The lasting effects of eating disorders

It’s been a good six years since I went through a bout of bulemia. There’s not a lot to be said about it, really- I was depressed and suicidal on account of being ostracized for my sexuality. I also- and I cringe at the stereotype that I was enforcing on myself- really, really wanted to be a “pretty girl.”

As far as bulemia and every other very bad thing ™ in my life at the time goes I (and several friends who will probably never know the extent of my gratitude) halted the downward spiral in time. For me, the cycle lasted a year. I was lucky.

Now those of you who have met me will note that I am not, shall we say, thin and waif-like. Short and somewhat overweight is a more accurate description, and it’s for this reason that I’ve decided to start a diet. A healthy, measured one that involves no hunkering over toilet bowls and and reliance on breath mints. No, this time I’m trying diet and exercise, as supervised by my dear friend and fellow dieter Renegade Librarian.

The lasting effects in my case are, I’m sure, completely predictable. I’m afraid of diets on general principle, I have a passionate dislike for the way various people an institutions dictate what is or isn’t beautiful. And it’s been six years but I still have a fear of slipping back.

One more lasting effect: I’ll be damned if any daughter of mine is anorexic or bulemic for one minute.

I was wondering if any other dopers had stories that they’d like to share. Eating disorders just aren’t talked about, and I know from experience that silence is foolish and dangerous.

junior year of high school was my paranoia year. i wasn’t pretty enough, i wasn’t thin enough, i wasn’t smart enough, i wasn’t artistic enough, i wasn’t witty enough. you name any good attribute, and i wasn’t enough of it. this also made me paranoid that my friends weren’t really my friends, they were just humouring me.

so i stopped eating. that would make me better. i was a lot more … casual, i suppose, about it. i wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch, but if i was home for dinner, i’d have some dinner so i wouldn’t raise suspicions. the funny (“funny”) thing is that i managed to tell myself i wasn’t anorexic because i was overweight (which i was, i was a size 18-20 at 5’4").

i still remember the time i was so proud that i managed to go three days without eating anything at all. i always told myself “i feel fine.” then one day over vacation, i woke up, got out of bed, and prompty fell on the floor, passed out. i missed hitting my temple on the corner of the dresser by about an inch.

i went down from a size 18-20 to a size 8-10 in about a year. guess what size i am now? yeah, you guessed it: 18-20. :rolleyes: . i’m trying to do the same thing you are, andygirl, just eating right and being more active. but i’m scared to death that i’m going to start that over again. the first day, when i got the slight pangs of hunger (from a healthy eating-less, not starving myself), i unconsciously had that gut-feeling of empowerment, that i was in control. i need to check that, and so far i have.

so by just eating a decent lunch and dinner and a piece of fruit as a snack (nice healthy stuff), i’ve lost 12 lbs in two months. that’s nowhere near what i lost when i starved myself (i lost a pound a day for awhile, before my metabolism caught up with me), but all i need to do is not get frustrated and say, “keep it up, doing good!”. and i am, dammit! :slight_smile:

I’ve mentioned this on the Board before…my ex-wife was a recovering anorexic. Before I met her, she had spent nine months in hospital and nearly didn’t make it out.

I think my ex-wife’s case was a small tragedy in many ways. I’ve heard from her old friends how her personality changed before and after her illness. I think a part of her died in hospital and never returned. She had recovered physically when I met her, and most people who knew her afterwards, including my family, had little idea of what had happened to her, even though she had only recovered about two years before. Mentally things were a different matter. It was as if there were two of her: the intellectual, bubbly, friendly woman who I was attracted to, and the insecure, controlling, somewhat obsessive woman still coming to grips with her past. She was and is one of the most brilliant scholars I’ve ever known. I only hope that she will somehow find what she needs, whether it’s another person, another way of thinking, or another way out.

