Doctor; Your Diagnosis. My Death


copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

Dearest Doctor, I have come to my senses.  Days ago, when you offered your diagnosis, I died.  No, not literally.  Had you done me in, I would not be here to write what I hope will help inform your bedside manner.  Well, in my case only the way in which you approach a patient who merely sits in an examining room chair near you is the concern.  You may recall our time together began so innocently. We sat down to review the results of annually scheduled blood-work.  I had not felt sick all year or on that day.  You had even expressed, it had been so long since we last saw each other.  You scanned the pages, and proclaimed, that I must have returned to my bulimic ways. My spirit perished.  I had done nothing of the sort!  Yet, you said you were sure I had.

The pain you inflicted killed what could have been a relationship built on trust.  Today, I realize your proclamation was but part of a pattern.  Indeed, you reminded me that during our last consultation, a year ago, you also decided that I must be near death.  In August 2009 you insisted that I arrange for an appointment, which you openly stated, would affirm your fears. I must be seriously ill. Yet, once that test was done, it affirmed that I was as I am better, than fine.

Upon further reflection, and after the telephone conversation I initiated hours after my appointment, I thankfully, feel more serene.  No, you did not change your diagnosis nay your assertion that I must be vomiting.   Still, the talk helped me, although it seemed to alienate you.  I wonder if you now have a sense of how I felt and feel since you pronounced me dead and a liar, or do you merely believe of me, “The lady doth protest too much.”

Might you ponder that my grievance is grounded.  Oh, how little you know of bulimia, and me.  In the two plus years we have had an acquaintance, I see you for maybe, ten minutes a visit.  Since only once did I come to your office for other than a check up, what you observed this week is true. I rarely visit.  When I do, you are booked.  Patients arrive back-to-back.  We chat for a bit, but not really.  All is said and done rapidly.  I wonder, might the speed of conversation and the shallow nature of a consultation affect your appraisal.  After all, you too are human; although from what you said to me today, it seems at times such as this you define yourself as a trained medical professional, more perceptive than a mere mortal.

During my most recent appointment you admitted, you did not even recall what I had shared so often; I disdain exercise.  I was never amongst the anorexic/bulimics who think they must work out endlessly. Only injuries incurred late in life took me to my current routine, a daily swim in the pool.

I know you recall that I swim, only because I often come dressed to swim.  Even that concerns you, exposure to the sun.  Do you remember that I switched to an indoor facility.  Probably not.   While the truth of the locale and my loathing exercise may not be memorable or visible in an office visit, what can be seen is a sign of bulimia.  My teeth.  

Doctor, did you notice what my Dentist and Dental Hygienist have?  My once translucent boney choppers are now denser.  The color has returned to white.  For so long, even when you and I first met, the hue was dark gray.  Other dental conditions were already on the mend when I first entered your sphere.  Deep groves, once etched into the enamel, gone.  With my tongue, or a look, I can tell, the surface is smooth once more.  As I said in our phone conversation, less than twelve hours after you declared me dead,   Charlene stated with delight, “Your teeth finally look alive.”

Funny. Charlene, my dental hygienist, detects a difference in my body and being since I left bulimia behind.  Yet, you are intent on my being ill.  Charlene sees and speaks of how my life without food benders and bile has helped me be healthier.  Yet, you dear Doctor, only see standards, the stats that you think are real, more real than me.  

You do not see, hear, or open your mind to who I might be.  I marvel as recall the day Charlene had expressed a doubt.  She offered, in Dental School professors taught the conventional wisdom.  Teeth do not substantially re-mineralize.  Enamel and density loss are permanent.  However, Charlene wonders aloud.   She has come to accept that what she learned may not be valid.  Months earlier she mused, “Well” after much assessment, “I have witnessed the metamorphosis.”  There is a change.  

Transformation from bulimia to health has occurred for Charlene, for me.  Then there is you, dear Doctor. Apparently, what was, will always be in your mind.  Oh, Doctor, if only you had truly engaged me in the past two years . Had you looked and listened or even spent more than a scant few minutes with me in any of our sessions, just maybe you would have learned that supposed facts and figures may not mean whatever it is medical professionals teach.  

Might you think to speak to me rather than seek the “expertise” of more and more specialists [sic] before you declare me to be on my deathbed?  I know not what to say.

I tried to talk to you, to share my reality, my family history, and myself.  My words fell on deaf ears. You so sweetly fight me at every turn.  When I worked to offer an analogous story, you scoffed.  Might I assume that you see me as less knowledgeable, credible, or just crazed.  Perchance, I might try to tell the tale again?  Perhaps, the read will help you to authentically relate.  

As I said, the day after you delivered your diagnosis I traveled to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned.  By the way, dental visits last for well over an hour and I go every few months.  Charlene and I talk the entire time.  This week, since I had just seen you and was so devastated, my exam and your evaluation were the topics of discussion.

Charlene smiled and stated she is all too familiar with Doctors such as you.  While she has had her own experiences her Mom’s was most worrisome to her.  While under the care of her Doctor, Charlene’s mother’s organs were forever damaged.   The Doctor thought it wise to bring this adult female’s blood levels to “normal.”  However, with age her heredity set in.   What had been usual for the patient was no longer as it was.  

Yes Doctor, I acknowledge that you listened to this story, for seconds, and then, abruptly interjected your disregard of my attempt to share personal accounts, or the details of my family history.  Doctor, you preferred the argument, “Charlene is not a Physician.”  Might you trust the words of others Physicians, those who have misdiagnosed me or correctly assessed my well-being?

Please indulge me.  Allow me to present a nonfictional narrative.  Eight years ago, after a serious automobile accident, an Orthopedic Surgeon told me I would not be able to walk for at least a half a year, probably more.  He assured me that one leg would be shorter than the other for the rest of my life.  I needed full bed rest for at least six months, maybe seven.  The specialist said he could not speak to the pain I had in my chest and ribs.  He saw nothing in the X-Rays.  Weeks later, another bone MD whom I thought it wise to consult, was shocked to discover my broken sternum and four fractured ribs.  

That Surgeon, I will call Doctor Thom, was more than a second opinion; he saved my leg, heel, my life.   Dr Thom told me that I needed to begin an exercise regime immediately!  He then showed me exactly what he wanted me to do as soon as possible.  While he concurred, I could not walk or bear even the slightest weight on my heel, I could get around on my hands and knees.  My father, relieved went to the store and purchased the best fluffy-filled cotton kneepads money could buy.

Dr Thom helped me realize that the pain in my chest was very real.  He helped me to feel safe, secure in the knowledge of what I could to.  Dr Thom spoke of a means for stability, and provided time frames.   Most importantly he attended to my needs, not as just another “patient,” but as me, Betsy!

Thankful that this physician asked of my history, and accepted that two past injuries necessitated a regular daily swim, I was able to feel comforted by his care.  Indeed, months before I was authorized to walk, with a promise from me that I would not place my leg on the ground, not even in water, Dr Thom prescribed a return to the pool.  Yes Doctor, he wanted me to swim unlike you who said, stop the swim or at least cut the time in the water done to near nil.  Fifteen minutes or less a day?  Doctor, have you read the research and recommendations for minimal daily exercise? Perhaps you have no desire to do other than prove yourself right.

For me, what is right is a healthy relationship with one’s body and other beings.  If only we had genuine caring, sharing exchanges.  I believe we do not.  In each of our talks, your trepidation for what you feel is my impending death, is inescapable.  It seems to shade your every diagnosis..

Doctor, I know you are not G-d. You do not have the power to give me life.  However, a professional such as you, can cause my demise.  The innumerable reports that document a patient’s passing at the hands of his or her physician cannot be ignored.  

Certainly, I may have over-reacted or reacted as any healthy person would to your decree; I lie or I die, possibly both.  Imagine my surprise, I entered your office the picture of health, and was pronounced a perishable commodity.   You said, were you to review my chart in a hospital, you would order a full body transfusion.  Until you were certain why results of the blood tests were so dire, you wanted me to see four specialists and a therapist.  A therapist?  

That statement alone spoke volumes; however it was a hush in comparison to the stated accusation.  You were concerned that I had returned to the world of bulimia.  Oh had you, or most any Doctor who diagnoses, what professionals call an eating disorder, experienced the thrill of leaving that past behind, you might understand how wonderful it is to have my life back.  

For years now, days, weeks, months, decades, devoted to food do not consume me.  Close to a decade has passed since I spent more time bingeing and purging than you do sleeping or working. Can you imagine? What might you feel if you were finally free of all that constrained your very being?

Oh Doctor, I know you cannot conjure up such a connection.  Were you able to relate to my reality you would not have said and done as you did.

You dismissed my words, my truth, all that I had learned, felt, and experienced in the twenty-five years and three months that I battled with the bulimia.  More significantly, you concluded that the many years since I last vomited were null and void.  In your infinite wisdom, you decided that a Doctor knows much more about an individual than the person, his or her self, does.

With few visits in our past, and little conversation, you know what is real for me?  You think practitioners who have never met me before will assess my health more accurately.    Based on what, more standards of “normal.”

Your counsel crushed any sense of a connection.  Your stated distrust of me is as a surgical knife; it cuts to the core.  When a Doctor doubts a patient, the effect is profound.  At least it has been in my experience.  However, it seems you are not truly interested in my experience or that of others.  Oh, how I wanted to explain my truth when we spoke on the telephone today.  Your response, “He, she, or I am not a trained medical Physician.” may have cured me of that desire.

However, happily I was able to sneak in one thought whilst we chatted.  A Doctor I am acquainted with has often expressed, medical school is like a technical college.   Practitioners and Surgeons are analogous to Mechanics.  For each, diagnosis is the greatest challenge.  An educated guess, or “evaluation” only captures what is typical.  You offered no thought on what another Physician pronounced his truth.  Perchance, you are still of the mind that you know what you know.  

As an Educator and an observer of humanity, I share what I believe.  Knowledge is not power!  Empathy empowers.  If only you chose to be empathetic, to consider what is beyond book knowledge. Perhaps, then, people, patients, might be real to you rather than fall into one or two categories. Terminal or test-proven fit as a fiddle.

Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Seven. Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

Or Similar Discussions . . .

Reference for review and reflection . . .

New Years Resolve; Binge or Be


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

Another year has come and gone.  Everywhere she goes she hears people speak of New Years resolutions.  They all say this time will be different.  I will decide to do as I had not done previously or at least had not done well.  Countless commit to a life of calorie counting.  Others merely muse that they will exercise more.  Drugs, drinking, there are also discussions of these concerns.  People are confident.  This year I will deliver myself from what I think evil.  A few philosophize as to their personal career path.  Change is the objective.  A greater goal is thought to be golden.  As Author Mary Anne Radmacher reflected and now millions whisper as their mantra, “Live with intention . . .  Choose with no regret. . . . Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”  Therein lies the problem.

For persons such as she, her habits are all there is.  “Normal” people, whoever these might be, experience as she does; however, the circumstances and consequences are less obvious. For many a perpetual stroll down the diet path is customary.  An occasional drink, two, or three, of the organic compound known as alcohol satisfies the soul, or so they say.  Decisions to imbibe less are made daily.  These declarations are often announced publicly.   Yet, for a bulimic such as she, much must remain hidden.  Her hurts are not thought to be tolerable.

Each year, indeed each day, for decades now, a determined Little Bit, as her Daddy calls her, has pledged to detach herself from her burden.  She does not wish to be led by temptation.  She tries to curb her appetite.  She goes for hours being “good.”  She eats in moderation for a moment.  Then, the mound that sits solidly in her stomach reminds her of her hurt, physical, psychological, physiologically.  It, the food, the failures, and the feelings, are all consuming.  The hope is she will again see food as nourishment, not a means to nurture herself.  Hitherto, what she believes she loves, food, is exactly what she loathes.  

