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Bulimic — and back

A holistic approach to overcoming eating disorders.

Posted: May 6, 2008 4:03 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.

My life was consumed with body image and an obsession called bulimia for over 30 years. (Bulimia is a chronic cycle of binging and purging that allows victims to prevent weight gain.) After diagnosing the causes of my disorder through counseling in my 20s, but not finding recovery, I sought and found an alternative path based in Eastern philosophy and realized we are designed to self-heal. Contrary to popular belief, counseling and medication may not be the solution to eating disorders. My healing was so powerful I had to share my story.

My book "It Started With Pop-Tarts - An Alternative Approach to Winning the Battle of Bulimia" was written to share my journey with others who fall prey to the pressure and expectations of society to look perfect - and to inspire them to find healing and balance. As a recovered bulimic, I have identified five key strategies to help individuals recover from eating disorders holistically. My approach is different from traditional treatments. For me, it was highly effective and I believe it can also be powerful for you or your children or loved ones who are suffering.

I was obsessed with my body. Every day was measured by how I looked in the mirror that morning. I weighed and measured every week. I used food to numb out and avoid the pain of the situations I encountered from peer pressure and my parents as a teen. This behavior escalated in college and as a young woman beginning my climb up the corporate ladder. Stuffing myself until I couldn't move was my answer to everything - I couldn't control it. Yet, it gave me control. So what happened to make me binge?

There were several key contributors:
* A strict, religious upbringing (not Catholic) n A mother who was a perfectionist and controlling 
* A predominant feeling of never measuring up or being good enough 
* Caught up in the model/media hype of the "Barbie girl" shape - which I didn't have
* Being made fun of by older boys in fourth grade because I developed quicker than other girls my age 
* Never being encouraged to express myself or my feelings

Without and wi-thin
Bulimia is often disguised, as it's easier to hide than anorexia. A person suffering from bulimia doesn't typically gain weight or lose weight and doesn't always vomit as most people suspect. Many victims are resourceful and use excessive exercise, laxatives, enemas, strict diets or diet pills to control the weight gain after a binge. As with other eating disorders, bulimia is tied to low self esteem and poor self worth.
My eating disorder started at the age of 14. And, although this was in the mid-'70s, teenage girls today still face the same struggle.

Especially living here in Southern California, we are barraged with body image from Hollywood and the tabloids' constant focus on who is too skinny and who is fat. Who has a baby bump? The obsession is far worse than when I was growing up. Young girls idolize their favorite ultra-thin actress or musician and truly believe they should look the same. The pressure starts at an early age.

College is another critical time when young girls develop eating disorders. Faced with the pressure of adjustments to college life and their impending future students seek an outlet for their emotions and a way to deal with things they can't handle. Many turn to binging, starving or alcohol to find some element of control. Regardless of the choice, the effect is the same, to numb out and lessen the pain.

But there is more. My bulimia wasn't just caused by the pressures of society and the fact that I had low self-esteem. There were chemical imbalances that contributed to my disorder:

* Heavy use of antibiotics as a young child for ear problems
* Growing up on a high carb vegetarian diet - not getting enough tryptophan to create essential amino acids for proper brain "mood" function
* Sugar sensitivity
* Candida
* Low-fat diet - not enough oil and "healthy fat"

With these things in play, no amount of will power can stop the binging. It's impossible.

One of the biggest issues for me was sugar sensitivity. This was caused in part by the extensive use of antibiotics as I was growing up, which killed off my "good bacteria." This led to an overgrowth of Candida, which was highly destructive to my body's chemical balance.

Combined with all my "white food" binges (pasta, ice cream, pizza, etc.) my system became over-sensitized to sugar. This facilitated more binging, which wasn't always tied to emotional situations.

Keys to healing
My healing had to address both sets of issues in order for me to recover. I focused on five key strategies that led to my healing and helped me create a balanced, centered, sane life. I believe these five strategies are critical to anyone who is trying to recover from an eating disorder or other addiction:

1. Improve self-esteem
2. Understand the causes of the obsession/eating disorder
3. Embrace the power of the subconscious
4. Balance nutrition and supplements
5. Improve physical and mental health with bodywork

Core to eating disorders is a disconnect between mind and body. People with eating disorders don't "own" their bodies, because their body isn't acceptable. This is why bodywork is so important. What is bodywork? I used several forms: Hellerwork (a combination of deep tissue massage and body movement), acupuncture, yoga and energy healing.

