Eating disorders affect millions of people worldwide. They affect both men and women and they can have disastrous impact on a person’s life. Because eating disorders involve food, it is tempting to believe that an eating disorder is about food, when it isn’t. It’s about establishing a sense of safety through self-control and food is merely a tool with which to accomplish that. Bulimia is an eating disorder that like most eating disorders is much less about food itself than it is about trying to cope with emotional pain. For this reason it could be considered a behavioral addiction instead. Today I’m going to take you beneath the surface of bulimia so you can see what conditions actually create it and thus how to truly resolve it.
People with bulimia binge eat. This means that within a minimal amount of time, they consume a significantly larger amount of food than most people would eat in a similar amount of time and under similar circumstances. And during that time, they feel out of control over their eating, such as what they are eating and how much of it. And therefore, it is experienced as an ‘episode’. Then the person compensates for that episode in recurrent and excessive ways; the most common compensatory behavior being self induced vomiting. This is why people who describe bulimia, usually describe the behavior in terms of bingeing and purging. But compensatory behaviors can also include the use of laxatives, diuretics, other medications, excessive exercise or fasting. Like those who suffer from anorexia, people who suffer from bulimia tend to obsessively evaluate themselves based on their body shape and body weight and tend to suffer from an inaccurate perception of their own weight (body dysmorphia).
The compensatory reaction to the episodes of eating are a real key to look at because seeing as how the binging is experienced as a loss of control, the compensation behaviors are all designed to gain back a sense of control. Forcing themselves to vomit is a way to control themselves, so is developing food rituals such as eating only specific foods or foods from a specific food group or excessive chewing. So is skipping meals, so it hoarding food, so is specifically not eating when other people are eating.
When people experience an ailment, most people want a physiological explanation or an esoteric explanation that takes past lives or karma or spirits into account. People want to use these purely physiological or esoteric explanations to avoid facing the real root cause of the situation, which often forces them to take a look at their childhood and their relationships with people who they have in their life. For many people, the relationship they have with their family of origin is a relationship they protect as if it is sacred. They will not entertain the idea that there was dysfunction in those relationships. In order to preserve the relationships the way they are and not rock the boat, it’s easier to just take responsibility for being messed up. But if they do this, they will never have awareness of what is actually going on. Eating disorders are one of these conditions where in order to gain full awareness of what is going on, you must be willing to revisit the emotional conditions of your childhood and confront the reality of your current relationships.
To understand the motive for this behavioral addiction, we need to understand the life experiences of those who suffer from bulimia. The early life experienced by those who struggle with bulimia was a perpetual gaslight. This is why people with this disorder often feel as if they are totally losing their mind. A gaslight is when someone leads you to believe that the reality you perceive is not reality. What you see, you didn’t see, what you hear, you didn’t hear, what you feel, you have no reason to feel and isn’t right to feel.
Imagine that you walked out of your bedroom and I walked into your bedroom and I replaced your bed cover. When you came back into the room and noticed and asked me why I did that, imagine that I say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, that was the cover you had on there all along.” That feeling you would have right there in that minute is the dominant feeling that people with bulimia had in their family of origin. Except it happened so often, the only way they could cope with that feeling was to suppress, reject, deny and disown it. They started to gaslight themselves for the sake of harmony with the household. They bought into whatever the family “story of reality” was and totally tried to bury the part of them that was screaming “this isn’t right”.
For example, the reason that bulimia is so common to see in conjunction with childhood sex abuse (aside from the lack of control aspect, which I will get into later) is that when incest is occurring, the child knows that something is very wrong and knows that it doesn’t feel good and is terrified. But the reality that is sold to her is often something along the lines of “this is daddy’s special time with you and this makes you very special to daddy.” These two realities do not match up. It is a gaslight. But the little girl will tend to suppress that core reality of hers and align with her father’s reality of the situation. In this way, by defending his estimation of their relationship and saying “my dad and I have a special relationship and we have special time together”, she begins to gaslight herself from the inside.
But as you can guess, a person cannot gaslight themselves and stay healthy. Whatever is suppressed will boil up through the floorboards. The negative emotions that have been buried, function like a poison within; a poison that begins to make a person feel totally toxic inside and behaviors as well as symptoms begin to develop. One of the very best examples I’ve seen of this dynamic and how it plays into bulimia that you can see for yourself is a character named Daisy, played by the actress Brittany Murphy in the film Girl Interrupted.
