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You're not just binging, you have Bulimia Nervosa

We have to spill the tea on Bulimia.


With the final season of the hit show The Crown hitting Netflix this year, we are suddenly seeing a resurgence of content about Princess Diana and her battle with Bulimia. It has really got me thinking about how Bulimia is perceived so poorly in the media, and why so many of us misdiagnose our own Eating Disorders.


However, let’s start with a spoiler, you don’t have to make yourself sick to have Bulimia…so what actually is Bulimia Nervosa?





BULIMIA 101


So as much as I have loved The Crown, I was fairly disappointed by the way they showed Dianas Bulimia, purely because they showed such a stereotyped view of what it is. That’s not to say if Dianas experience has been similar to yours that it’s somehow lesser, it’s absolutely not, but I would love to see a broader spectrum of Bulimia on our screens.


Bulimia Nervosa is effectively binging on a large volume of food, then purging it again.

But what we don’t often see, is that vomiting is only one of four ways we can purge a binge.


We can;


1: Restricting our food intake or yo-yo dieting

2: Using laxatives or diet products

3: Excessive exercise

4: And of course, making yourself sick


The reality is, that using laxatives and making ourselves sick is actually very time-consuming, and requires a lot of time, energy, and space from others. So whilst I do see these types of purging with my clients, they are actually less frequent.







THE BRIDGET JONES EFFECT


So as a slightly elder millennial, I absolutely grew up with Bridget Jones. 

HOWEVER.


Whilst most people will see Bridget as having binges, I actually see her having Bulimia, and undiagnosed Bulimia at that. Why? Because throughout the books and series, we see Bridget grapple with numerous traumas via binging, then purging via restrictive eating. 


What I dislike most about lovely Bridget is that we are often supposed to find humour in her binging and purging cycles, like they are this hilarious thing we all go through and it’s entirely normal. But, all that really does is minimise her traumas.


So I see many clients coming through my doors with this Bridget Jones effect. They only see their binging, and think, well, I must just have Binge Eating Disorder. In fact, I would say that roughly ¾’s of my Bulimic clients initially misdiagnosed themselves with Binge Eating Disorder.







THE MINIMISING OF TRAUMA


So returning to Princess Di, the element of The Crown I did really appreciate as a specialist was the really strong focus on Diana's traumas, and how they absolutely contributed to her need to cope with Bulimia.


Because darling, an Eating Disorder isn’t just a personality quirk, it’s your way of coping with unprocessed trauma. 


But what is unprocessed trauma?

Diana is an amazing example; she is in a toxic relationship, in a high-pressure family unit, grilled under the public spotlight, on top of just trying to be the best mother she can be. If she was being held and supported through these traumas both by loved ones and professionals, it would have allowed her to process these experiences, and move into post-traumatic growth. Learning from her traumas, and moving forward with healthy boundaries.

However, it’s likely she was left alone in her traumas, meaning she had to find a way to cope.


Similarly, we see Bridget in a narcissistic relationship with her boss, watching her parents' chaotic marriage fall apart, and in a job that drained the life from her. Though she had friends and family around her, nobody was actually supporting her to process these experiences.


So in both scenarios we see these women binge as a way to detach from their traumas and self soothe, then purge as a way of making things ‘right’ again in an attempt to reach some sort of perfection they think will fix everything.







TAKEAWAY TEA


So the tea to take away today is, if you are binging, but also purging in any of the four ways we discussed, it’s not simply binge eating, its Bulimia. Bulimia Nervosa in any form is a serious and sometimes fatal Eating Disorder, so please, do reach out for support to a registered professional like myself, or your GP, to start your recovery journey today.


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