I recently read an article as part of eating disorder awareness week that highlighted singer and actress Demi Lovato’s thoughts regarding the origins of her eating disorder.
I think I was born with an eating disorder because I’ve never had a relationship with food that was normal.” - Demi Lovato
The idea of having been born with an eating disorder is something that I could really relate to. Just like Demi, before recovering from bulimia I could never remember a time when I had been entirely “normal” around food.
My entire childhood was dominated by episodes of binge eating and dieting, both of which I distinctly remember offering comfort in a confusing and scary world. But it goes further than that too, at just a few months old my parents were advised to “water down” my milk because of my insatiable appetite.
So of course, the idea that I was born with some kind of genetic predisposition to silence my every emotion with food crossed my mind a lot in the past, but luckily, the idea that I was born this way, never stopped me from believing that I could change.
This is in deep contrast to Demi Lovato, who heartbreakingly said she believes “there’s no cure” and that bulimia is “a life-long disease”.
1. I wish I could tell her that people are recovering from their eating disorders every single day, going on to live unimaginably free lives. No longer thinking of food as the enemy, no longer hating their bodies, no longer craving the numbness that bingeing and purging can bring. Not just living in a perpetual state of “recovery” but actually recovering.
2. I wish I could show her that eating is a skill that can be learned, even if you never remember a time when you had a normal relationship with food.
3. I wish I could help her to believe that having a genetic susceptibility for bulimia is not a life sentence – even if you feel you were born with an eating disorder, it does not mean you can’t recover.
4. I wish I could encourage her to explore every possible recovery avenue. For me online bulimia treatment was the key and that is something I NEVER would have expected. For her it may be something else but the answer is out there.
The fact remains that your genes alone still won’t define your destiny.
As Lynn Grefe, President and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association – (NEDA) says,
[if you’re genetically predisposed to bulimia then it’s like] you're born with the gun, and society -- your cultural and environmental circumstances -- pulls the trigger."
One theory that comes up time and time again is the idea that food restriction plays a part in triggering bulimic genes.
I wholeheartedly endorse the overwhelming amount of research that indicates food restriction is the mechanism that allows for the development of bulimia. In fact I’ve never met anyone who developed bulimia without initially restricting their food.
The idea of bulimic genes being triggered in this way helps to explain why not everyone who diets or restricts their food goes on to develop bulimia.
Howard Steiger, director of the Eating Disorders Program at McGill University in Canada states that even “modest dieting” may flip the genetic switch that leads you to become bulimic.
Of course this is just one example of a potential eating disorder gene trigger, and there are many more theories out there. But the good news is that everything scientists do know about genetic predispositions indicate one important thing...
So even if you feel you were born with an eating disorder, as I once did, there is no reason why you can not make a complete recovery.
I’ll probably never know if I was genetically predisposed to developing bulimia, but I do know that by nourishing my body, learning how to overcome binge urges and eat normally, developing strategies to effectively deal with stress and learning how to appreciate myself, I was able to make a full and complete recovery, regardless of my genetic makeup.
Eating Disorders Specialist Carolyn Costin sums up the debate on eating disorder genes by saying…
The new research on the genetic predisposition that contributes to the development of an eating disorder unfortunately seems to contribute to the notion that one cannot fully recovery.
My genes are the same as they were when I had anorexia nervosa but I am different. I make different choices, I think differently, other things are more important to me now.”
If you’d like to learn more about our bulimia treatment success then exploring our recovery stories section is a great place to start!
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