Blog

Three Lesser-Known Behaviors Associated with Bulimia Nervosa

Some may assume bulimia nervosa does not affect a lot of people, but the statistics may be surprising. It is estimated approximately 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males live with this condition every day, which translates to approximately 1.5 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men in this country alone. While it is a common misconception that someone who needs bulimia nervosa treatment would be easy to point out, this is not always the case. Some of those who do end up getting help from a bulimia treatment center have shown no obvious symptoms to their loved ones that there is anything wrong at all.

If a loved one is showing signs of a bulimia eating disorder, it is critical family members do what they can to encourage the individual to get treatment. Education is the key to understanding how different symptoms and behaviors can be indications an eating disorder is present. Take a look at some of the lesser-known behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa.

1. Suddenly claiming they have a dietary restriction such as veganism/vegetarianism/unable to eat gluten.

People who have bulimia eating disorder do not always binge on food; they may also restrict their food intake much like someone who is suffering from anorexia nervosa. Therefore, some of the common behaviors may be present in both conditions. Dietary restrictions are common with both disorders, but sometimes, these restrictions will be done in a way that it is not obvious.

There are multiple ways to enact these restrictions. Many people make the lifestyle choice to go vegan and avoid all animal-related foods. Others may state they will no longer eat meat and are vegetarian. Some people have legitimate reasons to avoid foods that contain gluten, while others use it as a method to manipulate their food intake. As legitimate as these lifestyle choices can be, they can also be used as excuses to modify one’s eating habits by someone who has bulimia eating disorder and needs bulimia nervosa treatment.

Some individuals who have bulimia nervosa often avoid eating in social settings, but they will struggle to explain why it is they do not want to eat when others are expecting them to. Making claims they are vegetarian, vegan, or must avoid certain foods because of ill effects is an easy way to make others believe there is a logical reason why the person is not eating.

Many people do suffer from food allergies, such as allergies to wheat gluten, and these allergies can mean a more restricted diet. And, it is not impossible for someone who has bulimia nervosa to also have a food allergy. Those who enter a bulimia treatment center that claim to have these allergies are tested by a physician to validate those claims to avoid any unnecessary dietary restrictions.

Of course, if these excuses are used in explanation to family members who are familiar with typical eating patterns, the situation can be a little more obvious. Therefore, if a loved one starts making claims they are making drastic changes in what they eat or their usual diet, it is best to pay attention and be alert to other signs that bulimia nervosa treatment is needed.

2. Commonly acting on impulse instead of rational thought. 

There are some direct links between bulimia nervosa and impulsive behaviors. Many professionals view impulsive behavior and the eating disorder as something that can be treated concurrently; through bulimia treatment, the impulsive behavior may often cease as well. Someone who acts on impulse will seem to completely disregard what would normally be rational thought. For example, the individual may:

  • Consume far more food than what would be deemed as normal
  • Grab or snatch food and eat it suddenly without reservation
  • Exercise for several hours instead of committing to work, school or other priorities
  • Lash out for seemingly small things
  • Make choices about their life that seem brash and sudden

Bulimia nervosa is an impulsive condition, and many of the behaviors associated with the disorder are not planned out. This is a fact many patients do not realize until they have entered bulimia nervosa treatment. Instead, the behaviors are often triggered by emotional upset or distress. For example, an individual may be under a lot of stress in their relationship, so they binge on food, take in a lot of calories and then purge to eliminate the food from their system.

3. Constantly being obsessed with new diet and weight loss methods. 

A report released by The Centers for Disease Control between 2013 and 2016 stated 49.1% of Americans are trying to lose weight or had tried to lose weight within the prior calendar year. This statistic is enough to show how many people there are who are interested in losing weight. Therefore, if a loved one is frequently concerned about the latest diet trends and fads to emerge to help people lose weight, it may be easy to assume this is normal behavior.

Unfortunately, people who have bulimia eating disorder may also be constantly preoccupied with the latest diet and weight-loss trends. They may try every new diet that comes along and spend a lot of time talking specifically about ways to shed pounds. Many people who have bulimia will be obsessive about ways to combat calories they are consuming as a means to prevent weight gain or lose pounds. A few things the individual may do include:

  • Taking new diet pills on a regular basis
  • Watching television programs associated with diets and exercise regimens
  • Researching fad diets on a regular basis
  • Trying new diets every few days
  • Spending a lot of money on new workout equipment or diet supplies, such as supplements

These kinds of behaviors are easy to dismiss over the short term. When someone is interested in getting healthy, they may spend a fair amount of time trying different diet or workout plans or methods. However, if this kind of behavior is an ongoing occurrence or seems too extreme, it is important that loved ones step in and talk to the individual about a potential need for bulimia recovery.

More Common Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Each of the lesser-known behaviors alone may not be enough to diagnose someone with bulimia eating disorder. Therefore, it is important to understand the typical behaviors and symptoms that can be associated with the disease. To better determine if someone is in need of bulimia nervosa treatment, take a look at some of the typical behaviors someone with the condition may portray.

