There are lots of reasons people develop bulimia.
For me it stemmed from my career as an international model and the pressure I put on myself to look a certain way. In short, I felt my looks and shape defined who I was as a person and so I became terrified about getting fat. In turn my relationship with food took a dangerous turn and the bingeing and purging became frequent and habitual.
And my self-esteem gradually eroded as I learnt to hate what I saw in the mirror.
You see, after I’d purged I’d say the most dreadful things to myself. I’d mentally beat myself up with inner verbal abuse – or sometimes even shout it out loud.
“You fat idiot, you failure – you can’t stick at anything”.
“You’re hopeless… I hate you”.
And it got worse – this is the stuff I can put in print!
Believe me, those self critical, judgmental and abusive “conversations” I had in the mirror got ugly. And when your thoughts are as emotionally charged as they are after throwing up, your words stick and your mind comes to believe them as real. That’s because when you say something enough times with enough intensity you start to believe it’s true.
Let me explain…
Have you brought into this dangerous cultural myth?
As a society we’ve got really good at confusing self-esteem with body image.
However, the two are distinctly different.
Self-esteem relates to the innate value you have as an individual based on your thoughts, beliefs and unique gifts. When you have a high level of self-esteem you feel good about who you are at your core – you take pride in your abilities, appreciate your own worth and are confident and motivated to try new things. As such can live a life where you feel able to express your true personality.
In comparison, body image relates to how you feel about your body and how you care for it. It also relates to the way you perceive your body and how you think other people see you.
Problems start when these two concepts become merged and you start to base your self-esteem on how you look – or even worse, what you believe other people think about how you look.
And this issue intensifies because of society’s unrealistic expectations of what a “good body” looks like. The idealized thin, blemish-free, perfect figure is virtually unachievable for most people – even models need to be airbrushed to achieve it.
But despite this, the pressure persists – and this cultural myth causes many people suffering from bulimia to be overly critical about their appearance. And because body image has been confused with self-esteem, bulimia sufferers typically have very low confidence.
How does the mirror erode confidence and self-esteem?
If you’re anything like me when I was struggling with bulimia, you’ll have a lot of negative thoughts about yourself and your body.
When you look at your reflection you’re hypercritical about what you ‘believe’ you see. You prod and pinch the parts you feel shouldn’t be there. You suck your tummy in and convince yourself how much better you’d look and feel if you could just get rid of that ‘muffin top’, have hip bones that jut out and have a ‘thigh gap’. In short, you imagine how much better your life would be if you were thinner.
And if you think these things on a consistent basis (which most bulimia sufferers do), over time you’ll train yourself to see your body in a certain way. And that’s when the mirror starts to become your enemy.
Because instead of consciously thinking you’d look better if you were thinner, your habitual thinking has become ingrained into your subconscious. It means when you look at your reflection, you automatically see someone who’s ‘fat’ and far from perfect.
What’s more, because you see it – you believe it and the false body image you’ve created becomes your reality.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Unsurprisingly your self-esteem plummets – that negative, hurtful self-talk and constant affirmations that you’re not beautiful take their toll. And your resulting low self-esteem creates the context for your life and how you interact with others.
And the bulimia persists as you desperately strive to achieve a look that you believe will get you accepted, loved and valued.
Your created ‘truth’ isn’t necessarily the reality
BEWARE: Just because you believe something, it doesn’t mean it’s the truth.
You might believe you’re fat or ugly – but I reckon other people will think something entirely different.
I work with lots of clients who suffer from bulimia. They tell me ‘I’m fat’ and invariably they’ll point to their stomach or thighs.
But here’s the contradiction. To me they look great – they’re not fat at all. BUT because they’ve told themselves again and again that they are – they’ve created the mental pictures needed to convince themselves they are right.
How can I instantly feel better about myself?
The alternative is simple (although the reality of putting it into practice is a little more challenging).
You need to shift the focus of your thoughts away from your negatively perceived body image and use your imagination to create long-lasting self-esteem in a much more powerful and positive way.
If you have bulimia, your imagination and thoughts have been keeping you trapped. Your daily internal dialogue no doubt focuses on your appearance and food.
When you tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to binge today’ or ‘I don’t want to be fat’, you focus your thinking to imagine the very thing you don’t want. That’s because, you can’t think about not doing something or being something without first having to think about doing it or being it. And it’s this type of thinking that has innocently kept your bulimia alive.
Consider these alternatives…
What would be possible if food was not your focus?
What would happen if you told yourself “I am toned, healthy and happy”?
What if you started to focus on things you love rather than getting caught up in the downward spiral of “I won’t binge today” or “I’d be happier if I were thinner”.
These kinds of thoughts create the positive energy and inspiring vision needed for you to break free from bulimia and create a future that’s free from your debilitating relationship with food.
In fact, it’s the very method I used to create my freedom from bulimia.
Don’t be fooled by simplicity
I imagine you have some reservations. After all, can your deep-rooted bulimia really be overcome through the power of your thoughts?
In my experience it can.
Whilst the method is easy, the process is challenging. After all, it requires you to challenge your habitual thinking, disentangle your body image from your self-esteem and create a future that’s more inspiring that your current obsession with food and image.
And I know from my client’s feedback that this can be a challenging journey.
BUT the results are remarkable…
That’s because my process forms a powerful context for healing your relationship with yourself and food, so that any fear you have looses it’s grip and bulimia simply slips away.
I’ve been bulimia free for over 20 years. In fact, bulimia no longer forms any part of my identity. However I vividly remember the distress, heartache and destruction it caused.
I understand where you are. I can feel your pain and I can also help you break free, so if you’re ready to discover more about bulimia freedom, why not get in touch Julie@bulimiafree.com
And if you haven’t already, please sign up to receive your four FREE videos on how you can be bulimia free. All you need to do is go to the top of the page and add your details into the box on the right. Do it now and you’ll see me shortly in the first video.
Bulimia Recovery Coach
Julie won a 15 year battle with bulimia over 20 years ago and now mentors and coaches others to bulimia freedom. She is a compassionate, caring bulimia recovery coach who brings a unique and powerful perspective on recovery that has helped people from all walks of life, not just stop bingeing and purging but learn how to love themselves and their bodies and create a life they love.