Growing up struggling to be ‘thin’
In Thai culture, it is very common to greet people and start a small talk around topics on weight and appearance. It is not like there is really no other thing to ask our friends and family or Thai people are not sensitive. We definitely are, yet we don’t realize making comments on weight actually affect some people, especially teenagers, who haven’t yet been immuned and can be easily influenced. And that affected me, a lot…to the point I was insecure about my body and chose the wrong path to look ‘beautiful.’ When I was a teenager, that kind of comments, plus my low self-esteem, led me to focus too much on my body image, causing me to have bulimia. I was under pressure that bone thin is ‘beautiful’ and yes, as a teenage girl, I wanted to be pretty.
I know I shouldn’t have let what others say about me affect how I lived my life or how I saw myself. However, it wasn’t that easy. The influence from media and peer pressure sometimes plays an important role in shaping how we see ourselves, especially those we care for or those we want to live up to their ‘standards.’
It was interesting how much I didn’t want to visit Bangkok when I was still ‘fat’ living in Canada 4 years ago because I didn’t want to be asked why I was gaining rweight. Isn’t it pretty simple why we would weigh heavier—our food intake exceeds the calories we use up, duh?
What is bulimia?
So what’s bulimia? According to Wikipedia (2015), “Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (purging), typically by vomiting, taking a laxative, diuretic, or stimulant, and/or excessive exercise, because of an extensive concern for body weight.”
When I was 19-26, I had bulimia. Yes, I did have it for almost 8 years. I went through binge eating and purging phases and those were very much suffering. I spent 3-4 hours at gym 4-5 times a week. I took too many laxatives but luckily I didn’t try to make myself throw up. Self-induced vomit is the worst form of purging because it will take the body years to really recover and be back normal again.
My family and friends never knew I had bulimia until I was 22. I started to feel I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life and I decided to seek medical help. At first, my dad didn’t understand what my conditions were and we went to a psychiatrist at Chulalongkorn Hospital.
However, in Thailand back then, not so many doctors knew much about bulimia or anorexia so I did some research myself on the Internet and I talked to many girls online who were going through the same thing. Finally, at the age of 26, I prayed to God to give me strength and willpower to overcome bulimia. I got out of its vicious cycles and started to live a normal life with a normal eating pattern.
How did I gain control over bulimia?
Bulimia controled every aspect of my life—including my confidence and self-worth. Even though I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist myself, I learned from my experience that the root cause of bulimia is low self-esteem and insecurity—the fear of not being approved or accepted.
I took a deeper look at self-love and worked on it. I started a gratitude journal and focused on the positive aspects of my life and the situations at the moment. It took quite a bit time to really feel appreciative of small things and that finally led to inner peace and happiness within my own self.
I also made peace with food and learned to enjoy foods in a way that they nurture my body and give me the energy I need. I gradually introduced my favourite dishes back to my diet and made sure of the portion control (so that I wouldn’t binge eating).
I believe we need to learn to love ourselves first before healing. It’s important to be aware and accept who we are and have faith that we can improve and it is okay to go back to square one and start again. It’s never too late.
Binge no more
If you overeat today, please know that it will be alright tomorrow. We can’t just gain that much weight from one-time binge eating and all you need to do is relax and take a deep breath while reminding yourself of your worth and value which is much more important than the outer appearance. Once you make peace with yourself, I believe you will gradually learn to love your body, enjoy eating, and be healthy again!
8 years of living without bulimia, I feel so much happier and enjoy eating more (even though I have IBS). Nowadays, if I know anyone struggling with bulimia, I will help in every possible way I could to support them because I know how that feels and that the struggle is real.