The fodder itself is not the subject of her disdain, how this fare has taken over her life is cause for her contempt.  Some believe she seeks control.  These individuals trust that this lass thinks she has power over nothing but her weight.  Ha!  That is humorous.  To binge and purge is to never know what your body mass will be.  

The lyrics from “Que Sera, Sera,” what will be will be bestow no blessings.  Nor does the tune provide answers to the questions that forever beckon this forlorn being.  Will I be pretty? Will I be puffy? Will I be rich?  She has learned the lesson; if I am bulimic, none of these will be.

There is no sense of control when a person such as she, consumes vast quantities of chow.   Cash is drained, as is the corporeal being.  Vitamins and minerals are voided from the system.   Health and happiness are canceled in kind.  Electrolytes are eliminated exponentially.  If the heart continues to beat, that, medical professionals say, will be a miracle.  Rather than wield authority over any or all aspects of her life, She is only sick and tired.  This woeful woman is sick of being sick, and tired of being tired.

The hours devoted to the dance are endless.  Day and night, she dreams of food.  In her sleep, sadly she sees herself heave.  There is little time for slumber.  If firm, yet fragile female is to eliminate every morsel, she must completely cleanse her stomach.  Eat. Drink.  Wet the palette.  Moisten the most minuscule particles in the stomach.  Indeed, saturate these.  All-the-better to slide food upwards my dear.  

Even still, any good bulimic knows, until there is nothing but bile, the belly is not truly empty.  If the tummy is to be left untouched by vitals, one must work to create a vacuum within.

Thus, the cycle continues.  Binge.  Purge, Resolve to be healthy.  Plan to pop huge quantities of supplemental pills, without puking.  This is the perpetual plan.  It has been for what feels as eons.  “New Years Day,” She says to herself, “is every day?”  

She ponders what people think, what physicians profess, and the many conversations with her cousin who believes the bulimic lifestyle is her choice.  Each seems to espouse a similar philosophy; with consideration to fodder, bulimics are fully in charge of what enters and exits their mouths.  She has the power to stop.  All that this dame does is in her control.  If this is control, She bellows, I want none of it!

It is fine for others to say that her actions, the chain of gorge and eliminate all that she ate, is her personal preferred  alternative.  She has come to understand that what we select to do is not so easily defined . .  . that is except by others who think they know better than she of what is within her.  Fascinated, she reflects on what has more recently been discovered as a scientific reality.  Rarely do humans grasp what is within them selves.  

People eat sweet, fatty, or salty foods for pleasure; only to be pained by pounds gained, a compromised immune system, or guilt.  The agonies these cause encourage greater indulgences.  In search of gratification, countless place bets.  Gamblers win.  They lose. With little left to show, some sell what the have left.  Surely, the next wager will bring that welcome success.   Triumph will be theirs.  Crapshooters, card sharks, and boneshakers will then have the cash to “invest” once again.  Certainly, there are dozens who do drugs with delight.   The trip is a high.  The down is so low.  The desire for another buzz builds, as does the appetite for more dopamine.  

The number of activities people engage in to increase the rates at which dopamine is released in the brain are unlimited, neuroscientists now realize. Several studies published over the last years have examined the effects of monetary rewards and the chemical compound generated in the brain. Currency, while an abstract, in the gray matter that guides us, is as concrete as cocaine, food, sex or anything a person envisions as a reward, Doctor Hans Breiter, a neuroscientist at Harvard noted near a decade ago, people crave what they think will bring them comfort.  Little Bit sighs and smiles.  She knows this is true for her.

If only the brain and body were independent entities.  Then perchance, people and their physical, physiological realities would not be so reliant on irrational predilections, or the false hope that a New Years resolution will offer the necessary willpower.  This is not meant to excuse what she does; nonetheless, She reads the copious research.  She wonders whether the countless socially acceptable eaters do.

Sugar, salts, fats, starches, and the abundance of these in an American diet, interact with the cellular structures of mind and matter.  The effects of Food on the Brain some say is folly.  Scientist have disputed that false notion as a  myopic myth and still most people deny that dopamine decides much for us, be we bulimic, or a person who appears to be beautifully balanced.

The brains of beings are akin.  The difference is bulimics do what is offensive.  Surely, Little Bit does.  She beats herself up day after day, evening after evening, before, during, and after she engages in the-engorge-and-eliminate process.  She tells herself she is not resolute enough, not strong enough, and not sincere enough.  As a person, She believes she is surely a failure.  How else might she explain why she is not successful, she does not live a wonderful life.  

She lives with intention and regrets her every choice.  She has the goals and inevitably grave misgivings.  She passionately pursues her bliss, be it food or foolishness.  These, in truth, are one in the same.  

Thus, once again, on the traditional New Years Day, she reflects on what is her forever truth.  She is fond of what is wise and worrisome.  She longs to be free from her habit.  She also yearns to feel the food flow in and out of her body.  Finally, the lovely lady hopes to resolve, if life is to be different, she must do other than resolve.   It is vital for Little Bit to realize her brain and body are one.  She can conclude and act upon the choice she had not considered in previous decades.  She can regularly recharge her present neural pathways, or change her pattern.  Perchance, were she to embrace that truth, this year will be truly New, nice, and nicer.

Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Seven. Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

Or Similar Discussions . . .

Resolve to find a finer reality.  Resources . . .

How Did I Let This Happen?

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

As the calendar pages were torn away, with few left to view before the New Year, she would ask herself, “How did I let this happen?”  She knew.  Yet, she did not wish to speak to what had occurred.  It was easier, more socially acceptable to assume that she just overate.  Thus, she would look at her body and study the bulges.  There were more lumps and bumps than there had been before.  As the months passed, her bulk increased.  She could just as well have watched her frame dwindle to nothingness and asked the same question.  However, were she to be thinner the thought might not have occurred to her.  As many are, she would have been blissful to be skinny.  That definition was not hers to hold.  This woman was fat.  

Embarrassed, disappointed in herself, this daughter of Eve inquired of what, for all of her life, seemed to be the inevitable.  “How could I have let this happen again?”  She dieted in the past.  She did well, often.  During the lean times, the foods once inhaled and the drinks she imbibed were healthier.  Then, sooner, or later, she would return to her old habits.  Fodder for her was fun.  It filled her soul or seemed to for a while.

Frequently, as another year closed and the thoughts of what might be overwhelmed her she would evaluate her expanse.  Once more, the query gnawed at her very being.  “Why; why had she not maintained her healthy weight?”

The answer seemed obvious, at least to others.  She too accepted what most believed to be true.  She ate herself into oblivion.  Food was her addiction of choice.  She reflected on the past.  There it was, her problem.  It was easy to understand why she had developed as she had.

It began in November of another year, long ago.  Then, as now, it twas the season to be jolly.  Yet, for a person such as she, the winter solstice was a time of folly.  Whilst visions of sugarplums dance in the heads of children, as the holidays approach, she dreamt of deep dark chocolate, devils food cake, and a fudge so gooey it would give most a toothache with but a single bite.  Tasty temptations tantalize her, just as they did when she was a tot and a teen.

As an adult, she anticipates a table full of delicacies.  Days prior to the Thanksgiving feast, she begins to delight in reveries of turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.  Peach cobbler, butter pecan ice cream, and the cashew nougat cookies, baked only in the months of November and December are never far from her mind.  The fantasies flow as she thinks of the foods she yearns for most fervently.  Oh, yes, family was part of the celebration.  Good times for all.  However, she did not savor the people in the same way she did the food.

Indeed, it seemed no matter her age, or the time of the year, this lovely lady thought fondly and frequently of what soon would enter her stomach.

It was during the holidays, decades ago, that she began her excursion, her entrée, into the world of wondrous carte du jour, and then, what occurred when more than enough was ingested.  A festival did not invite her or inspire her to overeat.  Banquet spreads did not, later, bring her to the prink of what would become her preferred habit,  binge and purge.  Daily delights were presented to her for as long as she could recall.  In her childhood home, menus were prepared a month before a meal.  

Mommy cooked, baked, broiled, boiled, and sautéed.  When no specific fodder was needed, ingredients for whatever one wanted were still available.  The pantry was always well-stocked.  She could have her fill, although she never was truly satiated.  No one would ever go hungry in her household.  Certainly, she would not.  Unless she chose to waste away, she could fill her face endlessly.

In her family, every day was a special occasion.  Food was a symbol, a celebration of life.  

If you felt, thought, did, or were alive, you ate.  The relations dined when they were gleeful.  They consumed chow rather than cry.  Sisters, father, and friends who visited chomped on candy, gobbled goodies, and snacked on syrupy noshes.  Hence, the hour when her personal travel first began was not an unusual one.  It was just another moment in a myriad of minutes filled with food.

On that winter day, her Mommy baked beautiful cookies.  The biscuits were large and soft.  The frosty centers were sweeter than the crusts, which were covered in confectioners sugar.  The flat crisp cakes were laid out to cool.  The young women came into the kitchen and saw a solution to what had never been a problem.  She would partake.  The particulars that preoccupied her mind would disappear.  After all, she had learned in childhood, food could cure what did or did not ail her.

Indeed, she was scared.  School was a source of stress.  A graduation date might be near; she wanted no more responsibility.  Relationships had realized a point of no return.  Talk of nuptials was more frequent, although she had no desire to wed.  Financial woes had become very real.  They did not exist in that second.  However, she feared, if she finished her education she would have to search for a job.  No, a vocation.  Those in her life did not expect her to secure a viable prospect.  Nor did they think she could not.  Acquaintances, associates, and close relatives were not concerned.  The pressure came from within her.  

In truth, she was not certain that her educational pursuits, for a supposed “chosen” profession were of interest to her.  The man she loved, while wondrous was not necessarily the person she wished to spend her life with.  No one was or would be.  After twenty-plus years of marriage, her parents divorced when she was young.  She did had no desire to chance that she might do the same.

While most would be excited by the probability of commencement, a career, and a wedding ceremony, she was not.  She was happy, sort of.  Life was good.  It truly was.  Nonetheless, important decisions, milestones, dominated her every thought.  Her very existence was overwhelmed with what might be.  A distraction would be welcome.  She indulged.  

For the next twenty-five years and three months, she swallowed and spit out quantities of food that could have fed hundreds, perhaps thousands of hungry people.  Sixteen hours a day could be consumed with consumption.  

Frenzied, poised, inspired, uninterested, enthusiastic, inert, empathetic, or numb all were reasons to relate to her best friend, food.  Many mused of her condition.  

Those who knew of her habit and persons who only observed that she was selective when she ate in public, supposed she was worried about her weight.  She did think about the pounds, slightly, although not obsessively.  Unlike friends who watched the scale and dieted.  She did neither.  A machine that calculates the body’s mass did not exist in her home.  

Over the course of her lifetime, she saw her shape shrink.  Just as quickly, it grew.  The pounds fell off.  They added up.  She never knew what might occur.  To think of her heaviness would be but an unpleasant burden.  She would rather enjoy herself.  Thus, she ate.

However, each day, as she filled her plates and her stomach, she realized she depleted her soul.  She was never able to avoid the truth.  While she might separate herself from the world, and steal a few moments away from worries, woes, and the world, she was not able to fully hide.  Never could she escape what really hurt her heart, herself.

For far more than one-hundred thousand plus hours of her life, she had to face herself in a manner that was weightier than most ever do.  Alone in a room with a stove and a sink, intentionally closed off from those who might care about her more than she cared for herself, this woman, who might have been labeled with any of many “eating disorders,” learned a lesson that she recalled as she read of Oprah Winfrey’s own recent realization.

Here’s another thing this past year has been trying to teach me: I don’t have a weight problem-I have a self-care problem that manifests through weight.  As my friend Marianne Williamson shared with me, “Your overweight self doesn’t stand before you craving food.  She’s craving love.”  Falling off the wagon isn’t a weight issue; it’s a love issue.