Obsessiveness Over Their Weight or Appearance 

A constant obsessiveness over their weight, body image or appearance can be trademark signs of bulimia nervosa. An individual may spend hours stressing over how their clothing fits, how much they weigh or how they look in the mirror. Even though some people may portray these qualities at certain times or at different stages in their life, someone with an eating disorder will be far more obsessive. For example, they may analyze the way their body looks in the mirror for several hours or check their weight multiple times on a scale throughout the day.

Repetitive Binging/Purging Behaviors 

Binging and purging are perhaps the most noteworthy and well-known behaviors associated with bulimia. This behavior involves binging on an excessive amount of food and then purging by either inducing vomiting, taking diuretics and diet pills or exercising on an extreme level to burn as many calories as possible. Even though this behavior is common for someone with bulimia nervosa, it is also an issue that is commonly hidden. For instance, the individual may binge on foods while alone and hide the fact they are exercising by staying up and doing it through the night.

Eating In Secret 

For someone who needs bulimia recovery, it is common for them to treat the act of eating as secretive and shameful. There may be a lot of guilt and shame associated with binging and purging. Therefore, the individual may only eat meals when they are alone and avoid eating when they are with family, friends or coworkers. In some cases, this is done in an effort to prevent loved ones from seeing there is a problem.

The media has skewed the public’s view of bulimia nervosa by only showing what people with this disorder look like when they are at their most extreme state. This, unfortunately, misrepresents bulimia as an eating disorder and gives the impression that people who have this condition all look the same. It is important to remember that even though people who need bulimia recovery may have similar issues at play, each individual is different. Therefore, symptoms and behaviors are not always as simple to point out as what might be expected.

Finding Help for Bulimia Nervosa Eating Disorders

Those who are struggling and truly need bulimia recovery through a bulimia treatment center do not always get the help they need on their own. Therefore, it is important that loved ones step in and encourage the individual to get treatment. In order to do that, loved ones must arm themselves with knowledge, which includes getting familiar with the lesser-known behaviors that are involved with this eating disorder.

If a loved one is suspected of having an eating disorder, it is best to take steps to get them the help they need. These kinds of problems can be difficult to approach in the right way without making the individual with the problem feel guilt or shame about the situation. Some of the things to do may include:

  • Be mindful of the symptoms and behaviors associated with the disorder
  • Research the different treatment options available
  • Avoid being negative, condescending or judgmental about the problem
  • Approach the individual gently about the situation and possibly getting help
  • Reach out to a qualified treatment center for information

Monte Nido, founded by Carolyn Costin, is a renowned eating disorder treatment facility that treats individuals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa to binge eating disorder. Our facilities provide compassionate care in a comfortable environment where patients can build a healthier relationship with food, themselves and others. Through various forms of treatment, including nutritional counseling and behavioral therapy, we assist individuals and their families to begin on the road to recovery. Reach out to one of our friendly representatives to find out more about our bulimia treatment center.


Monte Nido & Affiliates Nutrition Programs: Monte Nido

When a person is living in the trenches of an eating disorder, decisions around how to safely and appropriately interact with food are dominated by unhealthy, dangerous and life-limiting thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. Over time, connections to bodily signals are weakened and awareness of hunger and fullness becomes distorted. At Monte Nido, we understand while most clients who walk through our doors describe a desire to eat “intuitively”, disconnection from, or repeated disregard of bodily cues makes it impossible for clients to thoughtfully and appropriately nourish themselves without support and guidance. Instead of using “intuitive eating” as an ideal, at Monte Nido treatment centers, we practice “conscious eating” with our clients. Conscious eating acknowledges that a client cannot safely rely on intuition immediately and balances nutrition science, body awareness practices, challenging of eating disorder beliefs and movement away from judgment to ensure an individual is properly nourished while following a medically indicated meal plan. Continue reading…


Eight Things to Look for in an Eating Disorder Treatment Center

When it is time to choose an eating disorder treatment center, it is important the person seeking help finds a center that fits their needs. Eating disorder treatment centers are not all the same, although many of them may have similar offerings. Because they are all a little different, some of these centers may be a better fit for some clients than others will be. Clients may only be focused on the treatment center that is closest to home or one that someone else has recommended. While those can be important considerations, there is more to the equation. Continue reading…


The Art of Nutrition: Looking at the Similarities and Differences of the Monte Nido & Affiliates Programs

Oliver-Pyatt Centers, Monte Nido and Clementine are three eating disorder treatment programs that operate with the same intention: To support individuals healing from eating disorders and to help them realize their potential of full recovery. That being said, we understand treatment is not a one-size-fits-all formula. Our three directors of nutrition come from the same underlying dietary philosophy that combines medically based research in the treatment of eating disorders with practices that help individuals learn to confidently nourish themselves independently. By understanding the slight differentiators that are practiced in all three facilities, it becomes easy to see that though the day-to-day may differ for clients from facility to facility, the fundamental reasoning for these different practices come from the same place.