For me, the gift of energy healing - which slowed my overly-analytical brain and helped me connect to and not only accept, but love my body - was the winning formula. I learned who I really was. I learned how to be present "in the moment" and how to live consciously. During this process I even learned that we can physically alter our bodies based on our self limiting beliefs. As a result of the body work and as I started to let go of control, I got taller and my chest grew. I got an organic boob job out of the deal! (Remember the boys who teased me in fourth grade?) I find that incredibly amazing! Beliefs are powerful, positive or negative. With body work I found and embraced my personal power.

Another huge key to my recovery was my fascination with the subconscious. Long before The Secret came out I was studying the concept of "you get what you focus on - good or bad." You manifest what you spend your time thinking about. I have always enjoyed watching individual sports, which are so demonstrative of this theory.

When a tennis player is two sets down and suddenly decides he can win the match and comes back to win the next three sets - that is focusing on what you want!

Through meditation I learned how to shift my focus off the hatred for my body and how to focus on the body and situations I wanted in life.

I learned how to significantly reduce the stress in my life by subscribing to a concept of letting everything be okay. Basically that's acknowledgment that you are on your path and everything is unfolding the way it's supposed to. If you're late, there is a reason for it. Maybe you avoided being in an accident, or maybe the plane you were scheduled to be on has a mechanical issue and once you arrive you'll find it waiting for you. Or the person you are racing to meet is also running late. What's the point of stress? Does it change anything? By living consciously and being in the moment we can eliminate a lot of damaging side effects caused by stress.

The path I followed cost me far less than what most people spend on clinical treatment and psychological counseling. I controlled who I saw and, when it didn't work, looked for another answer. I followed my gut and intuition - it never let me down.

What you can do
There is no one treatment plan for everyone. We are all on our own path. Bulimia and anorexia can be life threatening. Many people are "functioning" bulimics or anorexics who are able to execute their daily responsibilities in spite of their demons. However, the damage they are doing to their bodies will surface sooner or later. If you are suffering from an eating disorder you can overcome it and live a normal life. You can start by:

* Identify the causes of your eating disorder. It's important to gain an understanding of the origin.
* Find ways to improve your self esteem. There are many resources available - books, audio series, seminars and one-on-one coaching.
* Explore and embrace the power of your subconscious.
* Educate yourself about nutrition and natural supplements. Provide your body with balance on a daily basis.
* Explore the power of meditation and energy healing. Get your mind and body connected. Through energy healing you can increase self-esteem, identify and understand the causes of your eating disorder and begin to heal. Then you can explore the power of your subconscious, which will enrich your life.

I have many resources for each step listed on my Web site

For those who are suffering from an eating disorder, simply admitting it to someone else is a huge step. In my book I've shared information that will help families understand the depths of despair their loved ones are experiencing and also provide specific information for those who are suffering from a disorder. My goal is to challenge and inspire individuals to seek help and find their personal power younger in life than I did.

There are many alternative methods to find healing. Alternative isn't bad, it's just that insurance won't pay for it! The irony is that many diseases are caused by the lack of connection with self. We are so busy doing, going and running - we never stop to listen to our inner guidance. Each of us has the tools we need to heal inside. But to truly heal, we must learn to be still, to be comfortable "just being" - to listen and to connect with our spirit.

My life now has balance, patience, happiness and even bliss on occasion. I believe the results I ask for from the universe will come - when they are supposed to. I'm getting better about not being so attached to the outcomes in life, to "let everything be okay."

I now understand that life is a journey. There will always be opportunities that will bring growth if I'm open to them. I'm learning to ride the waves of life, which aren't nearly as high as they used to be. And most of all, I am learning to enjoy life without my compulsive behaviors to binge.

Lori Hanson is an inspirational speaker, author and consultant. For more information about asking her to speak at your next event, scheduling a one-on-one consultation or to purchase her book, visit her Web site at


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