When I stop and ask myself, “What am I really hungry for?” the answer is always “I’m hungry for balance, I’m hungry to do something other than work.”  If you look at your overscheduled routine and realize, like I did, that you’re just going and going and that your work and obligations have become a substitute for life, then you have no one else to blame.  Only you can take the reins back.

The female who binged and purged for more than a quarter of a century, the one who starved herself in earlier times, and who, as a child accepted obesity as her path, the person whose story is shared in this treatise would say, “How true.”  She might also attest to her own awareness; “Be it a person who is a bulimic, an anorexic, or an individual self-described as “addicted” to food, the cuisine is not a cause for deep distress.  Nor is a thin or fat figure the consequence.”  Groceries are sought when the spirit of a being is sorrowful.

She learned, not sooner, but far later, superficially, anyone can appear to be joyous.  Many even believe they are, that is, except maybe when they are quiet and alone with only themselves.  Still, without a sense of inner serenity, a sanity that cannot be seen, a person will continue to be ravenous.  Oh, how she knew this to be true for herself.

The adage is, “Money does not buy happiness.”  It may also be said, a successful career cannot calm a craving.  Marriage will not alleviate an appetite.  A novelty, a nicety, a gem, or a grand gesture will not fill an emotional emptiness; nor will food.  She discovered for herself, as Oprah might contend, while all these are fine, they cannot replace an authentic fondness felt within.

In her own life, the former overeater, anorexic, and bulimic, the person who no longer stuffs her face, starves, or binges and purges, has faith.  She trusts Miss Winfrey will experience as she finally did; to taste the sweetness of a life in balance, and love in a way that is other than romantic whimsy, is far more sensational than food.

References and reality for many . . .

  • “How Did I Let This Happen Again?” By Oprah Winfrey.  O, The Oprah Magazine. January 2009
  • Bulimia; Science of the Holiday Season and Food

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    The holiday season is the best and worst of times.  It always was.  The food is phenomenal.  The feelings that fill a heart, mind, or is it my stomach can cause enormous misery.  For a person immersed in the rituals of bulimia the latter weeks of the year are better than all others.  Opportunities to indulge are ample during the holy days.  The selection of food fare is far superior.  Scientific research on food reaps ample rewards.  The secretive practice of self-imposed solitary confinement causes much angst, or could, if one were not able to find an escape in food.

    Fortunately, a bulimic can and does take flight.  She or he can sprint to the stores.  There selves are filled with cashew nougat cookies.  Boxes of these white wonders melted in her mouth.  Delicate doughy dinner rolls lined every end display.  These delicious buns were strategically placed in case a customer forgot to grab them when in the bread aisle.  Buns sold for pennies.  Christians, Jews, Gentiles, those who worship Jehovah, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, and more must love these doughy delights.  While stuffing was a staple, in the winter, the cost was nominal, and the supply was grand.  She could fill her shopping cart with boxes a plenty.

    In the dairy section, sweet and savory eggnog was available.  This liquid ambrosia did not appear before or after the national celebrations.  She could hardly wait for the New Year.  Grocers would reduce the price on this stock and she would buy all she could.  She would place the excess in the freezer and save these for another day.  As America celebrated, so too did she.  However, her festivity was a bit less conventional.

    She needed no lights, no tinsel, or tree.  A menorah, or a Kinara were not necessary.  An image of the crescent moon, or the five-pointed star, was not important parts of her ceremonial gala.  All she needed was food.  She no longer required family to enjoy.  Food was her kin, her kind of company.

    When Bethany was a child, Thanksgiving Day brought songs of the good cheer.  Merriment filled the house.  Mommy and the little lass would sing all the traditional carols.  Dradle, dradle, dradle, I made it out of clay.  O Tannenbaum, oh Christmas tree, Sleigh bells ring on a silent night.  As December 25th approached, the family dashed through the snow, roasted chestnuts, and pa rum pum pum pumed with the Little Drummer Boy.  Her Daddy said the gaiety made no sense to him.  Yet, he laughed aloud and reveled in the expressions of glee.  Daddy tried not to croon and carol; however, at times he joined in the caroling.

    Times were good.  The late November dinner was usually turkey.  Mashed potatoes and gravy made from scratch graced the table.  Home-baked breads also adorned the setting.  Daddy carved the meat with studied finesse.  Mom dished out the stuffing.  Homemade pies and cookies sat in wait.  There were many choices.  Mommy baked for days on end.  Lemon meringue was for Lisa.  Bethany preferred pecan pie.  Dad did not decide until he was ready for desert.  Would he dive into a traditional pumpkin pie or save that slice for another occasion?

    In her family, food was considered the means to celebrate life.  Mom, Lisa, and Bethany ate when they were happy, dined when they were sad.  Each of the ladies filled lonely days and nights with chow.  Fodder brought thought; it stimulated reflection.  Realizations occurred over a bowl of soup, cereal, salad, or stew.  Daddy was not as dependent on victuals.  However, Bethany’s first father was a glutton, for punishment and pleasure over a plate of steak, veal, lamb, or lobster.  That man customarily consumed as though there was no tomorrow.

    Bethany recalled every New Years Day, Michael sat on the bathroom floor slumped over the toilet bowl.  He puked and purged until he could do no more.  When his stomach was empty, then he would stop, only to await the time when he would fill up again.

    For Michael, bingeing and ridding himself of all he ingested was not habitual.  However, it occurred often enough.  The activity was a vivid memory for Bethany.  Perhaps she learned to adopt bulimic behaviors.  After all, aspects of the conduct were part of her experience.

    For her natural father Michael, life was an adventure.  He thought it fun to be spontaneous.  Bethany was more of a scientist just as her Grandfather had been and as her Dad trained her to be.  The little bit of a girl questioned everything.  Studious as she was she researched the minutia.  There was nothing in her life that did not involve great thought.

    When she first chose to relieve herself of food, it was a calculated decision.  Early one evening, during dinner Bethany ate so much.  After the meal she could barely move.  Consumed with a sense of discomfort she sought relief.  It occurred to her, if she simply flushed out the food, all would be well.  However, she discovered as all scientists do, it is never possible to truly control the environment, or the outcome of any experiment.  Indeed, in an investigation, what seemed a solution to a problem, could, and did control the researcher.

    Physiology and psychological components are more powerful than mere mortals might wish themselves to be.  Addictions may begin with a conscious decision as all actions do.  Nonetheless, there are forces that preclude logic and rational thinking.  The body is more than a reasonable brain.

    Quickly, what was meant to be a moment became a lifestyle.  Hence, Bethany concluded she must learn to cope.  To survive this young being would have to learn the science of intake and surrender.  She measured her moves.  What edibles went down smoothly, and which released themselves from the stomach walls smoothly.

    While cottage cheese is often considered the finest pabulum for those who wish to lose weight, for a bulimic, this provision is a nightmare.  The tiny curds stick to the innards.  The amount of acidic bile needed to breakdown this dairy product is ample.  It seems a single soul cannot produce enough enzymes to eliminate this compound within a reasonable amount of time.  Most cheeses clump once in the digestive system.  

    All through the holidays, cups of cheese spreads fill the grocers delicatessen cases.  Spreads are smooth to the taste, and smoother on the tongue as they slide in and out of the most central orifice.

    Milk will cuddle if it sits on the kitchen counter for too long.  It does the same if left for any length of time in the stomach.  Eggnog, however, glides through the system.  She knows not if the egg, sugar, or other additives make the difference.  Bethany only understands that this is a delight.

    Summer potato salads may be flavorful.  However, a boiled and particularly pulverized tuber does not travel as well as the mashed perennial plant does.  The moist breadcrumbs that we call stuffing are an interesting delicacy.  The ingredients within the mixture matter more than the actual entrée.

    Hard cookies can crumble into bits in the outside world.  They do the same once digested.  Miniscule particles spilled on the floor can be difficult to clean up.  When in the body cavity these small pieces scatter.  The fragments of food do not gather in as a group, and exit as one.  Flat crisp baked goods do not easily escape; yet, the holiday goodies cashew nuggets, goes down and comes up as a silk scarf might.

    Indeed, the holidays are wondrous.  The food is more fun than time with family might be, or so Bethany hoped as another year approached.  Sadly, in truth, during the winter solstice she felt more alone than she ever did.  No matter the trials and tribulations, the gift of a shared experience means more than any other event might.

    Science and food could not, did not, and would never suffice for what she sacrificed.  Those the little bit of a being was closest to were a greater source of solace than what she, a bulimic labeled nourishment.  Nature, in the form of ingested plant or animal products, does not nurture a starved soul.  A satiated stomach could not compare to a heart filled with joy.

    Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa, a regal Ramadan, none would be as long as Bethany remained bulimic.  If only emotions, epidemiology, and the effects of these could be as easily understood as the study of food.

    Bulimia. “Control,” Not the Means Nor the Mission [Chapter Seven]

    Carousel of Romance? Top Revolving Carousel Musical Globe

    Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    She heard it said every time the topic was brought up.  The words flow from their mouths as the food did from hers.  Terminology spills into the sink of the uninformed and ignorant just as her fare did almost immediately after she swallowed it.  Resembling her refusal to digest what she ate, they reject what is offered to them.  Bulimics do not do as they do so that they might feel in control.  While marinating in a myriad of feelings and flavors, a binger that purges is not exerting his or her desire to control.  She cannot.  She knows this all too well. 

    In the same way an athlete understands, muscles have memory she recognizes a little practice goes a long way.  The first time might have been a choice.  The second was a consideration, followed quickly by an almost unexpected upheaval.  After that, there was no need for a prompt.  The cycle was complete.  She was on a carousel cemented in concrete.  She could not get off this ride.  Oh, how she tried.

    For her physiology, neurology, and biology were forces to be reckoned with.  Psychology played a part, particularly on that first day.  There were so many feelings she wanted to avoid.  That evening she stuffed her face, inhaled her meal.  Surely, food would relieve the pain. 

    Her stomach was bloated.  She felt sick.  Fingers were not necessary.  She just threw up.  After, she felt better, temporarily.  In those moments, she was not thinking ‘this would be gratifying or great.’  She only wanted the ache to end.  It did.  The throbbing in her head, her heart, and her body went away for an instant. 

    She could not and did not control the hurt coming on; certainly, she was not controlling its egress.  In actuality, the anguish only increased.  Her life became a series, a sequel of events, repeated over and over again.

    She awakes and thinks of food as she goes about the day.  Thankfully, since transitioning from anorexia to bulimia the thoughts are not as overwhelming.  Puking allows her to eat, and eat, and eat again and again.  Indeed, she has become an eating apparatus.  She consumes and is consumed. 

    Each day she must make time for her doings.  She purchases her provisions.  She buys enough to feed a few, perhaps, throngs of people.  Preparing the fare will be full-filling for as she cooks she chomps on those condiments that need no roasting, toasting, baking, boiling, or frying.  She controls nothing more than the temperature of the comestibles.

    However, much must be done before she can fully engage.  She has to drive or walk hauling her heavy load, pabulum for the voracious.  As she strolls or struggles to maneuver the curves on the road, she begins her antics.  Bananas are best for this part of the process.  Should there be an accident she will be less worried if only fruit sits in her stomach.  The long yellow crop exits the system easily.  Some foods do; others do not.

    Knowing what will settle in the belly too deeply to be retrieved and what is pliable enough to take leave on command is important.  A scientist such as she is never able to fully control the chaos that is life.  There is much to consider and manage.  She learned long ago, nothing is truly manageable.  Control is but a myth and she has no illusions.

    In those early days, she choose to chew nuts while in transit.  Cashews are beyond delicious.  Brazil nuts are not bad.  Peanuts are good-a plenty.  Nevertheless, she learned.  Too many of these, if the travel is long, or if the unexpected occurs, will not sit well.  She might worry.  Bulk gnaws at her.  What if she cannot relieve herself in time?  Besides, teeth crumble under the pressure.  This delicacy is too hard on the enamel.  After a fracture, a fissure, and the final falling out of dentine she forfeited the practice.

