I am not currently dating, I have had girlfriends during this time. A few of my friends are aware of this issue; however, most are not as I prefer not to discuss it. Mentally, I am taking courses towards a masters degree and working full-time. While my job is certainly not my passion it pays the bills, enabling me to pursue interests outside of work.

It is with desperation that I ask the metafilter community for help. How did you or someone you know overcome an eating disorder? What strategies should I employ? What resources should I consider? How do I overcome this obstacle?

Answers and questions can be sent to: if you prefer.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First off I feel for you and am sorry this is happening to you. I have experience both personally (not too serious) and helping a close friend (extremely serious) and I do know what you are going through.

First thing I suggest is to find a new councelor, try a few if you have to but keep going once you find one that you feels helps. Second is to reexamine your anti-depression medication, while a link has not been proven there is circumstancial evidence that eating disorders can be triggered by long exposures to certain anti-depressants, I've seen a medication change appear to help the eating-disorder recovery process more than once.

Lastly keep up the fight, it's a tough one but you can win and always, always remember; it has nothing to do with food, it really doesn't.
posted by Cosine at 9:53 AM on November 16, 2005

I cannot stress enough: go back to a counsellor.

Even if it is once a week, you're still playing merry cob with your body and health.

I had the support of my friends to help get me through it when I was an active sufferer (I count myself as having been in recovery for two years), but I wish to high heaven I'd gone to therapy years ago, because the long term health effects I suffer are completely not worth what I went through. It's a lot easier to cope with this kind of thing, to get to the root of the problem, when you're getting the guidance of a trained professional.

So please, please, for the sake of your long term health, go back to a counsellor, if not a full out licensed medical therapist with a concentration in eating disorders. They can help you get to the bottom of things. It sounds like this is less of a weight issue and more of a control and anxiety relief issue (along the lines of self-mutilation), but only a professional can really help.
posted by angeline at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2005

Wow. The most important thing you've told us is that you have a problem and you want help. That takes so much strength. Thank you for trusting us.

I definitely agree that you need to continue discussing these issues with a licensed professional. You mention that you are taking prescription medication for depression, are you comfortable mentioning these episodes to whoever it is that prescribes for you? Are they already aware that you have this problem? If they are aware, do they check in with you on it? How often are your visits with this person? Would you be comfortable getting a recommendation from that individual for a therapist? A change in medication may be possible, but I am not a doctor.

Something to think about... you mention that you are successfully employed but that you are not passionate about your job. Counseling may help you find a work life that fulfills you in a way that seems starkly absent from your life now. I've had less than perfect jobs, they alone are not healthy for "normal" people, and I think you deserve to take a hard look at what it is you want to be doing, and be successful. There are millions of people loving every (ok, most) minute of their jobs and getting paid very very well. Part of me is worried that you are afraid of being a success, and that your definition of success may benefit from a little shift.

Good luck
posted by bilabial at 10:10 AM on November 16, 2005

Look, you already know you should probably go back to therapy so I'm just going to tell you what else worked for me.

My situation was similar to yours in that my bulimia was not an everyday thing - more like once or twice a week for several years starting in my early twenties. Additionally, my bulimia started after a significant amount of weight loss. My dieting and weight loss made me obsess about food and paranoid about weight gain.

What eventually "cured" me was hypnosis. Seriously. I saw a hypnotist for several sessions and my attitude about food changed completely. I was no longer obessed with/possesed by food. I feel free now. My binging behavior stopped and my interest in purging disappeared.

I would also recommend a book with CD by Paul McKenna called "I Can Make You Thin". (Terrible title, I know, but actually a very helpful resource.) It is designed as a diet book but really it is all about developing a healthy, natural approach to eating. It comes with a hypnosis CD which I found tremendously effective. You don't indicate where you live - it's not available in the states but you can order it online at I ordered it from there and had it shipped to the states - it was not a lot of money and for me was more effective than traditional therapy.
posted by peppermint22 at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2005

Congratulations on wanting to tackle this!! I am so proud of you!!! I really mean it.

I know very little about this issue but it seems to me that monsters live in the dark and the more you are able to talk openly about this in a supportive environment, the more you will control it instead of it controlling you. I know there is a group out there who will help support you through it, and I am sure there are a lot of other men out there having this issue. You're not the first man I've heard of who is struggling with this. Ditto on what everyone else said about the counselling. Also I found weight watchers to be a very supportive group who provide a lot of good information about nutrition.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:37 AM on November 16, 2005

If anxiety is part of the problem you might get something out of techniques and self help groups that particularly focus on that. People do things they don't want to do to shut out the anxiety, and it can help to confront it.

Hope this helps a little bit.
posted by lunkfish at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2005

My suggestion is to talk to a real psychiatrist that deals with eating disorders (even one for men in particular) as well as a therapist that works with people with eating disorders (possibly even someon that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - there has been much success using this form for eating disorders). You don't want a regular psychology counselor here - and you don't want to get frustrated while dealing with someone who isn't trained in these sorts of issues.

I personally would recommend seeing the psychiatrist first. There are methods, both pharmaceutical and others, that in combination can have a large effect for those in your position - especially who are seriously ready to address their fears as you seem to be. He or she can recommend a non-shrink therapist if you'd like. There are also eating disorder *clinics* which would be perfect - they are more all-compassing in their approach, with appropriate support groups, psychiatrists, counselors, etc.
posted by barnone at 1:57 PM on November 16, 2005

PS: this is by no means medical advice, talk to your doctor, it's just my experience in watching others go through this and what has worked the best for them.
posted by barnone at 1:57 PM on November 16, 2005

Remember that Bulemia isn't usually the actual problem, its your mind's way of dealing with a problem. The important part is to find what causes your anxiety.

I would keep a journal/notebook around for the specific reason of writing in it before and after the sessions. Write down EVERYTHING about what you are feeling before, and EVERYTHING that you're feeling afterwards.... don't write about how you feel different, pretend that you didn't just write something 30 minutes prior....

Then, when you're in a more stable frame of mind, read over the entries and find out what need the bulemia fills...
posted by hatsix at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

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