Since being enrolled in a nutrition and wellness certification program, I’d like to share a bit of information I learned (yes I am 50 and still learning!) that I think would have been extremely helpful when I was young and struggling with Bulimia.
We all know that food is essential to life. We all have an idea about what are healthy foods and non-healthy foods. But if you are like me, I didn’t fully understand the science behind food and how it interacted with my bulimia, particularly on a mental level.
Let's be honest bulimics tend to binge on carbohydrates, sugar and fat like cookies, crackers and ice-cream and not on foods like broccoli and fish. So for now, I’d like to focus on Sugar and the science of how sugar interacts with dopamine. Dopamine is neurotransmitter (one of those chemicals that transmits signals from nerve cell to the brain, and is known as the FEEL GOOD hormone. And importantly, Dopamine controls many functions including behaviors, emotions and cognition.
So when a bulimic binges on sugary foods like cookies, candy or pastries the brain produces a huge surge of dopamine, hence a high or rush of pleasure is felt. Of course this doesn’t last and after a short while the body craves sugar all over again. The bulimic continues a cycle the highs and lows of a never ending rollercoaster.
To say sugar is never to be consumed is not my point. But, having spent nearly 27 years battling bulimia and now having a plethora of research that has been done on sugar at my fingertips, I clearly see the link between the two.
If I, and indeed, my parents had been aware of the fact that me binging on large amounts of sugar (followed by purging) was severely impacting my brain and dopamine regulation and how it was driving me to binge more, then we would perhaps have been able to find workable strategies to overcome this. For a start I would have known that its not just me or my lack of willpower that was pulling me deeper into bulimia but that my mind and body were acting and reacting to the sugar I was consuming. Perhaps my parents could have taken inventory of what they were eating (model behavior) and helped to create a food environment that was more conducive to healthier choices and as such at least start to reduce one element that was causing havoc for me and wasn't delivering any health benefit to the rest of the family either.
In a nutshell, accepting that sugar is not good for you is one thing but making available better food choices to your children can actually help in the recovery process of a child that may be suffering from Bulimia and at the same time contribute to everyone’s overall health. Just be mindful of what you eat, what you buy and the examples you are giving to your children.
This is not a cure but certainly a powerful tool if monitored by a doctor or dietitian that is helping in the recovery process.
After a 25 yr battle with Bulimia I am recovered and dedicated to helping others also win their battles with Bulimia or other Eating Disorders. I have chronicled my struggle, as well as strategies for recovering, in two books and encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to me confidentially