    Once home was in sight, the excitement increases.  Still there was much to do before she might genuinely begin.  The groceries needed to brought in.  Imagine taking bag after bag into the house, then the kitchen.  She is a clean person and prefers to avoid chaos at all costs.  The items must be put away.  Some went directly into the stomach.  Others filled cabinets. 

    The cupboards were never bare.  She back-stocked.  The idea of withdrawal, not having what she craved haunted her, even when not at home and not indulging or ingesting.  This young woman would never suffer; it was contrary to her every belief.  Yet, in truth she knew.  She was agonizing.  Nothing was in her control, not her thoughts, her actions, her feelings, and certainly, not her life.

    After all was ready for her attention, there was more to be done before she could focus.  She needed to dress in her throw-up clothes.  She had a full wardrobe just for this purpose.  As a fabric lost its resiliency, it was placed in an honored bin, a treasure trove.  Shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, tee shirts, and pantaloons graced her body before the ceremony began.  She cleaned these fibers each evening.  She is a traditional soul and cherishes rituals.

    Next, though she revels in sunshine and light, she needed to seal herself off from intruders.  She did not wish to be discovered.  Doors and windows were locked and sealed.  Drapes and shutters were closed.  Blankets, sheets, cardboard, and planks of wood were used to bar peekers from seeing beyond the shade.  She wanted no one to view what was within. 

    Heaven knows what others might think if they knew what was going on inside the house, in her mind, heart, body, or soul.  There are gaps between the wall and the window frame you know.  She must eliminate these, close herself off.  Try to control the uncontrollable, the unruly, herself, her life, her feelings, most importantly her hurt.

    That did not happen.  With each passing day, she was more distressed.  The agony deepened.  The doings had more power over her than she had over them.

    The only consolation was, bingeing and purging were far easier than not eating.  When she was an anorexic, she had less control or so it seemed.  Starving a body starves a mind.  Without nutrients or nourishment, growth and learning were less possible.  She loves learning.  She always has.

    The lesson she now  comprehends to her core is bulimia has nothing to do with a need to control or be in control.  There is in reality no such possibility.  Probabilities are chance.  Any scientist will tell you we can only control for what we can predict.  We can never fully understand the chaos of the universe.  She certainly did not grasp hers.  All that she was sure of was she was out of control.

    She recognizes that she has no power.  She tries to flee from her feelings.  That is her deepest desire.  Weight is not the issue.  It is a derivative, a diversion.  She longs to take flight.  At last, she is organized.  The great escape can begin!

    Bulimia Builds Bitterness and Bridges

    Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    As we stood face-to-face and quietly discussed my years of anorexia and bulimia, I was reminded of what I always knew and yet, was too distracted to acknowledge aloud.  It was not that I never spoke of it before, I had on many occasions.  However, this conversation helped me to realize the heartache my illness [and I unintentionally] caused more deeply.

    A sweet and sensitive soul stood tall, looked at me directly and said, “My sister struggles with bulimia.  I would really like to speak with you about your experience.”  Moments before this utterance, we were discussing teeth and toothbrushes.  I shared my history of stains and offered my theories.  I mentioned my concern; had years of bingeing and purging damaged the enamel.  Perhaps, my dentine was more porous than they had been before I began traveling down the path of bulimia.  I did not know with certainty; I hypothesized.  Then Douglas spoke.  A minor musing evolved.  My hope is I have as well.

    Over the next few days, Douglas and I chatted often.  I shared three missives I penned on the subject.  Surprisingly to me, he read them immediately.  He wanted to understand his sister.  She is his very close and lifetime friend.  We talked a bit more.  I provided three more pondering prose.  The wondrous man quickly read these as well.  It seemed he was devouring information.  He was searching for answers.  Too much had been left unsaid for too long.  Sarah had been ridding herself of fodder, denying herself nourishment for a few years now. 

    Douglas and his sister Sarah struggled to discuss the unspeakable.  This empathetic gentle giant of a man did not understand; why would she wish to eliminate all the food from her body.  He feared for her; yet, he acknowledges, he did not express himself well when bulimia was the subject.  Douglas was frightened.  He felt powerless.  Unbeknownst to me, my words gave him strength.  He trusted I was open to discussing the topic, or at least he knew that I said I was.  However, I wonder.  Until I asked him of his thoughts, he said nothing.

    Then, upon inquiry, Douglas spoke of how he never imagined that she might felt separate from herself as I had.  This feeling fellow could not comprehend that his sibling was not as concerned with her weight as she might be about other situations, those that are far more serious. 

    I cannot be certain what troubles Sarah.  She may fear adult responsibilities; I did.  Graduating from high school or college can be a challenge.  Fitting in or fearing not is quite an experience.  It might be . . . ?

    Douglas offered, he wondered why she did not just stop.  As we exchanged tales of woe, his, hers, and mine, I could see that he was contemplating.  Every thought I expressed traveled within him.  There were many chords struck.  The causes, the effects, all touched his tender heart.  Douglas decided to present my letters to his sister.  Possibly, she would know that he cared; that might be meaningful.  His desire to help was palpable.  I could see it in his face, hear it in his voice, I felt it.

    This healthy hardy, fellow that stood before me knew he would never do as she was and is doing.  As he read early on, as he reflected further, as we chatted, he realized that perchance, the physiological, the physical influences might be more powerful than he ever considered.  Neurology might matter.  I expressed my realization; bulimia is not purely a psychological problem, oh, that it were.

    Upon reflection, as profound as our exchange was, I did not realize the depth or intensity.  I had no idea that this encounter would change me.  I long ago concluded I had worked through all that was during those trying years.  I was wrong. 

    I never realized how fully my relationships with family, and friends, was affected.  Might my acquaintances also have tales to tell of their trying times with me?  When I was immersed in an enigmatic illness, I was, as all human beings are involved with many individuals, those at work, at school, on the streets and in the stores.  Discussing with Douglas helped me to learn, to grow, to resolve some of sorrowful details, and to realize there was more I need to work through.

    Among the quandaries still left to resolve is my relationship with my cousin Alexander.  After, Douglas first revealed his situation, and his gratitude for our conversation, I was elated.  I telephoned my Mom’s first cousin, my close friend, Alexander.  I was excited and wanted to share the story.  Might my history assist another?  Would that not be wondrous?  My cousin took a deep breath and paused.

    Alexander and I rarely authentically discuss this part of the past.  He lingers, as it looms large in the background.  I understand that just as it was and perchance still is difficult for Douglas to discuss the doings, the dilemma, and the festering feelings that Sarah’s situation fosters, Alex struggles.  His stomach churns.  Communication, when dealing with bulimia is a challenge.  Alexander and I chat freely and often.  We have for decades.  Yet, this topic is too tender to touch.  The scars are subterranean.  The scabs sit delicately on the surface.  No one wants to pick at these.  Bloodletting is not our pleasure.  Alexander stammered.

    Then my sweet, caring cousin began to reflect on his reality.  As I listened, I heard a somewhat protective cadence in his voice.  It took time for me to remember that just as that period profoundly altered my ability to be free fun, silly, and stay on the surface, my affliction affected others abundantly.  Even today, there is bitterness.  What was not communicated then continues to have its effect.  Perhaps, my family can build bridges now.  However, first we must break down the barriers.  Alexander begins to speak and I realize the wall is wickedly thick. 

    Years, and years ago, my Mom in desperation, turned to him requesting his assistance.  Alexander and Mommy were close.  They were raised together as siblings might be.  The two had a loving history, and Alexander is a man of ample means.  Mommy hoped for a financial favor.  There was no one else she could turn to.  No other family member or friend had funds for such a venture.  She thought it might be best to hospitalize me, not for a day or two, not to stabilize my physical imbalance, but to place me in a treatment program that would work with me as a whole. 

    My Mom thought it wise to put me in close and constant proximity with physicians that specialize in bulimia.  Although my Mom is a psychotherapist or perhaps because she is, she feared, she might be part of the problem.  She could not help me as much as she longed to.  This hurt her heart; it scarred her soul, and I only wish she truly knew.  It was never her fault.

    Alexander offered no cash.  From across the country, cousin Alex, alone consulted with a doctor that someone recommended to him.  The reference practiced many hundreds of miles from Mommy and me; he was considered a specialist.  This physician is a psychiatrist.  Since Alexander lives on the East coast, and the Doctor on the North West shore, the two talked by telephone.  Alexander took copious notes.  He jotted down pages and pages of data.  Ultimately, this Doctor stated, since my Mom is a professional she likely is as knowledgeable as he.

    Berenice Barbara certainly had knowledge of the dilemma.  She lived with it daily.  Yet, she could not continue to do so.  Mommy remembered.

    There was a time, years earlier, I resided in my parents’ home.  Each day, I would walk to the grocery store, buy bags and bags full of food.  I had my own shopping cart and could crate much home.  Once settled in the sanctity of the abode, I prepared for the afternoon and evening delight.  The experience or entrées  were delicious, or might have been had I ever bothered to taste the delicacies I prepared.  Culinary escapades come in many sizes and shapes.  Mine was huge and it took on many horrific forms.  My adventure was interesting to say the least. 

    I placed newspapers on the floor in front of the television.  I would travel between the kitchen and living room.  I never bothered with the bathroom.  I cooked, cleaned as I prepared my mega-meals, sat down  ate, and then threw-up.  All my food fell into a basin neatly placed in my palms for just this purpose.  There was no time to travel to the toilet.  Besides, that seemed so inefficient.  I was busy, productive, bingeing, purging.  Leave me alone!

    My parents let me be.  Possibly, they hoped it was a phase.  Probably they knew they could not stop me from doing as I did.  My brother was quite young at the time, not more than five years of age.  I am certain he was curious, though he never said a word.  Now, he barely remembers any part of his childhood.  My routine went on for a while.  Finally, I secured employment.  I moved out.

    Money was tight and became increasingly tighter.  Try to feed a food frenzy that never ends.  Imagine paying for twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours of provisions everyday.  I could no longer afford an apartment.  I returned to my parents abode, for ten minutes.  I walked into the entryway and was about to prepare for “my day.”  My Mom turned to my father and said , “No, I cannot do this.”

    My father, an extremely loving man was not willing to give up on me; nor was my Mom.  It was only that Mommy could not watch as I wasted away and destroyed my body, again, and again.  My condition affected my parents differently.  They are , as are we all uniquely individual. 

    Mommy thought herself responsible.  It hurt her heart so much to see my body bend, twist, and turn herself inside out.  She saw her child wither away and feared I would pass.  Even when the weight stabilized, she did not feel at ease.  Berenice Barbara knew too well, what I was doing.

    Bodily functions were precarious.  I was depleting my electrolytes.  Potassium, needed to sustain the blood flow was barely available.  It was flushed out with the bile.  The muscular organ that beats life into a human being was threatened.  Mommy feared what was yet to occur.  There is ample literature on the hazards of bulimia.  None of the symptoms or effects of bingeing and purging are promising.

    My father Barry, was equally familiar with the folly.  Perhaps, although we were and are best friends, my antics did not affect him as they did my Mom.  After all, he is not biologically related to me.  Perchance, our bloodline had no bearing on his feelings.  Barry only wanted to help and actively make known he loved [loves] me and believed in me. 

    Of course, Mommy did too.  We were always very close.  Possibly, that is why we were fine, as long as I was not throwing up in her home.  I often say, “Home is where the heart is; mine is wherever my mom lives.”  Mommy wanted my heart to thrive.  It could not, if in her home she accepted its suffering.  I understood.  I did not say a word when she asked me to leave her house.  I could not.  I hurt her so much.  Harming me caused her much pain.  Hurting my Mom heightened my sorrow, my grief, and my anguish.

    Barry spoke instantly.  He told me not to worry; he would help.  Minutes after my Mom expressed her exasperation and left the room, Barry and I drove to a lodging inn not too far from my parents’ dwelling.  Barry rented an efficiency apartment for me.  This man, my father secured my rent for a month, then the next.  Of course, there was the following.  Eventually, I worked my way out of that living situation.  However, the bulimia did not transition as easily. 