There does not necessarily have to be sexual abuse going on in order to become bulimic, but there does always have to be gas lighting going on in order to become bulimic. Most families do not gaslight their children intentionally. It is often done unintentionally. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and doing real damage. For example, if a child has a dad that is alcoholic and passed out, but mom says “dad’s just tired, he had a long day at work”, that is gas lighting. If the conflict in a household happens behind closed doors and the child is required to join the rest of the family in giving the impression to the outside world that the family is perfect and that there is no conflict going on at all, this is gas lighting. If the affection or love that is being shown in a family is not sincere and is done for show, this is a gaslight. If gifts or other forms of love are given as a form of leverage so the child will owe the parent something or feel indebted to them in some way, but the parent says they do it out of love and shames the child for thinking otherwise, this is a gaslight. In this type of a setting, love feels disgusting and toxic. To make matters worse, seeing as how you can only control your life from reality instead of illusion, but your reality is being treated as if it doesn’t exist, you feel totally powerless to control the circumstances of your life. And this lack of control goes even deeper.
A boundary is a sense of who we are as a person. Our reality is a big part of this. Personal boundaries are really nothing more than definition. What defines me from others? What are my thoughts, my feelings, my likes and dislikes, my desires? What is right for me personally and wrong for me personally? Defining these things allows us to navigate through life and make the right choices for ourselves. Boundaries have nothing to do with other people until we run into a conflict between them and us; for example, a conflict between our reality and theirs or a conflict between our desires and theirs.
There are specific phases in our life where boundaries become very important to establish, these phases are the phases of individuation. If emotional trauma is encountered during these phases, we do not develop healthy boundaries. Without healthy boundaries, we do not have a strong sense of self. We feel totally out of control of ourselves. The people in our lives and the circumstances in our lives are the ones that have control over us.
Some parents, especially those who are narcissistic, cannot differentiate between themselves and their child. They cannot see their child as an individual that is different from them. They cannot see their child as having his or her own thoughts, feelings, wants and needs and likes and dislikes and so they do not honor their child’s boundaries. They do not honor their child’s reality at all. As a result, the child experiences relentless boundary invasion. This can take the form of extreme situations like being spanked for saying no or more subtle situations like a child saying “I want the red one” and the parent saying “no, you want the purple one”. But the thing to understand is with people who suffer from bulimia; these kinds of interactions, where their sense of self is being disregarded, go on all the time.
People with bulimia who are in touch with their childhood memories, will report that they felt more like objects or pets at the mercy of what their parent decides for them. When they protest these invasions, they learn very quickly that this leads to punishments or withdrawal of love and worse, gas lighting. They can’t say enough is enough to the parent. If they express their dissatisfaction, which is toxicity, the parent turns it back on the child. This is akin to forcing energetic vomit back into someone’s mouth. So they cannot acknowledge the invasion or stop it. Imagine the despair of that situation. They begin to feel totally out of control of themselves in the same way that a doll would feel out of control if it were alive because someone else is treating it like a belonging with no personal choice.
The only way this child can cope in this environment is to abandon their own boundaries, their estimation of reality along with it. And begin to gaslight themselves and violate their own boundaries for the sake of closeness with the social group.
Because of all of this, people with bulimia feel unfulfilled and full of emotional toxin from what they cannot express. They feel unable to get rid of or get away from people, places and things that are causing the pain and this leads to a feeling of not being able to take it anymore. They feel worthless and helpless but don’t have people or places to turn to where they feel they belong and that feel safe and supportive so they have to find a way to cope and have self-control relative to the energy that is allowed into them and is expressed out of them but they must do it in secret.
For someone with bulimia, the relationship to food is very much a mirror of the relationship they have to love. It feels like something that they desperately need in order to feel good and feel comforted and soothed, and so they don’t have control over doing so because of that desperation. But that once they take it in, there is a consequence. Sort of like a poisoned apple when someone is starving. This is how love was in their early childhood home. This is how food is now.
Food seems like the only safe and reliable thing as well as the only source of pleasure. It seems like the only way to take in energy and the safest way to take in energy to solve the feeling of being totally depleted. It seems to be the only way to soothe the feelings of emotional starvation. Feelings, which they have been taught through gas lighting that they are not allowed to have so they can’t have any tolerance for them. It soothes the pain that they can’t directly acknowledge of not being seen, felt, heard and understood so that they can feel safe that someone is going to consider their best interests and capitalize on them. But they have learned that they can’t trust that. So the minute they swallow the food, it is as if they have been betrayed. They feel as if they are being betrayed by the food (just like they were betrayed by someone in the family home from whom accepting love was dangerous) and as if they have betrayed themselves by being too dumb to fall into the trap again. They feel disgusted with themselves and ashamed of themselves as result.
