Bulimia Nervosa: So Empty, Yet So Full

What do Paula Abdul, Elton John, Princess Diana, Sally Field, Joan Rivers, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Jane Fonda, Terri Schiavo, and the Barbie Twins all have in common? They all have suffered from a life-threatening eating disorder called Bulimia...

Eating disorders, such as bulimia, are treatable diseases. If bulimia is treated within the first 5 years of onset, the recovery rate is 80%. Treatment is very similar to that for substance abuse. The most successful treatment is a combination of counseling, behavioral therapy, education, and frequently antidepressant medication (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, or Luvox). Eating disorders are really not about food, but about self worth, perception and esteem. The goal of therapy is to change the subject's attitudes about eating, weight, and body image. Serious medical complications may require hospitalization related to cardiac, gastrointestinal or respiratory injury, or to restore hydration and regulate electrolytes. The subject may require ongoing medical attention related to stomach and esophagus injuries, as well as colon and kidney damage. Bulimics often need extensive dental work as well.

Eating Disorders and Western Culture

Annually, Americans spend over $35 billion on dieting or diet related products, and $13 billion on cosmetic surgery. 80% of all ten year olds are worried about being fat. Many girls begin playing with Barbie dolls as toddlers. If Barbie was a real person she would 5'9", weigh 101 pounds, and have a 36-inch bust, an 18-inch waist, and 33-inch hips. Open any woman's magazine and you will find an article on dieting. Thin actors and actresses dominate movie and television screens, and are invariably the stars. The media message is crystal clear: thin people are happier, more popular, powerful, and successful. Lose weight; get a makeover; some plastic surgery and your life will be rosier. Any consequences are generally viewed as inconsequential.


If you encounter a citizen, suspect, friend or family member who shows the symptoms of bulimia nervosa you should refer them to both a primary care physician and mental health care professional. If you struggle with your weight or self image, seek professional treatment. Ideals about weight and body image are frequently quite different than reality. There are many ways to identify your ideal weight based on gender, age, etc. For the most comprehensive web calculation for ideal weights including BMI, medical recommendations, and life expectancy I suggest that you visit the Ideal Weight website below.

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