National Eating Disorders Association
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Bulimia

Stephanie Covington Armstrong doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone with an eating disorder. And that’s exactly why she wrote her book, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia. Armstrong is sharing her story in an effort to expand the public’s perceptions of who struggles with eating disorders and poor body image.

We caught up with her to talk about myth-busting, what it takes to gain true confidence, and why she thinks our cultural obsession with celebrity is hurting us.

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Recovery doesn’t just happen. It’s also not some cliché buzzword tossed around to “inspire” you. Recovery is real. It’s not a luck-of-the-draw deal where you put your name in a hat and hope to be chosen. It’s a grueling, relentless, personal process that will push you beyond your limits over and over and over. Will you choose it?

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If you ask my friends in NYC to describe me, you’ll be painted a picture of a boss lady taking on the city as a full-time professor, writer, and consultant, in addition to being a fitness influencer. They’ll also tell you I’m a people person, excitable, and will always make time to help you move apartments and celebrate your birthday.   

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There are too many stereotypes today about eating disorders; specifically, the widespread myth that they can only affect younger women. But in reality, 13 percent of women over the age of 50 have eating disorders. And until very recently, I was one of them.

It’s not surprising, because in our culture fat translates to negative feelings about ourselves. In our culture, “being perfect” is seen as attainable. 

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Mike Marjama currently has a successful career as an American baseball catcher for the Seattle Mariners, but he once struggled with an eating disorder that threatened his ability to play the sport he loves. As a teen, Marjama attended Granite Bay High School in California and later played baseball for California State University. While in high school, Marjama developed an eating disorder that eventually led to inpatient treatment. 

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Melinda developed an eating disorder while she served in the military from 2003-2008. When she met her husband Jim several years later, she was still battling binge eating disorder and bulimia. They’ve coped as a couple as Melinda began her recovery for her eating disorder.

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More often than not these days, my eating disorder feels like a distant memory. I have to think really hard to put myself back in my own shoes. It was only five years ago that my entire life revolved around bingeing and purging and starving and drinking (and then bingeing and purging and starving and drinking), and yet that life feels so foreign to me now. Which is an incredible privilege. And a huge victory. I struggled for nearly a decade with anorexia and bulimia. It infected every corner of my life by the time I crashed and burned my way into treatment.

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Once a year, the grocery store checkout magazines come out with their “Half my Size!” issue, featuring people who have dropped a significant amount of weight. They stand in one leg of their old jeans or flex in trendy athletic wear, smiling like “happily ever after” has finally arrived for them. 

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Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia NervosaBulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA

According to the DSM-5, the official diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa are:

My first diet was in second grade, and I remember the day clearly. I had overheard a family friend urge my mom to take me for regular, brisk walks in the neighborhood. Her message was clear: I was chubby and needed to lose weight. I felt embarrassed and internalized her words to mean that I was not good enough. That marked the beginning of my issues with food. 

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