T Nation

Effects of Bulimia and Shock Diets


Disturbing news (Personally at least). I've found out that my girlfriend has had suffered from chronic bulimia for 3 years. Naturally I just stood in awe as she told me the details. For three years, she puked after every single meal she ate and for 2 months she followed a 200-300 calorie shock diet. Now, she's cured of the bulimia but its effects last on as she can't eat, literally. Most days, she still gets between 400-1000 calories a day and when she eats a lot, she gets the puke reflex.

So I've figured it'd be best to post this in the nutrition forum. What are the possible effects of Bulimia for 3 years and following a very hypocaloric diet in normal life (400-1000 calorie range, usually plant based). Some notes: She lifts using the SL5x5 program (started about a month ago), she's 17, she has very fragile and somewhat sparse hair, is 56 kilograms/123 lbs with about 14% bodyfat and her squat is 85 lbs for 5x5 and is increasing, sleeps about 9-10 hours a day, doesn't smoke, stopped drinking. She's getting a total-body check up in two weeks as well.

So, what complications can these cause? And how can I get her to get more calories?


Can she drink more of her calories? Shakes made with fruit, Metabolic Drive, ice-cream, heavy cream, etc... Maybe visit a calorie counting website - there seem to be a lot of recovering anorexics/bulimics on the one I use to track macros. Google "calorie count". It's the one with the "about.com" in the address.
caloriecount dot about dot com. (Not sure if the mods will let me post the link).

There's a whole community of messed up women there.


The effects of bulimia on the body can range from severe to mildly troublesome. It just depends on the seriousness of the disorder and the length of time the person goes without seeking treatment. As this has been going on for quite some time though it's probably pretty severe. You can look up the harmful effects on the body on just about any MedMD web posting they're all pretty much the same, gastrointestinal issues, trouble with blood glucose, pancreatic problems, digestive problems, etc. One question though, what is the particular reason for your query? You seem to want something more specific than a general answer which as stated earlier can be found easily by a Google search.

I sincerely doubt that your g/f is completely free from this disease. It's really not something that you get completely rid of just like changing out of an old t-shirt and throwing it away. First and foremost I think you should figure out why she became bulimic...most eating disorders are a psychological way of controlling some aspect of life when you feel as though you are out of control, or as a coping mechanism of some sort. That would be my first issue that I think you should look into. Once you know the source of the problem it's much easier to acknowledge and understand the problem, although you may never understand the problem completely.

Secondly, I think you should be very supportive and listen to her, if she wants to talk about it. It's actually quite surprising that you found out about it at all. Bulimics are generally very secretive about their eating habits, and typically you wouldn't really notice if you weren't paying very close attention to her habits during mealtimes. Did she tell you, or did you find out second handidly, if you don't mind my asking? The only reason I mention this is that it will help her along with her emotional issues in combating the disease.

As far as her metabolism is concerned she can build it back up gradually by introducing small meals back into her diet. Nothing large and hard to digest. Every member of the eating disordered community that I've ever conversed with has always had certain foods that they felt were comfortable with and were able to eat without feeling like they needed to throw them up or couldn't digest them.





Found the link, and appreciated it. I used a site called fitday previously, which sucked balls. I've found a good post-bulimia recovery method to be the drinking of half a gallon of whole fat milk a day. I advised her to do that and build up to that gradually, like one glass an hour or such.

The reason for my query is that I'm simply worried about her health. She gets palpitations after mere minutes of running, her hair falls off unnaturally and whenever she eats, she gets nausea. On the other hand, she is strong compared to most women of her age around here with a 100 lbs bench press (very interesting detail since it means she was either very strong before the case or didn't lose muscle mass), has a blood pressure of 115/68 and a pulse of 61 (MUCH better than me in fact. I thought myself to be pretty healthy until I was diagnosed with hypertension and high haertbeat).

The problem is because she was very heavily insecure, mostly about her appearance at the time the complication began and suffered from depression. One night, she binged and became disgusted by herself, mostly due to her appearance and made herself puke. Then she started having more over-eating cases and she puked again whenever she felt heavy (weighed herself 4-5 times a day that time) and it became a habit. She puked whenever she ate. Her friends back then helped her be rid of the puking by locking the toilets whenever they were together and after a shock diet that lasted for 2 months she became free of puking. She is currently happy and is in peace with herself, and is content with her looks (as well as I am), but she still can not eat because whenever she eats a good meal she gets a nausea and is also afraid she'll put on weight. And she told me.

Yesterday, I told her about my depression a year ago and she wanted me to learn the only thing she hid from me (as she put it), which was bulimia for 3 years. Through some research we decided that it would be to her benefit to drink half a gallon of whole fat milk alongside 6 very light meals a day. That way she can get around 1800-2000 calories, which probably is a good number for maintenance, no?

And thanks for the support both of you, I appreciate it greatly.


The best thing she could do for herself is to get into training. Meaning real strength training, not messing around with pink dumbbells and the treadmill. There's probably already tons of bulimics and anorexics who do all that stuff to wretched excess in addition to their eating disorder. I'm talking something like powerlifting or Oly lifting.

The problem is, you can't push her to do it. You can only lead by example. If possible, try to expose her to other WOMEN who lift. Once she sees the positive effects it has on other females like herself, maybe she'll feel inspired to give it a go. I bet the eating disorder will gradually take of itself once she gets into serious training. The thing is, it sounds like she's got potential. A 100-lb raw bench for a female that's never lifted before is pretty impressive. Sounds like she's got the "raw ingredients" to get good.


She currently follows StrongLifts 5x5. It's not a very well looked upon program here, but figured it'd do her good. Clearly, a month of it didn't do any good to her diet. Yesterday (a workout day), the only thing she ate was a bowl of salad with about 150 grams of meat. So what's your take?


My take? It depends on just how serious her problem is. I have a feeling a great many women have anorexia or bulimia to a degree. I don't know anything about StrongLifts, but if she starts to see some results from her training, she'll hopefully start making the connection that eating better (which in her case would include eating MORE) will improve her performance and give her better workouts. It all starts falling into place once she 'turns the corner' and starts perceiving training as something enjoyable for it's own sake, not something she has to do. If her eating disorder is fairly mild, that may be enough to get her get over it and simply outgrow it. If it's more a more serious and entrenched problem, then my guess is she'll need professional help.