I obviously don’t have the same lasting effects as someone who had an eating disorder themselves, but I have noticed little things. Though my wife was recovered, she did still show signs around food. A few months ago I was eating lunch with a woman, and I was really surprised to watch her eat a meal, with dessert, and not once say “I shouldn’t be eating this” or “This is going to make me fat.” It may take me awhile to realise that is actually normal and healthy behaviour.

andygirl, I really commend your determination not to pass on your behaviour to your future children. My ex-mother-in-law also exhibited anorexic tendencies, as did her own mother. I feel in many ways eating disorders are a form of learned behaviour that can be passed on. I also commend you and zweisamkeit for speaking and recovering. The most positive thing I learned was that recovery from an eating disorder is a very difficult and lengthy process, and that talking about it can lead to recovery for others.

Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I know four other women who have/had one, and one of my best friends in high school was severly bulimic and was hospitalized three times for it. Psychologically, I’m sure damage is done- I can see it being hard to “deal with” food, dieting, exercise, etc. And as for society’s ideas of what is/isn’t beautiful- is there anyone who can actually agree with these? It’s terrible what TV, magazines, etc. are telling kids, nd I have a MAJOR problem with that, as I’m sure anyone who ever had an eating disorder would. But here’s what I’m wondering: are there any lasting physical effects of eating disorders? My friend now has osteoporosis at age 26 from her battle with bulimia. Are there any other side effects? Do you think making people aware of negative physical efects would be in any way a deterrent?

andygirl and others

I’m wondering how to deal with this when my daughter gets older. What are some good ways to deal with this?

Obviously, I will not do what my parents and extended family did, which is to say, “Oh, you are so beautiful. If you’d just lose some weight, you’d be so much lovlier.”


So, how do we as parents, or female role-models prevent this type of body-image problem in future generations?

I did not have an eating disorder, but I assiduously followed the diaet given to me by a quack maskerading as a real doctor. I was starving and quite sick by the time it all ended with another doctor telling me that the diet was killing me. I know and understand your fear. I don’t diet now, but do carefully monitor the other vital signs like blood pressure etc.

My advice? Well my husband is on a diet now and it seems to be working. He limits himself to three 500 Calorie meals and 2 snacks of not more than 250 calories each. Sometimes his snacks are less than 200 calories or he misses one, but he never misses a meal and never lets meals be more than 520 or less than 475 calories. The snacks are usually nibbly foods like pretzels so he can drag them out.

He takes a multivitamin with Iron. Since he is on a round of physical therapy he is careful to make sure he doesn’t cut back too much. He takes a multivitamin now, but did before the diet because he needs to avoid main foods because of gout. He is slowly losing weight.

He is set on losing weight because he needs a new knee and it is easier on the knee if he weighs less. They have revise upwards wtice what they want him to weigh. At first they were going to refuse him surgery until he weighed 180 and now it is between 210 and 220. He started at 270 in November and is at 240.

Annie, just quote half of what your extended family would say

Thank you, blushes, now, if you could just tell THEM that.

I just wanted to point out that it’s very important to remember that what defines an eating disorder is not its physical elements (food avoidance, purging, excessive dieting, etc.), but its emotional elements – the way that the sufferer responds to food.

It is possible to be eating a “normal, healthy diet” and still have an eating disorder.

Duke said:

That’s a woman who does not have an eating disorder.

To anyone who reads that quote and thinks, “But I could never feel that way given my history with food and eating disorders,” I have to say that it is possible to get there, even after years of serious problems with food. It takes a lot of hard work with a competent therapist or counselor, but it can be done. And the rewards of truly feeling good about yourself and at ease with your body are far greater than the fleeting joy of wearing a smaller size.

As for the issue of raising children with a healthy attitude toward food/weight/self image, it’s something I think about all the time. The only advice I have is that children model their parent’s behavior. If your own relationship with food is healthy and happy, that’s the best start for your child. In our recent thread about media and self-image, women overwhelming reported that it was the attitude of their mothers, rather than media images, which most influenced their feelings about themselves.

Yeah, my mother and her “My God, you need to lose weight so you don’t end up fat like me… here, I baked some chocolate chip cookies” was, how to say it… not helpful.