One of the main characters in the Netflix series Fargo eats massive quantities of food and then vomits. V.M. Vargos is a creepy character with decaying teeth and awful skin. He's also the master puppeteer and directing his mobsters to do evil things. Ewan and I just devoured season 3 of this show. I've decided to write about bulimia nervosa as V.M. Vargus has inspired me, despite being a revolting character.
Bulimia nervosa is a form of eating disorder. People with bulimia are often unable to regulate their food intake. Bulimia nervosa is characterised by a repetitive cycle of binge eating and purging. Bingeing is the part of the cycle when a bulimia sufferer eats food compulsively, without restraint. People tend to binge on unhealthy foods with a high fat and sugar content. After a binge, bulimic people will often feel overwhelmingly guilty or disgusted by their behaviour. This feeling of remorse and self-loathing will result in a purge. Purging is the part of the cycle when the sufferer will attempt to avoid weight gain by ridding the digestive system of recently consumed food. The most common methods used to get rid of digesting food include: forcedly vomiting, excessively exercising, taking laxatives and diuretics.
People suffering from bulimia tend to feel constantly anxious and paranoid about their weight. These anxieties often manifest as a result of social pressures to look a certain way, or to be a certain weight - usually advocated by the media and pop culture. It is widely believed that bulimia stems from underlying emotional or psychological problems such as low self-esteem, low confidence, depression, stress and anxiety.
Bulimia is something sufferers have to live with and try to deal with continuously. For bulimic individuals, the relationship between emotion and food is extremely complex. This unusual connection is often triggered by underlying psychological conditions that can take many years to recognise and address. Some people feel that if they lose weight, they will be accepted and liked by other people. For them, losing weight is a way of gaining self-worth. People who feel sad or unhappy on a regular basis may find that binge eating distracts or momentarily comforts them. Straight after eating the feelings can return - often accompanied by additional guilt and repulsion. This precedes the purging stage of the cycle.
Bulimia can also be triggered by stressful or traumatic life events such as an abusive childhood, rape, witnessing crime or losing a loved one. Trauma can often make us feel like we’re out of control of our lives. This feeling of helplessness can lead to other emotional states- such as anxiety or stress. Bulimic people find that binge eating provides temporary emotional comfort during times of stress. People who have problems expressing anger tend to channel them through compulsive habits like binge-eating and purging.
There are several complications that are associated with bulimia such as: dental problems due to stomach acid eroding the tooth enamel, damaged skin and hair as nutrients are manually flushed out via induced vomiting or laxative/diuretic use, swollen glands, and heart / muscular problems after years of suffering with this condition.
There are a number of different treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms of bulimia. These are administered according to the severity or cause of the condition. Psychological treatment can include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - Explores the relationships between patterns of thinking and patterns of behaviour. This form of therapy aims to examine emotions in detail in order to devise new ways of tackling difficult situations without resorting to food.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) - This form of therapy aims to tackle problems relating to personal relationships with the idea of reducing the need to comfort eat. Patients are more likely to be referred to this form of treatment if they have recently suffered the loss of loved ones or experienced a big change in their lives.
Medical treatment can also be prescribed. SSRIs are a form of anti-depressant that boosts serotonin levels (happy hormones) in the bloodstream, reducing the need for comfort eating and purging. Taking SSRIs can cause many side effects and complications. The long term effects of SSRIs are as yet unknown.
Recovering from bulimia can often be a long, arduous experience demanding huge commitment from the patient. If you have bulimia, there are a number of things you can do to aid your treatment and make a successful recovery.
1. Change your eating habits.
Consult a dietitian to learn about healthy foods that can sooth your cravings without making you gain weight. If you enjoy a healthy, balanced diet with enough of the necessary nutrients, you should be able to stave off hunger pangs and resist the urge to binge. The key to eating a healthy, balanced diet is to not deprive yourself of a certain food groups (such as fats or carbohydrates). A dietitian will be able to teach you about the nutritional benefits of certain foods. You can use this knowledge to gain control over what you eat.
2. A combination of therapy and self-help.
This duo will help you recover. Getting to the core of the cause is important, as is changing your approach to food and adjusting your habits accordingly.
The road to recovering from bulimia is long. It can take a lot of effort and dedication on behalf of the sufferer. A dietitian can offer a branch of support even after the initial treatment (medication, therapy) has finished. They can help you develop a positive relationship with food. The more you learn about the complexity of nutrition and the power of certain vitamin and mineral balances, the closer you will come to understanding the impact bulimia has on your body and moods.
And this will leave you with more time to binge on Netflix, uninterrupted.