    While in the hotel apartment, I invoked a newer pattern.  I began “proceedings” at 1:00 Post Meridian.  I cooked, cleaned, ate, and eliminated until usually one or two ante meridian.  Nonetheless . . .

    As Alexander spoke and shared his version of the anecdote, my mind wandered.  Actually, I wondered.  It was obvious to me.  He believed he had done all he could.  He saw no reason to involve himself further.  Alexander was certain that Mommy had everything under control.  I knew she wished she had.

    For Berenice Barbara, it was not the undelivered dollars that did her in; it was the sense that Alexander did not care.  He and Mommy are first cousins; as children, they were together always.  My Mom felt she turned to him as a confidant, a brother, and he did not bother to talk with her.  Actually, they never spoke again.

    Mommy and my father Barry did much to assist me, as did Grandpa.  Alexander believes that Grandpa loaned Mommy a bundle and she never re-paid the promissory note.  Cousin Alex thinks my Mom frittered the dollars always, or tucked them into a mattress perhaps.  She never sent me to a treatment center. 

    Alexander knows me now, or thinks he does, decades after that time.  He sees me as healthy, happy, and I suspect feels certain my affliction was never all that serious.  Yes, he has heard me speak of it, though rarely in depth and detail.  It seems he is not truly interested.  He often does not recall or realize the severity of what I say.  He does remind me often that Grandpa wrote checks to me.  Indeed he did. 

    Full of sorrow, and understanding my predicament, Grandpa saw the financial strain and the emotional toll.  He connected to my struggle through my writings.  I was stuck in a dead-end job.  I hated the work.  My employment had an effect on my health.  I was grinding my teeth among other things.  I could not afford to complete my degree.  The duties in this mailroom were simple.  I could complete the work with ease.  I was often told the sorting station was never as clean and efficient.  Still, I had to stay, sit for a nine-hour day. 

    To pass the time I penned my feelings, my frustration to Grandpa.  Writing was then as it is now, my release.  If I could not escape through food, and certainly while at work I could not, I wrote.  My grandfather, after a time, I know not why for I would not ask, decided he would pay for my last year of college.  He wanted me to have a degree, a piece of parchment, and a better sense of myself.  Grandpa felt badly that Mommy, his daughter could not afford to assist me with my education.  He did.

    Years before that Grandpa gave much to me, Alexander is correct, although the giving was not cash.  What grandfather Mitchell shared was of far greater value.  My Grandfather came to visit Mommy, my father, and me.  As a pharmacist, a scientist Mitchell trusted he could teach me how to better care for myself.  Barry arranged for the transportation, and Grandpa with me in tow strolled into the American Association for Retired Persons pharmacy. 

    Together, for over an hour, we read every bottle.  Grandpa  Mitchell, my mentor explained the differences between one vitamin, mineral, or another.  He discussed bonding agents and the pressure used to produce a pill.  Capsules were considered, oils as well.  A regime of supplements was created for me.  I promised to take these nutrients when I awoke and before I lay my head to sleep.  The pledge I made was to me.  I was living with the benefits[consequences?] of bulimia.  I longed to survive.

    My hair was extremely thin and brittle.  What was once thick and wavy was now thin and straight.  The teeth that once glistened turned gray.  Smooth skin was cracked and dry.  Fingernails were brittle.  When I scratched the dry surface of my flesh, bumps would rise.  These tiny welts filled with blood; it took days before they disappeared.  My young face was weathered and aging quickly.  While I dressed well, I truly cared for and about my clothes, a close evaluation would reveal, I was not a pretty sight.

    Nonetheless, Alexander never knew this.  He did not see me, feel me, or understand my pain.  Nor did he converse or come to spend a moment with Mommy.  Alexander only heard of what is easier to speak of, the money.  Grandpa shared stories of woe, not mine per se, his own.  That is what we all do.  We only know what is within us.

    Alexander trusted my grandfather was concerned; however, Mitchell did not mention what he observed or understood.  That would be too difficult.  Much like Douglas, Grandpa Mitchell expressed his fear, not his love.  Caring was too painful.

    My cousin only related to the cute little girl I once was.  That was his knowledge and understanding.  Sadly, it still is.

    Over the years, much to my Mom’s dismay, I developed a relationship with Alexander.  He never knew that I was hospitalized for days at a time.  He was certain I was not placed in a program.  Cousin Alex did not sense I was near death on more than one occasion.  I was placed on a machine.  Feeding was intravenous.

    Alexander was [and is today] unaware.  He did not [and does not] understand how Mommy felt.  He could not comprehend nor will he.  As we spoke, after my conversation with Douglas, Alexander declared he knows what he knows.  My cousin refused to listen to my narrative. 

    My cousin did not and does not experience my Mom as she was.  When I was detained in  a medical facility, Mommy was never able to visit me.  Physically she was capable; emotionally, she could not endure the pain. She tried once.  I happened to be in a hospital affiliated with her work.  She was there to meet with a patient and felt she could not leave without seeing me. 

    Mommy entered the room, sat on my bed, and we chatted.  Each of us tried to communicate as we always had and did when I was not expelling food before I digested it.  However, it was too hard for her.  I could see the tears forming and before they gently fell down her face.  She excused herself.  She was flooded with emotions.  Oh, Mommy, I am sooooooo sorry. 

    Alexander assumed much and apparently still does.  He knows that he and Grandpa lived a block away from each other.  They were friends; although I often wonder.  When one, or both persons in a relationship share some information, and never fully deliberate, how intimate and whole might the rapport be.  Nonetheless, the two were “close.” 

    Each time my grandfather spoke of gifting money to my Mom or me, Alexander decided the sums were large and an unwanted load for my Mom’s father.  Cousin Alex does not recall what my Grandpa taught me, or does not make the connection for I shared the parable many times.  “No one does something they do not really want to do.” 

    After a time when Grandpa gave me two hundred and eighty nine dollars to travel, I thanked him profusely, for months.  I could not resolve within myself how generous a gift he bestowed.  Then, one-day grandfather Mitchell said to me, I would not have given you the money had I not wanted to.  You need not continually thank me.  He shared his now famous adage.  Slowly, I learned.  This lesson is about far more than money.

    Nonetheless, Alexander remains stalwart, doing diligence over the dollars.  I discovered this only days ago.  As much as Alexander cherishes my Mom and I, he resents us.  Alexander believes he has the specifics.  For him there is nothing further to discuss. 

    My cousin believes my bulimia was a financial burden far beyond what it was.  He thinks my Mom borrowed money and never repaid it.  Grandpa disinherited his own daughter and sacrificed for his granddaughter.  He brusquely said to me, “Ask your sister.”  I did.  I discovered that my elder sibling understands as I do.  The details of that I will save for another time.  I told Alexander, in part of the exchange with my sister.  Alexander refuses to hear the rest of the story.  Bitterness becomes him.  It must, for he has chosen to live with it for all these years.

    Perhaps, that is the truer crisis.  Bulimia breeds contempt.  As the person afflicted purges in an attempt to escape feeling, the feelings flourish.  They envelop everyone.  Authentic communication ends.  At times, we cannot be sure it will come again.  The illness has a profound effect on the individual.  It is as a heavy stone falling into a pond.  The ripples travel.  All are touched. 

    So much is shoved out of sight.  Embarrassment causes the bulimic and her family to hide their emotions.  There is much harm done to every one.  People do not speak; they do not wish to see what is painful and true.  Tales are told.  Everyone wishes to appear excellent, exalted, and above it all.  Yet, friends, family, familiars are all brought down.  The spiral spins out of control.

    Thankfully, it need not be.  Douglas shared my writings with his sister.  They had a lengthy conversation.  Tears and fears were placed out in the open.  Until, I told my truth, Douglas never understood how his sister Sarah struggles.  He thought his sibling was concerned about her weight.  This brilliant and munificent gentle man could not imagine why the healthy woman he knows and loves would do as she does. 

    It was only days ago he discovered, each night she cries herself to sleep thinking tomorrow, I will not do this.  Yes, I remember; I did the same.  This evening I told my father what Douglas shared.  Barry asked was that true?  He never knew.  My father did not imagine my daily distress.  I can barely phantom his sorrow. 

    As we reflected, Barry avowed, “Ultimately I  trusted your sense of yourself and your evolving being.  Mommy and I often talked about what we could do.  Your health and well being was on our minds.”  I trust it still is.  I feel it in Barry’s musings.  I sense it in my soul. 

    Each day and evening I think about Mommy’s anguish.  The despair my Mom felt, and may still feel, fills my heart.  She has passed and I cannot inquire, Yet, I accept I cannot experience a fraction of the pain as she did, has, and sadly, may still . 

    Alexander, oh were he to speak of the unspeakable; what might we resolve.

    Douglas and Sarah, I love you both.  You give me hope.  I wish to bequeath to you both hugs, kisses, and pleasant dreams.  I have faith; tomorrow will come and good health will be yours.

    Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Six.  Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge  [Chapter Two] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self  [Chapter Three] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me  [Chapter Four] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight  [Chapter Six] By Betsy L. Angert.
    Or Similar Discussions . . .

  • I Am An Anorexic, Bulimic, A Person! By Betsy L. Angert.
  • When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me? By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health. By Betsy L. Angert.

    Other References . . .

  • The Effects of Bulimia.
  • Bulimia Nervosa. The National Women’s Health Information Center.
  • What are the effects of bulimia?  Tina deBenedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most, By: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.  The Harvard Negotiation Project.
  • I Am An Anorexic, Bulimic, A Person!

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    Once you label me, you negate me.

    ~ Soren Kierkegaard [Danish Philosopher]

    An article in the New York Times grabbed my attention instantly.  It appeared in the health section.  The title, “One Spoonful at a Time.”  This writing was heartfelt.  Author, Harriet Brown tells a gripping tale.  It took me to memories of my own struggle with anorexia and bulimia and how these affected my family.  In this exposé, the dilemma of how to treat the condition was thoroughly discussed.  I wish to share my response to this situation and story.  My personal experience of this is vast.  I hope my thoughts, realizations, and rejoinders on this topic will be helpful to those grappling with similar issues.  I trust that the effects of anorexia and bulimia are trials and tribulations for all those afflicted by these.

    The subject of weight alone is a sensitive probing.  An individual need not starve, binge, or purge in wrestling with weight.  On the same day another New York Times essay loomed large entitled “Big People on Campus.”  This commentary contemplated the plight of being “fat.”  I was once that too.  Many may muse in this moment, all anorexics believe they are chubby, and while that may or may not be true, I actually was at times in my life.  My weight rarely was stable; nor was I when reflecting upon it.  However, my weight was never the issue; it was a distraction, a symptom of what was within.  

    As I read the articles mentioned above, when I turned on the television and saw a report on the increasing male bulimic and anorexic population, and as I listened to a discussion focusing on the media, and the message of being thin, I wondered.  Why are Americans obsessed with their weight and avoiding the truer concern?

    Americans spend billions of dollars on books, diet programs, professional weight trainers, and behavioral experts that might deliver them from “evil” otherwise known as “eating disorders.”  Some recount, “I eat too much,” others muse, “I eat too little.”  There are those that think they do not make healthy choices, those that believe themselves fine; their family worries about their physical condition.

    I lived in a plump body; a buff body, a slender body, and one that was sickly thin.  As a child I over ate.  It was what most members of my family did.  As an adolescent, I dieted.  That is what teenagers do.  However, weight was not the trepidation it appeared to be.  My problems with body image were not pressing; nor did my peers influence me.  It was my life at home, in my heart.  Much was disquieting.  My parents were together; yet, they were not.  My natural father was rarely home and when he was, it was not fun for me.  My sisters were close in age and seemed to have a connection with me; however, it felt incomplete.  For me, school began at an early age.  I love learning and welcomed the opportunity; still, there were demands, those I placed on myself.  Life progressed and it seemed perfect.

