Food For Thought

BULIMAREXIA: The Tortoise and the Hare 


by Susan Milazzo, Contributing Columnist

My eyes in the mirror filled with tears at the shocking site of the hulking lard on my 5'1'' frame. How could I have been so oblivious to the gradual metamorphosis of my body?

I hated my body and my life … depression emerged within two weeks. I decided that I must lose weight – QUICKLY! Instinctively, my first stop was the grocery store to purchase a meal-replacement powder milkshake, then off to a department store for exercise videos and running shoes. While these were great strides in a positive direction, I was clueless as to how to safely reduce my caloric intake and increase the intensity of my workouts.

Food and weight became my obsessions. For two months, the only food I consumed daily was three glasses of meal-replacement milkshakes. That’s it! But the weight was not coming off fast enough. I decided that exercise would be a great complement to my “diet.” To my utter horror, I realized that I could not even jog to the end of my driveway without hyperventilating. Boy, was I out of shape! Gradually, I increased my distance from jogging halfway down my driveway to 10 miles daily, with only three glasses of milkshake to sustain my increased activity. But in my tortured eyes, the weight-loss process was still S-L-O-W.

Daily exhaustion and sharp pains in my stomach rallied me into the next stage of my insanity. I decided it was time to start eating again since I was running 10 miles a day in addition to two hours of aerobic exercise and one hour of weight lifting at home. However, the guilt of the extra food opened the doorway to purging.

My mantra was “food is my enemy.” Consumption of a small quantity of food (a small hamburger) consequently resulted in purging. I remember taking deep breaths, opening my mouth as wide as I could, sliding my fist down my throat, gagging and choking until I completely emptied my body of the food I ate. I struggled with this suicidal cycle for the next three months until I was an emaciated 85 pounds.

Bulimarexia, as its name suggests, is the combination of bulimia and anorexia. This is probably physically the most dangerous and life-threatening of all the eating disorders. It is a way of dealing with the recurrent violent hunger pangs one feels, and goes on to vomiting or purging as a way of keeping weight at a very low level.

Dr. Guido Frank, a psychiatrist at the University of California (Newsday, July 13, 2005), reported that “… anorexia, a disease that can also affect men, has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness.”

Similar to Jane Fonda’s experience with bulimarexia, I almost died from this binge-and-vomit cycle. Fear is what saved me … the fear of my two children not having a mother … the fear of dying.

I had my family’s support and my own determination. Self-education on healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods and exercise — a whole new way of life began my journey to recovery.

I began reading fitness magazines and many of the latest diet books. After dredging through the kaleidoscope of fitness myths, I concluded that the most sensible solutions were moderate exercise, combined with a new way of eating. Five small meals per day concentrating on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains were a good start.

My exercise regimen began in the morning with a two-mile jog to get my metabolism revved-up, followed by 30 minutes of weight lifting to help me tone and increase my strength. After eight months of significant, healthy lifestyle management, my initial weight of 150 pounds (44.2 percent body fat) that had dropped to a dangerously anorexic 85 pounds (4.1 percent body fat) leveled to a healthy 108 pounds (17.4 percent body fat). The American Dietetic Association recommends that women have 20-25 percent body fat and men have 15-18 percent body fat. Healthy, athletic males might be as low as 5-12 percent body fat, and healthy, athletic females could be as low as 10-20 percent.

Several months later, I joined my oldest son with martial arts training as part of my daily exercise as well as to help me release stress. This thrilling adventure to good health compelled me to a career in fitness as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer and YogaFit instructor. Today, my mantra is “eat healthy, exercise, be happy. Don’t eliminate — do moderate.” A healthy body is achievable through moderation of food and exercise.

Set realistic goals — Create a personal action plan that focuses on thinking smart, eating healthy and moving more.

Make healthy food choices — Eat five smaller meals a day instead of three meals a day to keep you feeling fuller longer. This does not mean increasing your daily caloric intake by grazing all day. Instead, take the meals that you are eating and break them into smaller portions.

Exercise — Commit to breaking the yo-yo cycle. Make at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a regular part of your life. Moderate physical activity equivalent to 30 minutes of brisk walking is enough to achieve fitness benefits and prevent illnesses.

A healthy way of reducing weight may be “slow” as a tortoise … “quick” as a hare is not always best!

Susan Milazzo is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer and a member of Prince George Electric Cooperative. She is also a physical-education faculty member for Richard Bland College.

What’s Your View?

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