What do you call the gray space between a food-loving world and the unspoken pressure to remain thin and beautiful in a visually critical society? A perfect recipe for disaster and an invitation for disordered eating.

Food is wonderful. Divine. Some might deem it as heavenly. By no means is it the enemy of topic.

Yet, when the delectable morsels that litter every city corner become a drug of choice to someone who is trying desperately to uphold societal or personal standards or struggling to find an outlet for the harsh chatter in their mind, an intervention is needed.

When the words “bulimia” or “eating disorder” escape the lips, we picture emaciated teens frolicking around a high school campus in skinny jeans. Sadly, we often envision a toilet bowl, or a mountain of food being consumed at a rapid pace only to be purged shortly after.

We do not imagine a busy working mom of young children trying to handle the stress of life. We don’t see the endless negative chatter or feelings of unworthiness that are felt by her.

We do not see a middle-aged wife in despair struggling to keep her dark secret below the surface while maintaining the illusion that she is holding it all together so beautifully.

We brush over a middle-aged man who has tried multiple attempts at conventional therapy for his long-term bulimia, with no avail.

Yes, many men struggle from eating disorders. Eating disorders are real. Harsh. Dangerous.

I refer to bulimia as the beast, the monster, and the demon within. It is just that. An all-consuming disorder of multiple origins that destroys the body both mentally and physically.

There are many around us who suffer from this disorder. No one should feel alone in their struggle. No one should suffer in silence.

Bulimia consists of a cycle of binging and purging repeated over and over. The purging is by far the most dangerous part of the cycle. It is addressed first in the healing process because of its destructive side effects.

Next, the binges are addressed. We strive to achieve a healthy relationship with food and ourselves. We become mindful of what we are doing while eating and the emotions we are feeling.

There are four items of critical importance that need to be addressed when healing from bulimia:

  1. Finding your “why,” or reason for addressing and conquering bulimia.
  2. Ending the purges.
  3. Banishing the binges.
  4. Dealing with emotions and thoughts that lie beneath the surface that perpetuate the disorder.

Searching deep within and unlocking the reasons for overcoming obstacles in life is a driving force in remaining bulimia-free. When situations become difficult and a relapse is close, a person’s “why” helps keep them mentally grounded as to exactly why they are climbing the never-ending mountain to recovery.

Overeating is often caused by thoughts or triggers that are difficult to deal with. Those of us struggling with bulimia use food to numb the emotions away.

How often do we hear people say, “Don’t eat your emotions?”

Easier said than done.

Bulimia often stems from trauma — physical, mental or emotional. It can stem from inner turmoil — repetitive thoughts, often false, that lead to feelings of lack, inadequacy or other insecurities.

These thoughts and feelings swarm in the mind. In turn, they result in damaging and destructive behaviors. Food is used as an outlet or a form of punishment.

Addressing what is going on in our beautiful minds is a focal point for healing bulimia. Thoughts and emotions must change, and in turn we can adopt healthier behaviors and coping mechanisms.

This is addressed extensively in my book, where I also share both hands-on techniques and visualization tools that help deter those struggling with bulimia from performing the purging — tools I used myself when recovering.

Many of us live with beasts inside us, whether it be an eating disorder or another demon. We should not be dragged down by the weight of these beasts.

Loosening the chains of helplessness that surround us can be as simple as reaching out to someone who has walked the dark path but found the light of hope for recovery and healing.

Former Galt resident Noelle Gilbert is the author of “Dying to Be Thin: Tools for Battling the Bulimia Beast.” As someone who struggled with bulimia since childhood, Noelle understands that many of us do not turn to drugs, alcohol, or medications to numb ourselves; we turn to food. Noelle has beaten her eating disorder and is now able focus her life on what matters most: her children. If you would like to contact Noelle, please reach out to her gilbnoelle@gmail.com.

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