Flipping the Switch: Freedom from Bulimia

Flipping the Switch: Freedom from Bulimia

by Jennifer A. Palermo Dnp


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"Flipping the Switch: Freedom from Bulimia" provides you, the reader, with a better understanding of what your disorder is, how you acquired it, why it perpetuates, and what it will take for you to recover successfully. This book offers a comprehensive self-guided recovery program to help you "flip the switch" and turn off bulimia permanently. For the first time, the answers sought by anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder, are available in written form to be used in the privacy of their own home. While everyone's journey of recovery is different, this book can help get you started on the right path to finally accomplish what you have been waiting so long to do- triumphantly succeed in breaking your addiction to food and reclaiming the life you've lost to bulimia.

This book challenges the idea that one is "powerless" over addiction and provides hope to those who have tried traditional eating disorder therapy with no success. "Flipping the Switch" dissects the process of how addiction rewires the brain. Empowered with this information you will be able to go from self-destruction to self-reconstruction upon completion of this book.

The author wrote this book after her personal 22 year struggle with bulimia finally came to an end. Frustrated with traditional recovery programs, the author felt compelled to devise her own self-reconstruction method. Having gone through the recovery process herself, she has keen insight of the obstacles one faces as a food addict and understands how difficult becoming abstinence can be.

Armed with the knowledge and strategies presented here, you will understand what is needed to break the cycle of addiction and be prepared to face bulimia head on. The step-by-step recovery plan and transitional diet offered here helps you make the transition from binge eating to "normal" eating in a non-threatening manner.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477244869
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 07/26/2012
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


Freedom From Bulimia
By Jennifer A. Palermo


Copyright © 2012 Jennifer A. Palermo
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-4486-9

Chapter One

What is Bulimia and Where Did It Come From?

Okay, so you know you are suffering from bulimia. It's not rocket science. You have all of the symptoms: bingeing, purging, and constantly obsessing over food and the numbers on the scale. You wake up every morning saying to yourself, This time it's going to be different. I'm going to quit this behavior starting today. Then, before you know it, you somehow find yourself at the local drive-thru, donut shop, or ice cream parlor. The urge to binge becomes automatic and you are running on autopilot. The car seems to know the way to your favorite binge sites, since you've been to them so many times before. Hot fudge is your drug of choice. Your anxiety is building, and you can hardly wait to get your next fix. Your blood is pumping and the excitement mounts as you take that first bite into your secret indulgence. Your taste buds are exploding. Once again, you are pulled into the binge vortex, and trying to stop now is next to impossible. You knew going in that you would have a small private party for one. Actually, the party is more of a feast. After all, you were "good" all day at work, having had only a coffee and small salad. You've earned it, your mind calls out to you. Work was stressful and you need to unwind. What better way, right? Hey, I can always quit tomorrow, you bargain with yourself. But tomorrow will have to wait. You want to get your fix and you want it now!

Your personality seems to split, as you soon become the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde of food. One minute you appear to be a normal, reasonable person, and the next, you are a ravenous lunatic who would do almost anything to sustain your binge. You feel powerless when this switch takes place, and you have no idea how long you'll be "in character." You pray there will be some sort of intermission, but the show continues on—until it comes down to one final act before the curtain closes: the ever-popular "purge." The purge is the one act that has to take place regardless of what has happened previously. You scramble to find a private restroom as quickly as you can. If one is not available, panic sets in, and you'll use whatever means necessary to undo the damage you've done. This may involve vomiting into a plastic bag and throwing it in a dumpster, spilling your guts on the roadside, or even, hurling in an unpopulated field.

Once the deed is done, the empty feeling you are left with is almost comforting. Ahhh, you've cleansed your system of all guilty pleasures with no chance of putting on weight. You have a fleeting moment of relief, but soon, you find guilt and remorse setting in. You think of all the starving children in China and know you probably could have fed a thousand of them with the food you binged on, this week—not to mention the amount of money you've wasted. The money spent on binge food could have been used for other things, such as credit card bills, clothes, your car payment, or outstanding student loans. What about all of the litter that had accumulated from your last binge? Did you throw the evidence into a public garbage can or simply toss it out of your car window? Feeling alone and depressed, you want so badly to "retire" from this act, but in your mind, it's the only game in town. You feel trapped with no way out. When you try to walk away, the snare of addiction snaps onto your foot keeping you held captive.