    I had goals, visions, and dreams.  In my late teens, I wanted to lose my virginity.  That seemed the natural progression, at least in my neighborhood, or among my peers.  Oddly enough, a young man began paying attention to me.  This may not seem unusual; yet, it was.  Those that are closely familiar with my ways and thoughts recognize that this was quite striking.  

    I was never “boy crazy.”  I had no thoughts of marriage or even being in a relationship.  I was and still am extremely comfortable with my own company.  Perhaps, I am a little too independent.  While I have always had very close friends, I was not one to seek physical intimacy.  I did not need company or companionship.  It could be imposing.  I needed time to be me.  Nevertheless, this gentleman delighted in my presence.  

    Yes, we did “connect;” we did the deed; still he wanted more!  Imagine that!  Eric wanted a real relationship, with all the bells and whistles.  I later learned Eric wanted to marry me.  Years, before realizing that his intention was to wed, I freaked.  When confronted with the fact that he wanted us to spend all our time together I panicked.

    Eric was and is an extraordinary man.  Physically, he is quite the “looker,” not my type.  I love brains; brawn does little to warm the cockles of my heart.  He is kind, tender, and evenly tempered.  Eric is infinitely considerate, and amazingly enough, he does love to learn.

    Women fell for him, flocked to him, and fought for his attention, all but me.  Initially, I just saw him as a vehicle for losing my virginity.  I never expected he would fill my mind.  I did not plan to take time and be with him beyond the bed.  I never imagined he would enter my heart.  Yet, he did and that scared me.  I put on weight, lots, and lots of pounds.  I did this as I do most things.  I am exceptionally thorough.  If I am to do a job, I will do it incredibly well.  I grew fat!  Perchance, obese might be a better word.  Eric said nothing.  He still wanted to be with me.

    Now, what was I to do?  All this weight, I wore poundage that poured over the edges of my clothing.  I was uncomfortable in my body.  I needed, no wanted to loose all this excess mass.  I began dieting.  I did it well depending on your standard, and not well, if health is a main concern.  At first, I only wanted to lose what I had gained.  I did this.  Then as the pressures of life grew, my apprehension for food and what would follow were I to eat it grew.

    Years passed, as did my obsession with weight and food.  After a time, apprehension for my impending graduation from college consumed me.  The more I thought about this the more I struggled.  Careers, professions, being more a part of the “real” world, more responsible for my self, it all seemed a sacrifice.  What was I to do or be now?  

    While attending the University, I never hesitated.  I chose my majors and pursued each discipline with zeal.  My course of study never changed.  However, I never expected to graduate.  That was not part of my plan.  I had no desire to leave the sanctuary of school.  I first enrolled in classes at the age of two.  Academia was the world I knew.  What next?

    Next, or soon, I would become a statistic.  Not unlike the “Kitty” in the tale her author mother, Harriet Brown tells.  I was anorexic.  Ultimately, that lifestyle was too difficult.  Starving my self was such a struggle.  I chose bulimia instead.  I “thought” that would be an easier avenue to pursue.  It was not.  I had no control over my life, my weight, my worries, my ways.  A person such as myself that prefers infinite tranquility, found herself in a world of chaos, chaos I created!

    For decades my family deliberated, what would they do?  What could they do?  Some pondered what had they done.  Who was at fault and would the circumstances ever change?  There was much guilt, theirs, mine, and ours!

    I share this revealing story with reason.  Harriet Brown, the parents, the professionals in her tale all do as people customarily do.  They look for facts, quick fixes, simple solutions, thirty-second spots, immediate gratification, and spontaneous change.  I acknowledge the year or more this family invested in re-parenting and feeding their child; one spoonful at a time was overwhelming.  Yet, in the end, wonderment still fills the void of not knowing.

    Ms. Brown discusses in depth the niche, a role, the pondering, the play, the place, and the label each person holds.  Yet, for me, she misses the nuances.  The world within will determine whether Kitty again chooses an addiction with food or the lack of it.  I believe and experience that our compulsions cannot be broadcast through numbers.  I understand the fascination with facts, the need to look for answers.  Nevertheless . . .

    Programs may not be profound no matter what they cost or what their supposed success.

    we asked Kitty’s pediatrician where her other anorexic patients went for treatment.  “When they’re this sick, they go away,” she said, referring to inpatient eating-disorder clinics, where people often stay for two or three months.  The nearest was an hour away and cost $1,000 a day, most of which would not be covered by our HMO.  

    There is ample reason for alarm.

    Anorexia is one of the deadliest psychiatric diseases; it’s estimated that up to 15 percent of anorexics die, from suicide or complications related to starvation.  About a third may make some improvement but are still dominated by their obsession with food.  Many become depressed or anxious, and some develop substance-abuse problems, like alcoholism.  Almost half never marry.  It is thought that if anorexia is not treated early on, during adolescence, it tends to take an average of five to seven years for the person to recover – if it happens at all.

    There are behavioral modification plans and they tout great success.

    Among the few studies done on anorexia treatment, I came across one from 1997, a follow-up to an earlier study on adolescents that assessed a method developed in England and was still relatively unknown in the United States: family- based treatment, often called the Maudsley approach. This treatment was created by a team of therapists led by Christopher Dare and Ivan Eisler at the Maudsley Hospital in London, in the mid-1980s, as an alternative to hospitalization.  In a hospital setting, nurses sit with anorexic patients at meals, encouraging and calming them; they create a culture in which patients have to eat.  The Maudsley approach urges families to essentially take on the nurses’ role.  Parents become primary caretakers, working with a Maudsley therapist.  Their job: Finding ways to insist that their children eat.

    The two studies showed that 90 percent of the adolescents recovered or made significant gains; five years later, 90 percent had fully recovered.  (Two other studies confirmed these results.)  In the world of eating disorders, I was coming to understand, this was a phenomenally high success rate.

    Yet, I think it is essential to consider what works for one person may be the kiss of death for another.  I personally, would have rebelled and reacted more overtly had my parents spent their every waking hour with me, as the Brown’s did.  

    I would not have felt loved, quite the contrary.  I would have felt as though they did not trust me.  I grew up in a family whose primary principle was “No one has the right to tell you what you “should,” think, say, do, feel, or be!”  Granted coupled with this was the belief, “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt anyone” and of course, my reactions were hurting everyone; nonetheless, they were mine to choose.  In my mind and in the family I was raised in, it was accepted, in order to learn we must error.  It is part of our evolution.  To force another to be, as we believe is best gives them no room to grow and discover for themselves.

    Harriet Brown acknowledges that

    The idea that parents should be intimately involved in the re-feeding of their children can be quite controversial, a departure from the conventional notion that the dynamic between parent and child causes or contributes to the anorexia.  Many therapists advocate a “parentectomy,” insisting that parents stay out of the treatment to preserve the child’s privacy and autonomy.  They say that a child must “choose” to eat in order to truly recover.

    However, she chose to believe as Maudsley advocates “no one else knows the child as well or has the same investment in the child’s well-being.  She states, “That felt right to us.”

    As I read Ms. Brown’s re-counting, I was continually struck by the specifics of the feeding process and the lack of luminosity.  There was so little of Kitty’s feelings expressed.  While I trust that her parents spoke to her of her fears, apprehensions, and worries, the details of these discussions were not shared with the reader.

    As I reflected on Kitty’s approaching entrance into high school, my own memories flooded my mind.  I knew while living through anorexia and bulimia, it was never about the weight.  It was the wait, the anticipation of the unexpected, unknown, unidentified, and unfamiliar.  It was the strange, the strain, the mysterious, and the mystifying musings that strangled my soul!

    I do understand the dynamic; the habit becomes the pattern etched into the brain and physical memory.  I comprehend the ever-present question, which comes first the chicken or the egg.  I recognize the theories

    Over the last few years, most eating-disorders researchers have begun to think that there is no single cause of anorexia, that maybe it’s more like a recipe, where several ingredients – genetics, personality type, hormones, stressful life events – come together in just the wrong way.

    What I think is in error is the prospect presented by

    Maudsley practitioners say that focusing on the cause is secondary, ultimately, because once the physiological process of starvation kicks in, the disease takes on a life of its own, unfolding with predictable symptoms, intensity and long-term consequences. Anorexics become almost uniformly depressed, withdrawn, enraged, anxious, irritable or suicidal, and their thinking about food and eating is distorted, in part because the brain runs on glucose, and when it has been deprived over a long period of time, when it’s starved, it goes haywire.  It’s important to get the patient’s weight up, fast, because the less time spent in starvation, the better the outcome.  Adult anorexics who have been chronically ill for years have much poorer prognoses than teenagers.

    In my own life and search for a cure, I found professionals that believed as these do.  I contend, the obsessions of medical professional almost killed me.  Killing with the kindness of tough-love, prescribed by parents or physicians has the potential of doing a person in.  It certainly would have taken a toll on me.

    Thankfully, I located others, those that treat with love, just as my parents did and do.  I discovered “experts” that acknowledge they are not.  They understood the notion that a person that has never experienced an illness cannot fully understand it.  Thus, they turned to me.  My parents and physicians reflected on who they knew me to be as a person.  They thought me wise.

    I was trusted to resolve the situation for myself.  I was given only potassium and talk therapy to keep me alive.  Those in my life trusted my intelligence, my reflective nature, and my ability to be introspective.  The professionals, my parents, and my peers believed in me when I did not.  This was confusing, though extremely meaningful to me.

    Those close to me knew of the tens of hours I devoted daily to eating, isolation, and purging.  They hoped, based on their history and knowledge of me that I was not simply doing binging and purging, but that I was also thinking.  I was working through my concerns and circumstances.  Indeed, I was.  When I finally, she says with great exasperation, found myself, discovered what Harriet Brown might refer to as my demons, I met them with delight.  I no longer; nor did my family or friends need to contemplate the possible impending doom.  I would not, will not return to those trying days of old anorexic or bulimic beckoning.

    Four months after the “change of life” [no, not menopause] giving up my ways, I was thrown into a situation that truly tested my will.  I was in a serious accident.  Unexpectedly, my life went topsy-turvy.  I was badly injured and unable to walk.  The prognosis was grim.  It would be half a year before I could again return to a standing position.  I had perfected the bulimia process through many a situation, and in the past, I would have found a way to again engage.  I had the will and there was always a way.  However, on this occasion I did not return or resort to my decades old pattern.  I did not consider the option.

    Ms. Brown, I share this with you for you are questioning, anxious, what might the future bring.  I myself think behavior modification programs such as the Maudsley plan may be nice.  Their success rate may seem comforting; however, I caution, it is my experience that unless or until the cause is addressed, the emotional effects are evaluated the likelihood that there is true resolution is “slim.”  Many experts say anorexia and bulimia are chronic conditions.  Years after my coming of age, I still do not experience sweaty palms.  I do not white knuckle my way through stressful situations.  I think the emotional, intellectual work is essential.  Kitty may have done the work that you did not speak of.  I know not.  Nonetheless, I worry.  I think “cures” and certainty come with more than one spoonful at a time.

    Please weigh your options.  Read the references.  Reflect who you are, more than your mass.

    Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Six, of my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.  Please do.

    A reader asked that I share this information.  

    The National Eating Disorders Association’s “Every BODY Is Beautiful” Online Fundraising Auction currently running through Wednesday, December 6th!  There are some unique holiday shopping (jewelry, handbags, clothing, celebrity-autographed collectibles – featuring customized jeans from The Sopranos’ Jamie-Lynn Sigler and singer Sarah Evans – and much more) while at the same time contributing to an amazing, life-saving cause!

    You may wish to read of the artist in an LAWeekly essay, The Art of Spooning, By Caroline Ryder, or of the fundraiser at SpoonFed Art on

    When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me?

    This is Chapter Seven in a series.

