A recent New York Times Magazine cover story by Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, I was a Baby Bulimic, has drawn attention to the topic of bulimia in boys.
In this excerpt from an upcoming memoir, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater, Bruni describes his long history of compulsive overeating, which began in childhood and in college developed into bulimia.
Although the article’s title is catchy, Bruni really wasn’t a “baby bulimic.” According to his mother (he was too young to remember) one day when he was 18 months old, Bruni had such a violent crying fit when mom said no to another hamburger that he threw up. Following this episode, whenever mom said no to seconds he would vomit. Bruni did this so often that mom carried wipes around to clean up the mess. Neither Bruni nor his mom knows why the behavior stopped within the year. This is not bulimia, but an atypical way to get attention from a parent.
After years of worrying about his weight and dieting, however, Bruni did in college develop what sounds like a classic case of bulimia. The risk factors in his case were typical: He was a chubby kid, he was teased by schoolmates about his weight, and his mom was a chronic dieter who was perpetually attempting the latest fad diet.
Bruni finally stopped purging after college friends confronted him. As he describes this pivotal incident, he had just rejoined the group after slipping away to the restroom to purge the whole tuna sub he had consumed. The knowledge that he wasn’t “succeeding in keeping my throwing up a secret,” coupled with the information he had looked up on bulimia were what finally gave him the strength to stop.
He admits that he was “spooked” by information on the effects “this bulimia thing could have on your skin (bad), hair (worse), gums (eek!) and fingernails (nasty).” Bruni adds one important point: his purges didn’t stop immediately, but gradually, over time.
The take-home messages from this article are: 1. Fad dieting, or dieting of any sort, is never advisable. Studies show that the few pounds people lose on diets tend to come back, often with extra pounds. 2. Never encourage your child to diet. 3. If you are a parent of a child who vomits easily, be very watchful. Such children can be at higher risk for bulimia as they become teenagers. 4. Confronting a friend about your suspicions and concerns about-eating disordered behaviors can make an important difference. 5. Don’t expect to stop cold-turkey. Overcoming bulimia is hard to do, and there will be setbacks along the way.
Marcia and Nancy