Does the scenario described above sound familiar? Like most victims of disordered eating, this mindset occurs daily. At what point did your eating disorder take on a life of its own? Can you even remember? No matter how hard you try, it seems that you cannot kick this habit by yourself. Time after time, you succumb to its power. You become sucked in like a magnet, which won't quit until it gets what it wants: the next binge. Welcome to the world of bulimia. Fasten your seatbelts. You're in for a bumpy ride as you hop aboard the next trip headed for recovery. Before you undertake this journey, it might be helpful to have some idea of what lies ahead.

The first part of recovery involves understanding the disease and how the eating disorder process evolves, why you got stuck in it, and the steps you can take to get your life back from the grips of addiction. You may feel extremely isolated at this point in time, asking the questions: Why me? How did I get this way? How many others are suffering with the same food struggles? Will this go on forever? Is this a new disease? Is there a cure? When was "bulimia nervosa" first diagnosed? Let's start with the basic history of bulimia, tracing it back to the first documented cases.

Although it may appear that society has hit an all-time high in the eating disorders department, bulimia is nothing new. The disease has been around for centuries, and instances of binging and purging date back to early Egyptian times. Ancient Egyptian doctors often recommended periodic purging as a method to cleanse the body. Rabbinical scholars of the Hebrew Talmud (somewhere around 400-500A.D.) used the term "boolmot" to refer to a ravenous hunger that should be treated with sweet foods, such as honey. The Talmud also states that if one is "seized with bulimy" on Yom Kippur, he is to be fed unclean things. Between the fourteenth and twentieth century, the word "bulimia" had been in manuscripts and other printed works of that time period.

The idea that this word was written down lets us know that eating disorders have been around longer than we would have assumed. Rumor has it that bulimia was in vogue during Roman times, but it is a misnomer that the Roman "vomitorium" was a designated place Romans would go to purge after feasting (which is commonly believed). This area was actually a narrow passage behind seats for the audience to exit the amphitheater. Members of the audience could make their indiscreet exit if they were feeling ill or going to be sick-hence the connection with purging. However, Romans were known to prepare elaborate feasts, with food consumption lasting for hours. Guests would practice purging between courses to make room for the next round. You may have practiced this same method at the last holiday function you've attended. After all, holiday food doesn't come very often, and you'd hate to miss even the tiniest morsel.

A few reports of bulimia have been noted in the twentieth century as well, including one of Ludwig Bins Wanger's famous patients, Ellen West, who exhibited behaviors of bingeing, purging, and laxative abuse. In 1903, another case of anorexic and bulimic tendencies surfaced in a patient of Pierre Janet's, named Nadja. During the 1930s, bulimia was thought to be a result of poor social adaptation and emotional deprivation, which was more common among the immigrant population. Could it be they were using food to try and fill the same emotional voids (loneliness, boredom, and isolation) back then, that we face today?

By the mid-1970s, bulimia was reaching epidemic proportions in both the United States. and Europe. Marlene Boskind-White, who spearheaded an initiative to make the public aware of what bulimia was and what could be done about it, finally identified this behavior's formal description. The term "bulimia nervosa" first entered the English language in 1977. Slang names for the condition include the binge-purge cycle, bulimarexia, self-induced vomiting, "scarfing and barfing," "fill and spill," and so on. The word bulimia is derived from the Greek words bous (ox) and limos (hunger), indicating a state of excessive hunger. Bulimia nervosa is described as frequent episodes of binge eating associated with emotional distress and a sense of losing control. A person who suffers from bulimia often exhibits three primary characteristics:

Binge eating: excessive consumption of food in a discrete amount of time (i.e., one-two hours), in which the amount of food is significantly larger than is typical for most people during the same defined period. This behavior is accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior (sometimes referred to as "mindless" eating by people with this disorder).