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    They observe how little she eats and then they say, “She eats like a bird.”  She wonders, ??Do they know how much birds eat?’  Might I inform them that birds will eat their own body weight daily?  Would it matter to them?  Why should I bother to discuss truth, for they are certain they know exactly what truth is.  They think they know me; yet, they do not even know themselves.  Criticizing me is their entertainment.  I can show contempt towards myself well enough.  I do not need their help.

    They watch my weight and say that they are worried.  They are awaiting my passage.  They believe I want to die and think I am working towards this vision.  I am not; I never was.

    They express their concern through ample condemnations.  First, I was too fat.  Now, I am too thin.  When I was eating more “normally,” I ate too much, or not enough.  I have never been able to do anything correctly, or at least I cannot live up to their standards.

    They accuse me of being a “perfectionist.”  They assure me there is no need for precision.  I am exactly right just as I am.  Oh, am I?  I can do no wrong, nor can I do right.

    They surmise that my current mission is to control my circumstances.  They tell me that I have concluded my body, my food intake, and my weight are all that I can control, truly.  Therefore, they believe I do as I do in order to feel powerful.  For them, food is my freedom.  My decision to eat or not allows me to feel independent.  Jeeeez, do they not see how dependent I am on my meals?  To have them or not, that is the question!  At least that is my quandary.  Theirs is only to get me to be as they are, do as they do.

    That was then.  Ironically, now that I have left anorexia and bulimia behind, now that I have worked through all the battles with food, they still want me to be as they are, do as they do.  I suspect they think I want them to be me.  I do not, nor have I ever had a desire to change them.  I merely want to be me.

    They believe that I want them to eat as I do.  If my diet is that of a vegetarian or a vegan, that is my choice, it has nothing to do with them.  I say, let them eat cake.  Enjoy!  I need not eat the same!

    My progression was a challenge.  I studied food and feelings intensely.  I looked at the dilemma and pondered my path deeply.  I progressed.  I have no desire to transform others, be others, to think as others.  It took me a long time to give myself permission to be me!  I still struggle with this distress.  The “eating disorder,” does not haunt me.  It is only the decision to be as I am that causes me grief.  I know that my life is best when I am “me,” doing as I do.  However, the vilification from self and others can cause me great doubt and difficulty.

    I now eat large quantities of food.  I relish my meals.  I still eat no meat and have not since I was sixteen.  While originally, this choice had little to do with humanitarian concerns, overtime, that changed.  Now, the idea of eating animals pains me.

    In my quest towards better health, my research helped my to realize that chemicals can confuse the body.  These substances cause sensations that are not genuine.  The drugs used in food can drive feelings of hunger and satiation.  I want no more of that.  Thus, I no longer eat processed foods.  Sugar, flour, corn syrup, and honey are just not “my things.”

    I never craved starches.  These literally leave my mouth feeling dry and stale.  Pasta and rice for me are filling, though not gratifying.  For years now, I have eaten only fruits and vegetables.  I love these.  The flavors, the zest, the tang as they touch my tongue, wow; it is all so wonderful.  I never imagined food could be so good, delicious.  I savor each bite.  Still, the criticisms continue to come.

    I am questioned.  Why must I eat such so much?  A plate and one half of vegetables are considered gorging from those that digest so little.  They eat bread, pasta, and half a plate of meat.  A glass of soda or wine may accompany their meal.  After a short time, they are full.  I totally understand.  These foods are filling.

    I consume my plate or two of spinach and broccoli and quench my thirst only with water, and I am told I am eating proportions that are uncalled for and unhealthy.  Again, as in years past, I am asked of dying.  I am told stories of this relative or that, who died with undigested food in their stomach.  Yes, I am the fool, for I do not recognize that vegetables are equal in volume to sugars, starches, breads, and animal protein.  God or what ever powers that be, please save me! [I guess, save me from myself, according to them.]

    Please peruse Chapters One through Six, if you choose.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One]
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge [Chapter Two]
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self  [Chapter Three]
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me [Chapter Four]
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight [Chapter Six]
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Today, I read “Vegetables of Mass Destruction – Obesity Redux” by OrangeClouds115.  The author wrote of food and how it affects us.  S/he spoke of obesity and whether this nation’s current crisis is due to genetics or is a result of marketing, manufacturing, or the manner in which the medical profession works with those afflicted.  This article offered an excellent assessment of a very sad situation.

    As did many, I commented in a place or two.  Then I stumbled on an observation by Rees Chapman.  This person’s remarks hit me where I lived, not in the Zone© by Dr. Barry Sears, as the writer mentioned, but in the zone.  My zone encompasses years of struggle, and an ultimate realization, a resolution.  Mine was not one of those you make on New Year’s Day; nor was it one that was left my the wayside.

    My resolve lingered; I think it will last for a lifetime.  Actually, I know it will.  In truth, I did not consciously choose to change the way I interacted with food; I did not think I could.  I committed to nothing, I only thought about it, as did Chapman.

    I wondered, how does the body store fat, react to self-imposed famine, and by extension to feasts.  I pondered this for years.  I took steps to heed my own warnings.  Still, while seeking success with food, I found none.  Instead, I continued to find solace in my habit, eating.  Nevertheless, when I read the remarks of Rees, I related.  The themes took me back.

    They resonated deep within my psyche.  Apparently, Rees Chapman is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.  One might think it logical; the words of this professional would reverberate within me.  However, in truth, it was not what this writer said that stimulated this sharing; it was where the words took me. After reading, I reflected.  I decided to write this exposé.

    In my own battle with bulge, bulk, and bulimia, traditional therapy did not reap the results I craved.  Treatment did not curb my cycle; though it did form a foundation that was favorable, not with food, but with me, myself, and I.

    OrangeClouds115 wrote of the empathy she feels for those that watch their weight and explained that she cannot pretend to understand what it is like for those that do; however, I can.  I have been overweight, fat, and obese.  I have seen super skinny, slim, and slender.  My body has experienced zaftig, buff, and built.  All of these have been my reality over the years of my life.  I yo-yoed, was stable, and still I was not satisfied.

    I dieted; and I did not.  Anorexia was my companion; eventually bulimia became my friend.  We were best buds for a very long time. I was obsessed, and yet; I wanted none of it.  Finally, my feeling was, this is my life.  I resigned myself to what I do not seem able to control, my eating.

    In the last year or more, I wrote of this, six times thus far.  I offer these links.  Interestingly, until moments ago, I did as bulimics do; I hid the truth.  While my words are out there on the Internet for the world to see, until moments ago, I never included a category called “Bulimia” on my site.  Today, with thanks to OrangeClouds115 and her stimulating essay, that changed.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming© [Chapter One]
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge © [Chapter Two]
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self © [Chapter Three]
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me © [Chapter Four]
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight © [Chapter Six]

    On Be-Think, I wrote of food and all its follies, for I had experienced them first hand.  Since I am no longer consumed with my own consumption, I have time to notice what others think, say, do, feel and how they interact with their victuals.  In my earlier writings, I referenced an article on the affects of “Food on the Brain,” By Daniel Fisher, Forbes. January 10, 2005.

    This research piece offered an interesting perspective.  The affects of sugar and trans fatty acids can be as powerful and problematic as alcohol.  I never drank alcohol, not at any age and I was and am thankful for that.  Could you imagine where a choice such as that might have taken me?  I binged and purged on food, endlessly, for hours each day.  If indulged in wine or whiskey as I did with food, what would have become of me?

    A human can forego alcohol; however, food bears a different fascination.  We cannot go without sustenance.  I had to eat to survive and contrary to what some expert espouse, I had no desire to die.  Repeatedly, I wondered, “What am I to do?”  I was so entrenched in my habits.  I recognized the attraction was not purely physical, it was psychological.  Actually, that is what conventional science wants us to believe and I did, for a time, or tried to.  I was like many preoccupied with food, I tasted the basic ingredients, and I ignored the recipe.

    Thinking that the chefs or the clinicians knew what was wrong and what would help, I tried therapy.  I sought out the best of physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists.  Medication was prescribed; however, it might as well have been a placebo.  The cost of the drug was far greater than the rewards.  The expense was huge; the benefits were nil.

    Attempts were made to curb my habit.  I tried, and tried, and cried in vain.  Interventions were attempted.  Tough love had its limits; behavior modifications had more.  Classic caring was helpful; however, it too was not the cure.

    As others do, I blame the food and beverage industries for much of this predicament.  I find the practices of the Food and Drug Administration deplorable.  I believe fast food corporations think more of capitalism than they do of health, food, or services.  Diet book publishers clearly want their pound of flesh.  Archer Daniels Midland the creator and among the many manufacturers of “high fructose corn syrup” must look at their role in America’s weight gain.  Nonetheless, I think these are not fully responsible for our obesity epidemic.

    Yes, there are the schools, the parents, and a term I disdain, “personal accountability” to consider.  Still, for me, these too only hint at what is the deeper problem.  There is the media, the message, and the masses.  We all want to mirror what society teaches us is ideal.  However, I think there is more.

    The physical, the psychological, the physiological, the neurological, chemical reactions, and sociological factors all play a role.  As I read most of the comments posed at Vegetables of Mass Destruction – Obesity Redux, I was overwhelmed.  Many mirrored a philosophy that permeates society, people want short-termed solutions.

    Some asked for recipes, others offered anecdotes.  Numerous persons sought solace at Weight Watchers; all were consumed with weight or the longing for less of it.

    As a former anorexic and bulimic, I was told I was too.  I was not.  I understand how on the surface it seems that way; it looked as though I wanted to be thin and would do anything to achieve that goal.  Nevertheless, I experience that weight was not my “issue.”  I wish it were that simple; I wish that anything were.  However, for me, the problem of obesity is not a weight issue, though it is weighty.  I think it is a question of balance.

    In this treatise, I will share some personal stories, I will, as I do, reference many articles.  However, on a subject such as this I think personal ponderings may be more meaningful.

    I will share my supposition before I plunge into the history of purging.  I have concluded that life is complex.  Eating habits are learned. functions in our families teach us.  Some may surmise it is the dysfunctions; however, I agree with Joe Ancis, The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”  Therefore, no matter what your family history, it informs your life.  What your folks eat, cook, gobble, and crave helps you to form habits.

    These can be good and, or they can be deadly.  Society also leaves its trail.  Magazines, television, the Internet, and books help to mold “who” we are and who we will become.  The library within our homes is a fertile stomping ground.

    Our relationship with siblings can offer signals to the future.  Our connection to love and loved ones will influence our “destiny.”  In my family, food was a celebration of life; it was never mere nourishment.  When we were happy we ate.  When we were sad, we nibbled.  If we felt lonely, food was a friend.  If others were about, we gorged together.  Food was there through the good times and the bad.  Our cuisine was our comfort.

    Though my grandfather was a chemist and very interested in physiological reactions, he too was human.  He ate his flax seed and drank his Manhattans.  Life in my birth home was inconsistent, as far as food was concerned.

    My Mom was a gourmet cook and enjoyed cooking and baking more than many people do.  We would dine on such savory dishes; however, that was on special occasions.  Normally, life at the dinner table was erratic.  My father ate large steaks; they more than filled the plate.  I noticed this because I thought it disgusting.  I often begged for Chicken Pot Pie, Swanson’s?¢.  I have no idea what my mother or sisters ate.  I was too focused on my own plate.

    During those years, beginning when I was two years of age, I used to sit in the den, and draw on my legs, where I wanted the flesh cut.  I thought I was fat.  Perhaps, having two older sisters influenced my body image.  Possibly, not. when I was two, my sisters were seven and nine years old.  Maybe the media was to blame.

    Even then, I knew that if I lost that weight, I would still be dissatisfied.  I wanted a skeletal transplant, muscles included.  When I looked at the form of my bones and tissue I was displeased.  They were never right.

