Do I have an eating disorder?

Originally Published: April 25, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 2, 2007
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Dear Alice,

I'm hoping you could answer my question.

I am a freshman at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, and I think I have an eating disorder. I starve myself, but sometimes I just have to binge. I have to do this until I feel better about myself, but I have an additional problem. I feel so depressed after I binge because I sit for over an hour trying self-induced vomiting, but it doesn't work for me. I feel it would be better to just purge and feel better than be left feeling hopeless because I couldn't undo my mistake. I was hoping you could tell me why I can't even vomit right? It doesn't seem fair. I just want to lose some weight, then I'll handle the eating problems, but for now I fear what this depression will lead to if I continue to occasionally lose the will-power to not eat but can't vomit. I'm sure you don't want to answer my question because you will feel you are contributing to my problem, but I'll take a chance and ask anyway. How can I make myself throw up or what can I take or do to get rid of my food. I just feel like I'm missing something, that so many girls have this problem, but I can't even do it the right way. Even this won't work for me to lose weight.

I hope you receive this, and I apologize for the length. Thank you for your time.


Dear a.n.,

Alice was concerned reading your question, and hopes it indicates some kind of motivation on your part to make some positive changes in your life, since starving, bingeing, and purging can be very detrimental to your mental and physical well-being and happiness.

What you describe in your letter does seem to indicate that you have an eating disorder. It appears that you are suffering from feelings of depression, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, guilt, and/or anger, in conjunction with the starving, bingeing, and purging behaviors. Also, when you force yourself to starve, it's only natural for you to end up bingeing because you have deprived your body of what it needs to function properly and maintain itself. Choosing to starve is not a normal, healthy behavior.

Your feeling of "you can't even vomit right" is a sign of issues of self-confidence and self-esteem that will not go away even if you become a successful purger. The key to your future happiness and contentment is not going to be based on how much you weigh. In fact, your chosen method is likely to make you beat up on yourself even more.

Contact your school's counseling service and make an appointment with a therapist as soon as you can. You can also get referrals from your health care provider, or from the The National Eating Disorders Association. In addition, Alice recommends that you read, Making Peace with Food, by Susan Kano, which could help you free yourself from the diet/weight obsession, develop a healthy relationship with food and your body, and give you some peace of mind. And, don't forget to search through Alice's Emotional Health and Fitness and Nutrition archives for more information on body image and eating concerns.


February 2, 2007

Hey a.n.!

Hmm what can I say...? I have been bulimic for 6 years now. I'm 18 and it has f***ed my life up big time! My face is swollen, and I haven't lost any weight — I'm a size 12 and it...

Hey a.n.!

Hmm what can I say...? I have been bulimic for 6 years now. I'm 18 and it has f***ed my life up big time! My face is swollen, and I haven't lost any weight — I'm a size 12 and it has controlled my life for so long now that I can't go on dates or even go out because I automatically look at girls and start crying.

I'm also at uni and my parents no longer want me to go home because I just stink the house out. My mum always makes sure I don't go to the toilet after I eat (which is another thing — you will find it hard to eat with people, let alone your own family). All I can say is don't do it because it gains you nothing apart from a stomach ulcer and absolute insecurity, which you may feel you have now, but trust me, it will get worse.

I hope you all the best, and I bet you're absolutely gorgeous and SLIM. Please, please don't get into it, it will ruin your life!

Love ya,
the girl from london xxxx