Compensatory behavior: regular use of inappropriate means to "get rid" of excessive caloric intake such as self-induced vomiting, starvation, compulsive and excessive exercise, or abuse of laxatives, diuretics, or ipecac syrup. This may also include the use of appetite suppressants, diet pills, medications that speed up one's metabolism, and misuse of insulin in those with type-one diabetes.

Weight obsession: extreme preoccupation with body weight and shape, obsessing over the numbers on the scale, excessive exercising, and constantly checking one's size in the mirror.

According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IVTR), in order to be classified as having bulimia nervosa, one must have had episodes of binge eating that occur at least twice weekly for three months. See the next page for the actual formal diagnostic criteria.

Diagnostic Criteria for 307.51 Bulimia Nervosa DSM-IV-TR

Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any two-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances

2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (i.e., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)

3. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

4. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least twice a week for three months.

5. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

6. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.

Specify type:

• Purging type: during the current episode of bulimia nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

• Non-purging type: during the current episode of bulimia nervosa, the person has used other inappropriate compensatory behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise, but has not regularly engaged in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, (Copyright 2000). American Psychiatric Association.

Do you really need the American Psychiatric Association to tell you whether you have bulimia or not? That's highly doubtful. You are well aware that you have a problem with food and that it has gotten out of control. What you are consuming is consuming your life! The question is not whether you have bulimia or not, but "What are you going to do about it?" The choice is yours, and that is exactly what it is—a choice. One option you have is staying in your comfort zone and bingeing on what you want, whenever you want it. After all, wouldn't it just be easier to play it safe by maintaining the behavior you are so familiar with? Living a double life isn't all that bad, is it? You've kept this charade up for a long time, but whom are you really fooling?

Let's face it; we bulimics have lied, cheated, stolen, made excuses, isolated ourselves, avoided social functions, and have visited dirty bathrooms and other unspeakable places to rid ourselves of any evidence related to our addiction. We have rotated our favorite restaurants, buffets, and fast-food establishments, in order not to draw attention to ourselves. We have told grocery store clerks we were having a party or buying food for a work function as we loaded our carts, when, in reality, we were preparing our own little smorgasbord for one.

How many public garbage cans have we filled with take-out containers, candy wrappers, donut or pizza boxes, and (even at our lowest point of desperation), bags of vomit? At what point did this behavior become okay? Prior to having an eating disorder, we would have looked at someone exhibiting any of these actions and thought something was definitely wrong with them. Somehow, over time, these abnormal ways became our normal, and we forgot what "normal" behavior consisted of. And once we crossed that line, we were unable to fit back into the mold from which we had come. But it didn't matter to us because mentally, we had convinced ourselves that our abnormal behavior was justified. Although we couldn't fit back into our previous form, we could fit into our "skinny jeans" once again, and that made everything worth it, right? Even if we wanted to, could we ever get back to normal eating habits and stop the bingeing, once and for all?

What's stopping you from ending this behavior at this very moment? Why can't you just put down that gallon of ice cream, stop at one slice of cake, or eat just one piece of chocolate instead of the whole bag? It's all a matter of willpower, right? If you were strong enough, you could fight the urge and eat normally again, couldn't you? You have fought this battle in your mind, over and over again. You keep telling yourself: this time I'll do it or after this binge, I'll quit. Maybe you have a lot going on with school, work, relationships, or whatever. You think to yourself, Once I get through this, then I'll work on my eating disorder. I'm too busy to try and fix myself. I don't have time for that right now. I have other important matters that need to be taken care of. Do you really? What could be more important than your health? Without it, you have nothing.