All that being said, what needs to happen to Heal from Bulimia?
The single most important thing to do if you struggle with bulimia is to stop gas lighting yourself and stop letting yourself be gaslit by others. In fact, you can’t overcome bulimia unless you break out of the gaslight you are stuck in. You have to see that in your childhood, you were gas lit over and over and over again. To the degree that you had to suppress your reality. You had to believe that your estimation of reality, your thoughts, feelings and perceptions were wrong. You are probably still defending the reality that your family gave you to accept instead. The reason that bulimia is so difficult to shift out of is because you have to be willing to go through a reality collapse in order to restore yourself to your actual core reality (the one you suppressed, rejected, denied and disowned long ago). You have to stop defending the reality you were given. To use a previous example as an analogy, you are the incest survivor who is still defending that you and daddy just had a ‘special relationship’. You need to see your feelings, your thoughts, your perceptions as important and worthy of consideration. Your default mode is to gaslight yourself and convince yourself that you are wrong all the time. Catch yourself in this pattern.
You binge because you have very real emotional needs that are not being met. You do not feel heard, seen, felt or understood. You do not feel as if you belong. You are lonely. You are starving emotionally. Relationships were not safe for you and so you are living a separate existence from people, but creating a gaslight by giving them the impression that you are feeling close to them. And the approval you are starving for cannot be something you manipulate people to get. That is what your obsession over your body shape and looks is. It is a manipulative strategy to try to control people giving you that approval. It will never work. Someone isn’t really giving you their approval if you have to manipulate them to get it. Step out of this space of separation, shame and fear into actual connection. You have to change your relationship to love in order to change your relationship to food. This is a process that is too long to detail in a short video. To learn how to do this, pick up a copy of my book, The Anatomy of Loneliness, How To Find Your Way Back to Connection.
You binge in response to negative emotions. You were not allowed to have negative emotions or to see them as valid. They weren’t tolerated or treated as if they exist. This means that every time you feel a negative emotion, you’re going to respond to it the way you’ve been conditioned to respond to it. You are going to deny, reject and disown it. You are going to try to “deny it away” and shut it up with food because remember, you believe it shouldn’t exist. You need to get into the practice of doing the exact opposite. Turn towards your emotions instead of away from them. Every emotion is valid. Sit with each emotion and listen to the personal truth it is trying to convey to you. What makes an emotion unbearable is resisting the emotion. If you do that, you intensify the emotion beyond what you can tolerate. For more information about this, watch my video titled: The Emotional Wakeup Call. You need to acknowledge and learn to express the truth underneath these emotions or else you will continue to feel toxic. The pattern of bingeing and compensating for it in controlling ways is set in place because you do not listen to these emotions when they are small and so you ignore your body’s cues and don’t make small adjustments, like getting enough sleep or saying no to things, or eating little snacks throughout the day, so you end up in a situation where you need to cope and cope once a small flame is a forest fire.
Develop healthy boundaries. It is ok to define yourself. You have your own feelings, thoughts, needs, desires and perceptions whether you like it or not. It is part of being in a singular incarnation in this life. It is as important to develop a strong sense of self as it is to be able to transcend self hood. It is important that you know that you have the ability to choose what and how much to take in and when to say enough. You were not allowed to develop this “self”. But in order to make the right decisions for yourself instead of to be powerless about making those decisions for fear of consequences, you need to develop this sense of self. For information about how to do this, watch my video called “How to Develop Healthy Boundaries”.
Dive deeply into the painful feelings (such as being out of control or feeling crazy or feeling like you don’t fit in) with The Completion Process. I designed a process called The Completion Process, which resolves this emotional wounding. I’ve written a book about the process, it is titled: The Completion Process. I have also trained people to facilitate the process. You can find them on The Completion Process.com. You can also watch my video titled How to Heal the Emotional Body, to learn an abridged version of this process. This can also be a powerful tool to use in order to restore yourself to your actual reality and un-gaslight yourself relative to the home you grew up in.
Because so much of you was denied and your needs were not met, you had to suppress like hell. The way we suppress is to create splits in our consciousness. You have many of these splits. They put you in a constant state of inner conflict. In order to resolve these splits and get back in touch with the feelings, thoughts, perceptions, desires and reality you suppressed, watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease and start to acknowledge and work directly with your polarized internal fragments. I detail how to do this in the video. Doing this will restore your capacity to relate to yourself in a way here you will have both empathy and understanding and it is this empathy and understanding for these parts of yourself that will make it so you are no longer guessing at what you need in order to get to a better place. Instead, you will know.
