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Advise to parents and support systems

What is often overlooked with an eating disorder, is that it is actually a mental disorder which is disguised with excessive amounts or extreme constraints of food.

As with other addictions, FOOD is merely the drug of choice.

When seeking the correct forms of therapy and support, one needs to address the mental aspect of the disorder, which in retrospect will affect the eventual food intake.

Thanks to my caring brother and grandfather, we decided to inform my parents of my disorder.  I was mortified as for 2 years, I had begged and pleaded with my brother not to tell them, or anyone else for that matter! I am the first to admit that bulimia is a disgusting disorder to have and every sufferer feels tremendous guilt and shame having it.  For this very reason, one does everything within your power to prevent others’ from finding out!

They did not know what bulimia was?  So after they were made aware that I was suffering from it, they did everything within their power to become more knowledgeable on this subject.  As they wanted to help me.

Naturally, they had questions such as:

  • What exactly is bulimia nervosa?
  • What is the difference between bulimia and anorexia nervosa?
  • How to obtain the necessary counselling to escalate my self-image?
  • How does one contract or develop it?
  • What went wrong?
  • Have they done/said anything that could possibly trigger my disorder?
  • How do they not enable me, but rather assist me to recover?
  • Where to seek help?
  • What types of medication/therapy are required, and from where are they available?
  • How do they, as the sufferer’s loved ones, (friends and family members) assist and support me?

Firstly, you don’t want anyone to realise that you are aren’t in fact perfect and you do have a problem! A serious, life threatening disease which needs to be treated urgently.  The sooner one obtains the correct treatment, the better.  As proper treatment takes between 2-7 years, so it is not a “quick fix” and cannot be solved or cured overnight.  They did not know what bulimia was?  So after they were made aware that I was suffering from it, they did everything to within their power to become more knowledgeable on this subject. 

What one needs to realise is that an eating disorder (ED) is an addiction, a disease which consumes you entirely.  It is not merely a “mind over matter” frame of mind that can be changed or conquered overnight.

It’s a disease and needs to be medically and professionally treated with specialised treatment.
One of the very first therapists I met with, began informing me that I came from a “dysfunctional family!”

With that opening line, I almost left immediately having met him!  How dare he insinuate that I was raised in a dysfunctional family!  He knows absolutely nothing about me or my wonderfully loving, supportive family.

When I look back to my childhood and developmental years, I have nothing but fond, happy memories which fill my mind.

Yet, after years of therapy and confronting my own demons, did I come to realise that as much as I loved my family dearly.  I did infact grow up in a “dysfunctional family!”

Although the journey of a person with an eating disorder is their journey to travel, for their own life lessons.

I know that this is difficult to accept, but one thing that family do need to take cogniscience of, is the fact that the sufferer does in fact emanate from a dysfunctional family.  Where if not all the members of the family, undoubtedly several of them have had a significent role to play along the way. 

In hindsight, therapy often involves the family, as well as the sufferer.

As no two people are identical and to ensure that the correct healing is applied. A customised, holistic approach to healing is required for each individual.  

I won’t deny that the road to recovery is a long and painful one.

Still, when the student is ready, the Teacher appears!

Now 8 years in recovery, I am forever grateful that I reached my “turning point” and was ready to recover.  As it is only NOW that I have truly escaped from my mental and physical prison which consisted of insurmountable amounts of food/purging and weight.

I no longer measure my self-worth by my weight.  Nor do I live my life succumbing to the demands and dictatorship of society.

Each one of us is perfect, exactly as we are right now!  We all want to be loved, respected, recognised and feel as though we belong.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings and as difficult and trying as it may become, instil open communication at all times.  As it is working together, as opposed to against one another, that recovery can commence.

We need to focus on strengthening our childrens’ inner beauty and not deny them of their emotions, along their respective life’s journey.

Remember that you cannot change the addict or heal for them.  As  the sufferer needs to reach their own respective point of wanting to recover, on their own.  Still, having said that,  it is in changing your attitude towards the addict, that you are able to achieve a different way of life that will bring peace, comfort, serenity, independent of the choices the addict makes.

  • Additional insight:  In some cases, if the sufferer does not or is not wanting to heal. Several attempts at therapy may have already been tried, yet to no avail.
    • From my personal experience, I personally had to reach my “rock bottom,” in order for my “turning point” to be reached. At that stage of my struggle, I had seen several Therapists over the years and had bulimia for several years before I reached my point of no return.  This occurred when I lost my teeth!
    • Taking Zymaflor every day of my life as a child growing up. I was fortunate enough to have my first filling at the age of 21 years old.  By the age of 29 years old, I had lost all of my own teeth to bulimia!
    • It was at this very point in my journey, when I realised the extent of erosion which the acid from the purging was causing on not only my teeth, but the rest of my body. I recall thinking, “If this is the damage that bulimia has on the strongest material in the body (enamel) then what do the insides of my body look like?” At this very point, something inside of me “shifted” and the realisation of the detrimental, permanent effects caused were made clear to me.
    • Out of mere desperation, there may come a time when you may feel like “shaking the sufferer,” in hope that they will realise the severity of their illness. Still, as much as you make want to fast-track their journey. Each person’s individual point of “no return” is different.  In hindsight, the greater the awareness of the addiction/disease, the greater the chances of recovery

It is imperative that you, as the sufferer’s support system, remain strong for them.  I suggest that you find a support group for yourself to attend on a regular basis.  They have proven to be extremely supportive, informative and beneficial for loved ones of the sufferer to attend. Below is a list of several of them:

  • Lifeline (24/7/365 telephonic counselling service available locally, internationally and online)
    Counselling is anonymous and confidential.  Regional numbers are available through Lifeline’s online directory.
    SA National Counselling Line is:  0861 322 322
  • Overeaters Anonymous (Group support to assist in the recovery from compulsive overeating)
    The international website lists the contacts and meeting details for South African groups. Find one in your area on:
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA) (Support groups for recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other to stay clean)
    South African 24-hour helpline:  083 900 MY NA (083 900 69 62)
    South African website:
    International website:
  • Nar-Anon (Group support for family and friends affected by drug abuse)
    South African helpline:  088 129 6791
    South African website:
    International website:

In additional to the enclosed list, there are certain hospitals and institutions who also have their own support groups. (E.g. Crescent Clinic; Kenilworth Clinic and Imani)

    • Additional reading and inspirational materials are listed under “Advise for the Sufferer
The South African Despression and Anxiety Group
Cresent Clinic

Friends and Medicine play the same role in your life. Both take care of your pains, but the difference is that friends don’t have an
expiry date.

As you grow and learn, remember – “The future isn’t what it used to be. Possibilities are boundless and not defined by your past or previous perceptions.”

The tragedy of life is not death.....but what we let die inside of us, while we are still alive. Live with passion!


BORN TO BE YOU! Inspirational Speaker/Author
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