Think about this for a minute. By some stroke of luck you've managed to keep up your habit and still appear unscathed by health problems related to your eating disorder. Maybe you have had a few close calls, but you've always managed to bounce back. What if you went to the doctor today, and God forbid, you were told you had cancer? Would you ignore it and let the cancer eat away at you until it took over your entire body, ultimately killing you? Most likely, you would be anxious to get the earliest available appointment with an oncologist and start treatment as soon as possible. In some ways, having bulimia can be compared to suffering from cancer, although unfortunately, cancer patients are at the mercy of their disease and have little control over their prognosis. If there were anything good about suffering from bulimia, it would have to be that you do have control and you can stop it in its tracks. What are you waiting for? Will there ever be a perfect time to "fix" yourself?" The alarm clock keeps ringing. How many more times will you hit the snooze button before waking up to the call of recovery?

Whether you are trying to recover on your own, with a friend, in a group, or with a therapist, you need to be aware of the following points for the best chance at success. You did not evolve into this diseased state overnight, and the disease process may take a little time to be dismantled, but be assured, you can succeed. At first, you may have fears and anxieties about your recovery. You will wonder if you are going to gain weight, and if so, how much. You'll have many questions. Will you become fat? Will you ever be able to eat your binge foods again without turning into a ravenous beast? What about your clothes? Will you still fit into the same size that you've grown accustomed to? What will you eat? How much will you eat and when? What is a "normal" portion size? What will you do if you feel full or overeat? What about social situations? How will you handle going out to eat with friends and family? Will you ever be able to eat at a buffet again? How will you handle holidays? How long will the recovery process take? How will you keep your abstinence? Will you have to go to a therapist or support group for the rest of your life?

All of these are legitimate concerns and will be addressed throughout the following chapters. The most important question you need to be asking yourself right now is: Do I truly want to recover? Be honest with yourself. Maybe you are not ready to let bulimia go. Maybe you still enjoy parts of your eating disorder and are still unwilling to give them up. And that's understandable. Change can be scary, daunting, and overwhelming. Recovery is no small mission, but it is the most important task you will undertake in your life.

If you can commit to recovery, you will eventually discover that the chains holding you to your eating disorder will loosen, and you will eventually become free. As the author of this book, I have earned six different college degrees, had competed in more than thirty triathlons, and finished fifteen marathons but could not beat bulimia. After failing a number of both traditional and non-traditional therapeutic measures in my attempt to conquer bulimia, I realized the power to heal myself had been within me all along. Finally, my years of suffering with bulimia came to an end.


Excerpted from FLIPPING the SWITCH by Jennifer A. Palermo Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer A. Palermo. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: What Is Bulimia and Where Did it Come From?....................1
Chapter 2: Don't Believe the Hype: Addiction and Societal Influences....................11
Chapter 3: Effects of Starvation....................21
Chapter 4: Your Brain "On Food"....................29
Chapter 5: Tollhouse Took its Toll: The Physical Consequences of Your Eating Disorder....................39
Chapter 6: Are You Ready for Recovery?....................45
Chapter 7: Your Secret Isn't Safe: Letting the Cat Out of the Cookie Bag....................53
Chapter 8: The Trouble With 12-Step Programs....................65
Chapter 9: Quitting (Not Eating) Cold Turkey....................77
Chapter 10: Taming Your Inner Beast....................85
Chapter 11: Pulling the Trigger on Your Trigger Foods....................97
Chapter 12: Overcoming the Urge to Binge....................105
Chapter 13: Portion Distortion: How Much Is Too Much?....................117
Chapter 14: Calories: Who's Counting?....................125
Chapter 15: Walking the Nutritional Tightrope—Balancing Your Diet....................135
Chapter 16: Going the Distance: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Relapse....................163
Chapter 17: Exercise: Friend or Foe?....................183
Chapter 18: Making the Transition—You Can Get There From Here!....................199
Chapter 19: A Final Word on Resisting Temptation....................207
Chapter 20: A Beginner's Guide to Eating—Slow and Steady Wins the Race....................211
Chapter 21: A Case of Mistaken Identity—Leaving Bulimia Behind....................231
About the Author....................247

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