Continue reading…


What to Tell Your Eating Disorder Therapist In Order to Receive the Best Help

Working with an eating disorder therapist during an adolescent’s time in a treatment center is beneficial in supporting a client on the path to recovery. There are several considerations when talking to a therapist. If a therapist and a client do not work well together or if their personalities clash, the client may not get what they need from the interaction. Fortunately, there are ways to navigate this issue. Sometimes an individual seeking treatment for an eating disorder simply needs to spend more time with the therapist to develop a stronger connection.

If they work with the therapist over time a stronger relationship often develops. Of course, that is not always the case. Sometimes individuals are not going to work well together; if that occurs the therapist and client may discuss this split in the relationship and may decide it is best for the client to work with another therapist. Quality eating disorder recovery centers should have more than one therapist available, and the client can appropriately transition to this new therapist, if deemed necessary by the entire treatment team.

Once a positive connection between an eating disorder psychologist and a client has been made, the most important task for the client is to truly open up to their therapist and explore their concerns, fears, hopes, dreams, etc. This is not always easy, but it is almost always worthwhile. Working with an experienced therapist can be very beneficial in helping a client reach a fully recovered state. To achieve the highest level of success possible, here are some items a client could share with their eating disorder therapist.

Information About Trauma or Harm in Their Past

Not everyone who seeks out help for eating disorder recovery has past trauma, harm or a conflict that may have been a contributing factor. Some clients do have have this type of trauma to work through while in treatment. If they do, it is important to work with a highly skilled therapist to safely explore these issues and the impact they have had on the development of an eating disorder. Individuals may want to avoid talking about past trauma because it can be painful, but it can also have a great deal of value once discussed. A seasoned therapist can help a client explore and work through these traumas safely.

Providing someone a new way to look at something can often make a difference in how they see the world. When people who are looking for eating disorder support work with therapists trained to support them, they may be taught new ways to process past traumatic experiences. It is often the processing of past trauma that can move a client toward a fully recovered state.

Without negative feelings about past experiences holding them back, they can be excited about the future and what they want to do with it. While that will not necessarily solve every issue or concern a person may have, it can be very beneficial on the path to true recovery.

The Plans and Goals They Have for Their Future

Everyone has goals and dreams, and the best eating disorder treatment includes support to explore and pursue these goals and dreams. Therapists who work in eating disorder treatment facilities understand the value of having something to work toward, that is separate from the eating disorder. Treatment is not just about treating the symptoms, it is about treating the whole person.

When clients and therapists work together to explore positive goals and dreams for the client’s future, they may be more apt to re-focus past negative thoughts and behaviors on these new, exciting potentials.

Fears and Stressors

Clients who work with an eating disorder psychologist should also talk about their fears and worries.  Understanding and exploring each client’s unique stressors is an important piece of providing the help a client may really need. That does not mean the therapist will be able to simply fix all the fears, but talking about them and putting them in perspective can often help individuals make breakthroughs in their therapy.

If fear or a lack of confidence in their own decisions and abilities is holding a client back, their therapist may be able to work with them on tools and techniques that will alleviate or reduce the stressors.

Working with an eating disorder therapist is a vital part of a strong recovery plan. Because the relationship between therapist and client is a private one, those who are seeking help for an eating disorder should be able to tell their therapist anything without fear of judgment and without concern that the information will be provided to others.

The People Around Them Who Support Them (or Do Not)

A big part of eating disorder support comes from family, friends and loved ones. People who are seeking treatment for an eating disorder should talk openly to their therapist about the people in their lives who can be part of their support system. Is someone close to them a pillar of support when they need it? Is someone in their family causing them setbacks and problems in their recovery? If there are people in their lives who are greatly affecting them one way or the other, clients should discuss those individuals.

In order to be as helpful as possible and to provide the most thorough recovery plan, the therapist needs as much information as possible. The more an eating disorder therapist knows about their client, the more they can fully support them on the path to true recovery. The same is true of a support system. If there are individuals in the client’s life that can provide positivity and support, they should remain in the client’s life. Clients and therapists can work together to explore individuals in the client’s life who are causing stress, anxiety and other problems and work to appropriately distance themselves from these individuals

When working with a therapist or any mental health professional, the more details provided, the more a therapist can understand what is truly at the heart of some of the issues the client may be facing. People in the client’s life often greatly affect them, and knowing how much of an effect they have and how the client feels about them is well worth considering when providing that client with therapeutic help for their eating disorder.

The Truth     

Above all else, the most important factor for someone seeking help is to be completely honest with their eating disorder therapist. This may be difficult as the client may fear judgment or wish that they had done something differently in their past. Hiding the truth does not help the therapist get a complete picture of how to help the client. Because of that, a client who avoids the truth or withholds important parts of it does not let the therapist help them as much as possible. In short, hiding or withholding information will only hurt the client.

Therapists who work with people seeking help for eating disorders understand what to listen and look for, and what kinds of questions they should be asking in order to get a more complete picture of the client and their disorder. Those who are the most open to sharing everything with their therapist may be able to move along the road to recovery faster than those who are more guarded with their information.

Fortunately, the therapists at Monte Nido are dedicated to helping their clients attain full recovery. They want to see their clients have positive and fulfilling lives, free of the eating disorder.