Letting Go of the Weight Loss Obsession in Bulimia RecoveryOct 26, 2023
Bulimia nervosa is a complex and deeply personal struggle faced by many individuals. In the midst of this battle, the desire for weight loss can infiltrate one's thoughts and emotions. In this blog, I aim to convey a vital message: relinquishing the pursuit of weight loss represents a fundamental step towards healing and recovery from bulimia. Read on as I delve into the rationale behind this notion and unveil an alternative path towards well-being and happiness.
The Illusion of Weight Loss: The prevailing cultural narrative has long emphasized weight loss as the ultimate key to happiness, love, and good health. However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that this widespread focus on weight loss is far from the panacea it's portrayed to be.
If weight loss were indeed the answer to our problems, one would naturally expect to witness a decrease in health concerns and eating disorder statistics, considering our society's grand focus on dieting and achieving the “ideal” physique. Tragically, the opposite trend has emerged. The relentless fixation on weight loss has proven itself to be ineffective in addressing the root causes of these issues. Statistics prove that diets do not work, can eventually cause greater weight gain and health consequences, and can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia.
The Myth about Purging: If you believe that purging, whether through self-induced vomiting or non-purging behaviors such as the misuse of laxatives and extreme exercise, is an effective path to weight loss, you are sadly mistaken. Your body goes into survival mode because these purging behaviors are so destructive. As John Hopkins Medicine notes, "Bulimia, and the malnutrition that results, can affect nearly every organ system in the body. Bulimia can be deadly." Moreover, in the beginning, purging may help you lose weight, but over time, the body learns to compensate, resulting in a slower metabolism. This is why many people with bulimia maintain a normal or above-normal body weight.
Shifting the Focus: For those who find themselves below their natural-healthy weight range, continuing to harbor the desire for weight loss is not just inappropriate but potentially life-threatening. Even if you are within your natural healthy weight range, an unrelenting focus on weight can be a formidable obstacle to developing a healthier relationship with food and exercise.
You may be wondering, "What if my doctor has recommended weight loss?" Our response is not to disregard medical advice but to reconsider the primary focus. Rather than making weight loss the central goal, we advocate for prioritizing your health and happiness. It's through this shift in perspective that the most effective changes take root.
Positive Psychology vs. Negative Psychology: It's a matter of rephrasing your thoughts. Instead of contemplating, "My doctor is concerned about me, so I need to lose weight. What diet or lifestyle should I follow?" consider the alternative: "My doctor is concerned about me, so I want to prioritize my health. What can I do to care for myself in a way that brings about greater well-being and leads to a more fulfilling life?"
One of my esteemed mentors, Marc David, once shared a quote that resonates deeply: "We need to love ourselves into change and transformation rather than hate ourselves into it." What is amazing is that time and time again, when someone’s focus genuinely changes, and if the body wants to shift, weight loss will occur naturally in due time.
Determining Your Healthy Weight Range: Identifying your natural healthy weight range is not solely about the numbers on a scale. A healthcare professional well-versed in the latest research, who approaches each patient holistically, and exhibits good bedside manners, can guide you in this journey. However, if such a professional isn't accessible to your currently, I recommend seeking one out. In addition to this, here is a list of physical and psychological indicators, as found in the "8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder," by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb to help you gauge your status without relying solely on the scale.
Physical Indicators of Natural Weight Range:
- Weight range is maintained without engaging in eating disorder behaviors.
- Having regular menstruation every month and normal hormone levels.
- Normal blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
- Normal blood chemistry values such as electrolytes, white and red blood counts, etc.
- Normal levels of energy (not exhausted, shaky, or agitated all day).
- Normal, or at least some, sex drive.
Psychological Indicators of Natural Weight Range:
- Ability to concentrate and focus.
- Normal social life with authentic, in person relationships (not just online).
- Decrease in or cessation of obsessive thoughts or food carvings or urges to binge.
- Ability to choose freely what to eat both when alone and with others.
- Ability to eat at restaurants, at friend's houses, at parties, and on vacations.
- Absence of food rituals dictating eating patterns and behaviors.
- No erratic mood swings.
The Crucial Element of Trust: Before I conclude, I understand that doubt may linger. You might agree with my perspective yet remain determined to exist at the lowest weight possible or at the very least the lower end of your weight range, believing it's possible to be both healthy and happy at this extreme. However, this approach is likely to keep you enslaved in the grasp of your eating disorder.
If genuine recovery is your aspiration, it demands an element of trust. Trust is not only a crucial lesson but also a gift within your journey to recovery. I acknowledge the fear it may evoke, but it's the only path towards complete liberation. To reiterate, once you heal your relationship with food, your body will follow suit, naturally settling into a healthy equilibrium that aligns with this stage of your life and lifestyle. And when this harmony is achieved, you'll be free to relish life to its fullest.
“Many people with bulimia don’t seek help until they reach the ages of 30 or 50.” – John Hopkins Medicine. If this is where you are at – you are NOT alone. If you are younger, jump ahead of the statistics and choose recovery NOW.
In conclusion, shifting your focus away from weight loss and towards health and happiness is a crucial step on your journey to recovery from bulimia. It's about understanding that your well-being is more than just a number on a scale and that genuine recovery involves learning to trust your body and prioritize self-care. By embracing this new perspective, you can find true liberation and enjoy life to the fullest.
Author: Sarah Lee
Certified Eating Disorder Recovery Coach, CCIEDC
Fully recovered from Bulimia since 2006
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Resource credit: John Hopkins Medicine, Buy the 8 Keys to Recovery from and Eating Disorder NOW