Dorset woman's bulimia made her suicidal

A young woman crouching over toilet bowl and self inducing vomiting. Model released. Science Photo Library
Image caption Bulimia is about five times more common than anorexia nervosa, research shows.

Three years ago Anne-Marie wanted to die.

For 11 years the Weymouth office worker, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, had been trapped in a vicious cycle of surreptitious binge-eating and vomiting.

By 2008 her eating disorder had taken over her life to the extent that once her bills were paid any remaining money was spent on food.

"My life revolved around food," the 27-year-old told BBC News. "On a typical morning I would go to the supermarket to fill two shopping bags with bread, chocolate, cakes and biscuits.

"Then I'd go home, eat it and stick my two fingers down my throat to make myself sick."

Anne-Marie is among some 1.6 million people in the UK with an eating disorder, according to Beat, a charity which supports adults and young people affected by this form of mental illness.

It has been running a host of events across the country to mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: "We believe more people are becoming aware that it is a serious psychological condition.

"There are so many preconceptions but you can beat an eating disorder."

Sufferers exhibit an abnormal attitude towards food which causes them to drastically alter their eating habits and behaviour.

Another type of eating disorder is anorexia nervosa, where a person starves themselves and exercises excessively to maintain a life-threateningly low weight.

Bulimia is about five times more common than anorexia nervosa, with 90% of people with the condition female, according to the NHS Choices website.

For Anne-Marie's behaviour to go undetected at work, she had to employ cunning tactics - locking herself in her office at lunchtime to binge-eat and then vomiting in the nearby ladies' toilet.

She said she always feared a passing colleague would hear her.

"I was frightened people would see what I was eating and the amounts," Anne-Marie explained.

"I did all my eating in secret and then ate normally in front of people."

Anne-Marie blames an inability to express her emotions as a child and being unhappy with her appearance for her self-destructive behaviour.

"I did not like the way I looked," she added. "In my head, I was fat and ugly but in reality I was a normal-looking child.

"I tried to control these feelings through food."

'First bite'

She said she had fallen "into the depths of despair" when fate intervened in the form of her future husband Jonathan whom she met through mutual friends at a party.

"He had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous for seven years and suggested I attend an Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meeting.

"I was sceptical about it, at first, but then I found I liked the people there."

Anne-Marie credits the meetings - which she has been attending up to three times a week for the past three years - with bringing about an end to her binge-eating and purging cycle.

"I have learned to express myself and am now aware that if I am compelled to overeat there are unresolved emotions," she continued.

"We also encourage each other at the meetings to call someone before we take the first bite."

Other OA tools Anne-Marie now uses as a part of her coping mechanism include writing her thoughts down and offering support to fellow attendees.

She added: "My life is really good now, I am happily married, I changed my job and I express my feelings more.

"The fact that I have not binged or vomited to get through my day a miracle and a relief."

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