Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bulimia Nervosa

Have ever had a friend who seemed to rush to the bathroom each time you finished having dinner with them? Or maybe you yourself have eaten a whole bag of cookies and then had the sudden urge to get rid of all the food you ingested. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves a cycle of bingeing (eating a large amount of food) and purging (ridding the body of this food quickly). Unlike anorexia, individuals with bulimia appear to be close to their ideal body weight and do their best to keep their purging behavior secret.

Bulimia is characterized by:

  • Recurring episodes of binge eating. Bing eating is characterized by eating, in a small amount of time, more than most people would eat and a sense of lack of control over the eating.
  • Recurring inappropriate behavior to compensate for the binge eating to prevent weight gain. This includes self induced vomiting, use of diuretics or laxatives, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  • These behaviors occur on average at least two times a week for three months.
  • Distorted body image.

Physical Effects

  • Brittle nails and dry skin and hair
  • Facial swelling
  • Jaundice
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Dehydration
  • Fluid and electrolyte imbalances (This balance is very important to athletes and can impair performance)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Injury to the kidneys
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Irritation and infection of the esophagus, pharynx, and salivary glands
  • Erosion of the teeth and cavities
  • Rupture or tear in the stomach or esophagus

Psychological effects

  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Personality changes
  • Social isolation

How is it treated?

Treatment for bulimia requires a structured eating plan with nutrient dense foods to establish regular eating patterns. Steady maintenance of weight is the goal. There is also a need to work through the psychological and social issues the individual has towards food. They also have to work on the patient’s relationships with themselves and their body.

Most often, people with bulimia will not admit they have a problem. As a coach, trainer, teammate and friend, you need to watch out for some of the above changes and encourage someone who needs help to get it. Watch for behaviors such as eating in secret, disappearing after meals, excessive exercise beyond what is needed for their sport, or extreme focus on their body and weight. Below are some resources related to eating disorders.

Academy for Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorders Foundation

NIMH Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders and Athletes

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