    Years later, my Mom remarried.  My Dad entered the scene and eating habits changed dramatically.  This was a shock to my system; however, I adjusted.  Now we were a family of connoisseurs.  My Mom had a calendar hanging in the kitchen.  At the beginning of the month, she would fill in the boxes for all thirty or thirty-one days.  She would describe our meals.  On Monday the 1st we might eat a Russian meal, on Tuesday, if could be Italian.  Wednesday dinner  she made a recipe from Germany; Thursday we ate Thai.  On Friday, she felt a need to make an Indian meal and on Saturday or Sunday, well, one never knew.

    We all ate together, we chatted intensely, and the fun filled the room, most of the time.  I hated tomatoes and my Mom grew these each year.  She counted each one she picked.  She kept track of these gems.  There were thousands, every years there were thousands.  My Dad insisted I eat these.  I rebelled.  Often, I ran away from home.  I refused to eat those tomatoes.

    I, as you, can go on about the food, the fabulous entrees, and the family events that surround these.  However, I will stop here and ask you this.  Is it what you eat that is the problem or is the reason you indulge playing a part in your weight?

    For me, I ate well and I did not.  My feelings often governed my choices.  The amount I ate was rarely tied to hunger.  Actually, until I stopped eating all packaged food I never really knew what hunger was.

    I was exposed to very different diets and patterns that bore no similarities.  What was the same was “I.” My life was in balance and out of sorts.  My food choices and the quantities I ate were as well.  Though I long prided myself on coming from a family that was consistent, at least after the second marriage, what was said was done, my habits were inconsistent with my beliefs.

    I believe in the importance of balance and in many parts of my life, I appeared stable and steady.  Surprisingly, I later discovered, few knew.  However, what was inside was not always reflected on the outside or in my choices.

    In both family circumstances, I had developed a love of sugar, trans-fatty acids, grains, and caffeine.  Whether I ate what is classically considered healthy or not, these were my staples.  I trust they would have been had I not chosen bulimia.  Fortunately, for me, my “condition” was so painful. I decided to do research.  I read, and read, and read.  I listened. I talked.  I had a Grandfather that knew chemistry.  He put me on a regime of vitamins and minerals, anything to preserve my health.

    I found friends in my doctors and they trusted my intelligence more than I.  They did what they could to compensate for my purging and knew that I would do more.  I chose to consider the cellular reactions.  I heard Nicholas Perricone and he reminded me of my Grandpop.  He spoke chemistry.  While I was unwilling to eat the wild salmon that he spoke of, since I have been a vegetarian since the age of sixteen, I was willing to make greater changes.

    After years of slow and subtle progressions, after doing a balancing act for so long, after adopting habits that might override my truer patterns, I changed.  Ultimately, my compensation became my routine.

    What I am saying to you is this.  No one can do it for you.  Food is only an aspect of what ails you.  You can read diets, copy recipes, blame the industries, or your ancestors.  Still, what will work for you, must be of your doing.  No one else’s solution will bring you happiness.

    Attend to the details.  Study the Glycemic index.  Eat what “feels good” to your body.  Experiment.  You might try eliminating certain foods and notice how your body reacts.  Tailor a plan that suits your needs.  You might be surprised.  The foods I was most enamored with and never thought I would leave behind, no longer interest me.  They have not for years!

    I do not salivate at the sight of any of the things I once inhaled.  I am not “white-knuckling” my routine.  I never crave candy, cookies, caffeine, or other “sinful” combinations.  I do not feel a need to turn to food for fulfillment, excitement, or joy.  Eating is still a thrill; yet, different.  I wish I could begin to describe what I now experience every minute. Actually, I will.

    I eat and enjoy.  It is not food that gratifies me; it is that I, as I whole, am happy with me.  I relish the food for the health it gives me; I love the way it tastes.  Food is not used to satiate my soul. it provides balance.  A healthy body breeds a healthy heart and mind.  A healthy heart  and mind begets a healthy body.

    For me, once I stopped eating any food that was pre-packaged, everything changed.  I could eat unbelievable quantities with no worry.  Food tasted so amazing.  Weight was not a worry. I realized I had never really known hunger before.  When people would say, “Eat when you are hungry,” I had no idea what they really meant.  I just ate.

    There were meal times.  People prepared for these, spoke of these, spent hours engaging in these.  Food is ubiquitous,  look around.  For years, I did not shop in a typical grocery store; I did not need to.  There was a small market that sold fresh fruits and vegetables daily where I lived.  Now, I live elsewhere and need to go into conventional grocery stores.  I am flabbergasted.  Eliminate the aisles of frozen, boxed, bottled, or canned food and see what is left, little.

    As I often say, we learn habits when we are very, very young before we realize there are other options.  If you worry about obesity, consider alternatives.  You need not do what others are doing.  Be you; seek balance, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually.  It might work wonders.

    A Few of The Zillions of References I might offer.  Please, Indulge and Enjoy.

  • UPDATE: What we risk for taste: Trans fats make fast foods delicious but dangerous, By John Fauber. Knight Ridder Tribune May 15, 2006
  • It’s your health, By Helen Bishop MacDonald. Chatelaine. June 2006
  • Food on the Brain, By Daniel Fisher. Forbes. January 10, 2005
  • Grassley renews calls for FDA reform, By Steve Mitchell. ScienceDaily November 18
  • Obesity: Should Food Industry Be Blamed? By Marc Morano. February 26, 2002
  • The health effects of drinking soda – quotes from the experts, By Mike Adams. NewsTarget Network. January 08, 2005
  • Fast Food Nation. NewsHour. April 4, 2001
  • Top 8 Best Self-Help Nutrition Books About
  • The dangers of female athleticism, By Sarah Karnasiewicz
  • Childhood Obesity. Adult On-Set Diabetes. Osteoporosis. Soda Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think
  • Fast Food is Not Fast, Betsy L. Angert. Be-Think
  • EAFUS: A Food Additive Database U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition. May 8, 2006
  • Food Additives and Preservatives
  • Sweet but Not So Innocent? High-Fructose Corn Syrup May Act More Like Fat Than Sugar in the Body, By Sally Squires. Washington Post. Tuesday, March 11, 2003
  • History of Corn Refiners Association Member Companies
  • Farming Is Falling, Effecting Our Food and Families By Betsy L. Angert.  Be-Think
  • Glycemic Index – A new way of looking at carbs  Canadian Diabetes Association. Revised June 2005
  • American Obesity Association
  • Bulimia Nervosa Internet Mental Health
  • Anorexia Nervosa and Other Related Eating Disorders, Incorporated
  • The Official Website of the Glycemic Index and GI Database The University of Sydney
  • How can America end its obesity epidemic? Time Magazine
  • Fast Food, Fat Children CBS News. April 21, 2001
  • Overweight children and obese adults remain a major public health concern News-Medical.Net. Tuesday, 15-Jun-2004
  • Are you supersizing yourself with fast food? By Karen Collins, R.D., MSNBC. January 12, 2006
  • Site of anti-aging expert Nicholas Perricone, M.D. Dr. Perricone
  • Balancing Body Chemistry, By Dr H K Bakhru. Saturday, October 14, 2000
  • How To Use Fruits and Vegetables To Manage Your Weight Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • International Background on Food Ingredients Food Information Council.  May 2004

    Please peruse Chapters One through Six, if you choose.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming© [Chapter One]
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge © [Chapter Two]
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self © [Chapter Three]
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me © [Chapter Four]
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight © [Chapter Six]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight [Chapter Six]

    copyright © 2005 Betsy L. Angert

    She has to admit it to herself; there is no denying it, she is “bulimic.”  What does that word really mean?

    She looks it up.  Merriam-Webster offers the etymology of the word “bulimia.”  The word bulimia comes the Greek word, “boulimia” meaning having “great hunger.” Apparently, according to the dictionary, a bulimic has an abnormal and constant craving for food.  That is interesting.  She does not “truly” crave food.  She is consuming ample quantities, quantities that are unimaginable.

    The food she eats in a single day could feed at least eleven adults.  If she “craved food,” would it not follow that eating would satisfy the hunger?  It did not. For food was never the longing.  Food fills the space, the time, and the mind. It was only as a distraction from what she truly craves, a sense of connection, knowledge, and dare she admit it, the yearnings for a sense of wholeness.  These scare her.

    The definition continues; bulimia is a serious eating disorder. “Disorder?”  What does that mean?  If “disorder” means there is a lack of “order,” a messy state of confusion, then she can agree with that.  However, interestingly enough, no one believes her confused.  Others do not see her as puzzled or perplexed.  People often state she has it all together.  At least, it seems so to them.  Yes, she knows what she wants and she asks for it.  She is well aware of her beliefs and opinions and offers these freely.  She is not baffled or bewildered; she seems so in control. Outwardly, she is, and inwardly she is not.

    Yes, she does do as the dictionary declares; she compulsively overeats.  She controls this, sort of. She does buy the food, inhale the provisions, and this pattern never stops.  She chooses it.  She reads on.  The characterization continues. Self-induced vomiting, laxative, or diuretic abuse follows this gorging. She knows that she does nothing to physically bring on the vomiting.  Her habitual well-trained thoughts prompt this action.

    Webster’s states, a bulimic will feel overwhelmed by guilt or depression and she does often feel beleaguered by the ways in which she spends her hours, days, and nights.  This cycle seems so out-of-control and that “reality” brings her down.  Consciously, she would wish to change it.  Intellectually she knows that engaging in these activities causes her such pain, greater pain than she ever felt before.  Yet, change is as all else, easier said then done.  How did this begin and why? She recalls the time and the place; yet, she does not fully understand why it all began, at least not yet.

    Many say that she does as she does, or more correctly, bulimics do as they do, for few know of what she is doing, because they are concerned about their weight.  This is not about weight.  Her weight is not more easily maintained by being bulimic.  Consider nothing more than the volumes of food she eats.  Consider chemistry, physiology, physics, and know that what we consume, eliminated or not, leaves remnants.  All that we engage in leaves a trail; when bulimic, there is a trail of destruction.

    She wants the destruction to end!  Therefore, she reads and researches.  She learns of muscle memory.  She learns of neurology and how behaviors become physical patterns etched into the brain.  She is experiencing these truths.  She surmises if she can stop for days, she can develop a new pattern, the old pattern.  She will be able to eat her food and digest it fully.  Not binging and purging will become her habit again.  It does not. She tries this many times and still . . .

    She wants so much to quit and yet, after so many attempts, she believes that she cannot change.  She continues trying regularly.  There are days and days when she is successful.  She suppresses the urge to purge.  However, on those days, as on every other, food in her belly brings on a seemingly involuntary response.  She can control it for a time.  Nonetheless, ultimately, at some point, she does again flush out the fare, all that she can.

    Experts say, she has a choice; this habit is self-inflicted; she thinks it is and it is not.  They say it is about food; she knows this is not true.  It never was!  They say she does it because she wants to feel in control.  She has never felt so very out-of-control in her life!  Some experts profess that bulimia and anorexia are acts of defiance, indifference, and deep depression and yet, she never felt any of these.  There are those that profess to know that bulimics and anorexics are suicidal; they wish to die and this is their chosen method.

    While it is true she feels her body is dying slowly, death is not her desire; life is.

    She wants to embrace it; she wants joy to fill her void!  Yet, she feels as though, she thinks, this will never happen.  She is not worthy!

    She muses, if only she were a drinker.  According to Webster’s and other sources, bulimia “occurs chiefly in females.”  There is much debate about this and it may or may not be true.  However, she speculates.  What of men?  Do they not feel as she does? Do they frequently indulge in alcohol, binge drinking, because they experience as she does? This, however, is often done socially and considered acceptable.  If only she could do what is acceptable, proper, and appropriate.  She never has or does; She does not fit in once again.

    Her motivation does not even match the dictionary definition of a bulimic. Nor the conventional wisdom and yet, she is a bulimic!

    Please peruse Chapters One through Six, if you choose.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One]
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge [Chapter Two]
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self [Chapter Three]
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me [Chapter Four]
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five]
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight [Chapter Six]
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