Tales from the Practice of Medicine: Bulimia (Part II)

Yu Ling

PureInsight | March 28, 2005

[PureInsight.org] Heidi continued, "I haven been quite sensitive about my weight and watched it carefully since I was ten. My mother's family has a history of obesity. We are of Eastern European descent, and most women on my mother's side of the family weighed over 200 lbs. During my childhood, the dolls my mother bought me and the decorative dolls at our home were super slim girls. My mother kept instilling in me the idea that a girl must not be fat. To help her attain her goal for me, my mother always bought me clothes that were one size smaller. I look stuffed and plump when I put on these clothes. Sometimes the clothes were so small that I had trouble breathing. When I had trouble bending over in these undersized clothes, I felt nervous and frightened. These experiences hurt my pride terribly.

Later my mother sent me to a ballet school. I was already bigger than the average-sized children in my age group. Now that I was in the ballet school I appeared to be even larger next to those skinny little ballerinas. I stood out like a sore thumb. To further damage my self-esteem, my mother would often point at other kids and say to me, 'Look at that kid. She is so tiny and cute!' Her words meant, 'You are truly letting me down. Why are you so fat?' In order to meet my mother's expectations I started to make myself throw up after I ate. In fact, I threw up everything I ate. I was amazed by my will and determination. I believed that I would never get fat, no matter how much I ate, because I would throw up everything in less than an hour."

"Does your mother know you developed the habit of throwing up after eating?" I asked Heidi.

"We never talked about it, but what kind of mother would not know when her child always locked herself in the bathroom right after a meal?" Heidi looked unbearably distressed and sad.

As someone who grew up in China and survived multiple famines during childhood, I could not begin to imagine why anyone would lose a good meal right after she just finished it. Why? I felt quite at a loss. I can still recall seeing my older brother fainting on the school's playing field during a gym class. I ran to my brother and found out he had fainted from hunger. I felt sad for a long time. Like countless households in China, my family suffered from poverty and never had enough food on the table while I was growing up. I often think about the moment my brother fainted from hunger.

Heidi continued her story. "My mother did not want me to become fat, but she kept cooking high-caloric food, such as roast beef and French fries. There was not a dish on the table that did not contain a lot of calories. I loved food, so my appetite increased with time. At one dinner I could consume the amount of food that can feed a whole family. I could not control my appetite. While eating such a large quantity of food I kept telling myself, 'After this meal, I will start to control my appetite.'"

"Repeated acidic gastric contents from vomiting damaged my tooth enamel, so I had to get my teeth capped. My weight fluctuated. I ended up having different sized wardrobes in my closet, in sizes medium, large and even extra-large. When I meet a person, the first thing I look at is his or her size. Because of my high expectations for figure and clothes, my employees have become very conscious of their appearances. I may have a successful career and excellent stamina, but underneath I am suffering from bulimia. I cannot tell anyone about it. To maintain my visible success, no one knows how much I suffer at night to maintain it."

"Have you sought any treatment?" I asked.

"I have never stopped treatment. But no matter how much treatment I receive on the surface, the success of the treatment ultimately depends on whether I am willing to make the change. I never really want to change myself. Meanwhile, I thought perhaps by seeking new treatments things will start to change. A miracle will ultimately happen to me. But 35 years have passed. I have not changed at all. Every day, after each meal, I will go to the bathroom, close the door, and throw up."

"What can I do for you?" I asked Heidi.

"You have helped me quit smoking and drinking." A glimmer of hope lit up her eyes.

"That's because you wanted to quit smoking and drinking. I simply applied the standard treatments. Bulimia does not really fall into the area of traditional Chinese medicine." To tell the truth, I have never treated any patient with bulimia.

"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Heidi asked me.

(To be continued)

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2004/7/28/28414.html

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