“For a quarter of a century I hung over the toilet bowls of this world”, writes Nina Wolf in her book ‘Zurück ins Leben’ (Tectum non-fiction book, about 18 Euro). She suffered up to 20 eating-breaking attacks per day. Nina: “I was at war with myself and was my worst enemy.”
The 40-year-old woman, who is now over 40, relentlessly talks about her addiction – and how, after countless failed attempts at therapy, she is able to overcome her addiction with the help of the 12-step programme of OA (Overeaters Anonymous) and FA (Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous) overcame their illness and can now finally enjoy food without fear again.
That’s how you recognize atypical eating disorders
Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder in which excessive amounts of food are eaten and then vomited again to prevent weight gain. It is estimated that about 600,000 people in Germany suffer from bulimia. More than 90 percent of those affected are women and most of them are between 15 and 35 years of age.
Triggers are usually emotional or psychological stress and dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s own body. Hours or even days can pass between two eating attacks.
Nina Wolfs reports in her book “Back to Life” how she defeated bulimia © PR / Tectum publishing house
“Bulimia is an addictive disorder, and although vomiting and starvation are not addictive substances, they can be used as a drug,” explains Munich psychologist Dr. Bärbel Wardetzki. “The main addictive characteristics of bulimia are, on the one hand, the loss of control, which in the case of bulimia consists in the inability to stop compulsive overeating and defecation, i.e. vomiting or taking laxatives, for example”.
People suffering from bulimia have lost control over their eating habits. Those affected are obsessed with eating and compulsively vomit what they have eaten. “The second addictive characteristic is the creation of a state of intoxication through eating, vomiting and fasting”, says Wardetzki, “It manifests itself in a feeling of ‘high being’, numbness and the subsequent ‘hangover’ mood”.
Getting out of this addiction is just as difficult and exhausting as with other addictions. It is hardly possible without help. It is best to get professional help, but also to talk to other addicts. You will find contacts and possible points of contact for help at the end of this article.
Women who suffer from bulimia constantly try to cover up their illness. It takes a lot of strength. © photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
A patient tells her way out of an eating disorder
“Caught vomiting” is how Nina Wolf describes in her book the first contact with Christiane, a woman who had suffered from bulimia for 15 years and who, despite Nina’s perfect camouflage, immediately recognized her as a fellow sufferer. It was she who introduced Nina to the 12-step program of the Overeaters Anonymus (OA ) told me.
How to recognize anorexia
This is closely based on the self-help program of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA ) on. How they go OA assumes that the support of a group is an essential prerequisite for healing from an addiction, according to the motto: “Only you alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone. That’s why they form groups in many cities that meet at regular intervals. As with the AA s the names of the participants remain anonymous.
Important: Admitting bulimia
Starting point for the program of the OA s is that the person concerned admits that he or she has so far failed to find a way out of the addiction through his or her own will and self-control. This surrender and acceptance is the prerequisite for further steps.
Behind Nina were already countless failed attempts to get bulimia under control. After some doubt she decided to give the program a chance.
When healthy food becomes a compulsion
For Nina, the second step was more difficult than the insight that she would not be able to free herself from bulimia on her own. OA . It is about handing over the helm to a power that is stronger than they are and that supposedly helps to get well again. How she imagines this power, as a god or guardian angel or even an undefined force of good, was left to her own devices.
Nina, who had never had anything to do with religion or spirituality before, could not easily get involved. And now you’re thinking, “This is too weird for me? Understandable. Nina Wolf reluctantly gave this approach, with which Alcoholics Anonymous has also been very successful for decades, a chance and thus managed to get out of addiction.
Like anorexics, bulimics are afraid of gaining weight. They often eat a lot of food and vomit it up again afterwards. © Photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
Tracing the causes of bulimia
In the next steps of the OA s is called emotional inventory. Under the motto: Not the eating disorder is the actual disease, but what triggers it or rather what drives the person into the eating disorder. Now it was time to be honest with yourself: What am I afraid of? What do I hold a grudge against? With whom in my life is there still a score to settle? Ruthlessly everything came out on the table.
Nina analyzed her character flaws, her past – almost always in exchange with her tutor from the OA s or in a group, but also alone, always along the OA -program. Not steps you just do. It’s a process that brought many tears to Nina’s eyes.
But it was worth it: “The program worked for me in this form,” writes Nina Wolf. The last, 12th step is to try to pass on the message of the program to other eating disorders – what Nina wants to achieve with her book.
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Women, who have freed themselves from the eating-breaking addiction, experience a new body awareness. © photographee.eu / Shutterstock.com
How can one free oneself from bulimia?
This does not mean that the OA is the right path for any woman with bulimia. There are several ways to treat bulimia. Usually, many specialists work hand in hand to treat bulimia, including psychologists, psychotherapists, nutritionists, doctors, occupational therapists and art therapists.
In severe cases, these forms of therapy are preceded by a voluntary, inpatient stay in a special clinic. In some cases, drugs such as antidepressants also support the recovery phase.
The first point of contact to help find the right form of therapy can be the family doctor or a counselling centre. These include, for example:
- The Federal Centre for Health Education, BZgA
- The Specialist Centre for Eating Disorders Waage e.V., where help is offered both personally on site and by telephone
- The online advice portal on eating disorders ANAD informs and offers help by phone and email
It is worthwhile to find the right way out of addiction for you. The disease is not only stressful, but also dangerous. If left untreated for a long time, bulimic patients are threatened not only by the enormous psychological burden but also by dangerous inflammations of the pancreas, cardiac arrhythmia, loss of teeth and a lack of minerals that can attack bone substance (osteoporosis).
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It is important that you admit to yourself that you need help and accept it! Even if Nina’s way is not yours, her example shows that it is possible to free yourself even after many years of illness. Take the first step and seek professional support. Now!