Take in energy from all the senses. You feel depleted. When we struggle with bulimia, we tend to only take in energy through our mouth. It may be a different way of thinking, but you can nourish yourself in all kinds of other ways. When you see something beautiful, you can take in energy as if you are sucking in that beauty through your eyes and filling up your whole body. We can take in energy through breathing. Every time you breathe, imagine you are breathing in energy and see it filing up every tiny little cell in your body, your bones, your organs etc. See yourself filling up with energy like a balloon would. You can take in energy through your ears, let every sound you enjoy nourish you and fill you up. We can imagine taking energy in from the world around us through our skin. As if every pore were a tiny mouth sucking in energy. This will make you feel less starved and less depleted and you will not have to stress about calories while doing it.
Make how you feel the most important thing in your life. If you struggle with bulimia, you have very little pleasure in your life. You also have all kinds of excuses as to why you either can’t have pleasure or why pleasure can’t be the most important part of your life. You’ve got to take this risk to really prioritize doing things only because they bring you pleasure to do. Do not live your life and make decisions according to what you ‘have to do’. This makes your life a chore and not a choice. And it depletes you on top of maintaining the reality that food will be your only pleasure, albeit a poisoned apple pleasure.
You can’t approach the recovery from bulimia like you approach most things: “I have to heal everything about myself at once”. It isn’t going to work. Healing in general doesn’t work like this and neither does life. Every time you finish an episode of bingeing and purging, you tell yourself “never again”. This means you just added pressure to yourself emotionally and as we know by now, this is fueling the emotional component behind why you binge in the first place. You tell yourself you are going to lose all the weight, overcome your shame, start making the right decisions for yourself and have healthy boundaries from now on. You have taken healing processes, one of which can take a year or more and you have said you will do them as if they are done and as if all that is standing between you and them being done is some failure of personal will on your part. That is just a complete illusion. That is like saying, I’m done with this laziness and tomorrow I am going to carry the empire state building back to France. You are setting yourself up to fail because EVERYONE ON EARTH would fail at that. As impossible as it may seem because of how desperate you are to stop the cycle, you are going to have to accept the reality that healing from the situation that caused this behavioral addiction in the first place is going to take time and you are going to have to start with one thing at a time and become a master at it, before moving on to the next thing. And you can expect to have relapses. And none of that means you are failing in any way, shape or form. The standards you are keeping for yourself are impossible. And you need to stop gas lighting yourself by telling yourself that someone can and so you must be a failure or less in some way because you can’t. What happens when you try to stop all the things that you have labeled as bad at once is that all of them happen again and at once. This only makes you feel more out of control. But it isn’t because you are out of control. It’s because you set yourself up.
- Assuming that you are facing and healing the emotional component behind your bulimia, start eating to feel good. If you want to understand what healing is exactly, watch my video titled: What Is Healing? Eating to feel good is totally different than dieting or obsessively measuring calories or emotionally eating. If you eat food with the idea that you are eating food that makes you feel good, you will make the right choices for yourself regarding the food you eat and the portions you eat. Here is an example; I’m not going to eat a big piece of chocolate cake because I know that I will start to get a headache and feel sluggish if I do it. I know that if I eat this soup, I will feel warm and like I have more energy. Eating this way, not only puts you back in touch with your personal truth, it also makes it much less likely you will get that feeling of having made a mistake in taking in food that leads to your purging behavior. For more information about how to do this, watch my video tiled: How To Improve Your Relationship with Food.
As with most things, I could write an entire book on the process of healing from bulimia. But here I have listed the most important aspects of healing. If you commit yourself to these steps and this process, you will experience this healing.
Seeing as how it is quite possible for people to suffer from bulimia and anorexia, if you are a person who exhibits both patterns of behavior in your life, I highly suggest that you watch my video titled: How To Overcome The Eating Disorder: Anorexia as well. It will give you a full picture of the awareness you need for your healing.
The time has come to re-establish your sense of self. To realize that it is ok to define yourself and to share those thoughts and feelings and perceptions and desires that define you with other people. It is time to restore your sense of reality and to stop being gas lit by others and most of all to stop gas lighting yourself. I can promise that by doing this, you will not only end the internal conflict within you, you will also find yourself making choices that lead you directly into a life that is truly fulfilling; a life where you will finally experience pleasure.