I’m Ali Kerr, Nutritional Therapist and author of the Bulimia Help Method.
Hopefully, you are here because you want to know how the Bulimia Help Method (BHM) can work for you.
In order for you to understand how we’re different from everything else out there, and why we get the results we do, I ask you to spend the 6 minutes it takes to read this page. I promise it’s not as long as it looks. Thanks!
Firstly I want to stress that this approach is vastly different from traditional treatment. We don’t ask you to analyze your painful past experiences or to talk about any personality ‘flaws’ that may have lead to your bulimia, in fact we do just one thing…
We show you how to eliminate binge urges and cravings for life by restoring your body’s own natural food regulation system (that’s just fancy wording for your hunger and satiety).
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. If it was, we wouldn’t have written a book about it.
This message is direct, so direct, that some bulimia sufferers might find it slightly offensive and provoking. Please believe me that this is not my intention. It is commonly known that traditional treatment isn’t effective for everyone (it wasn’t for me). There is a need for alternative approaches. This is ours.
The good thing about this approach is that it is action based. Meaning it is very practical and doable. You can start it today and see the benefits within a week or two. Although everyone is different, following the BHM it can take around 6 months for your binge urges to fully disappear and a further 6 months for you to rebuild your confidence around food. Many of our members feel as though they are fully recovered around the 12-18 month mark.
I suffered from disordered eating and bulimia for 10 years (from 1994 to 2004). Together with my husband, I pioneered an alternative approach to bulimia recovery.
My bulimia was quite severe. I was bingeing and purging, at my worst up to 10 times a day, I’d lost my menstrual cycle, I became socially withdrawn and depressed. I also suffered from social anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations and severe food and body preoccupation. My life was an endless cycle of bingeing, purging then starving… bingeing, purging then starving… bingeing, purging then starving… it was the worst time in my life. Food was a war ground and hunger was the enemy. Normal life felt like a distant forgotten memory.
In 2006, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t live that way any longer. I was determined to recover no matter what it took. I confessed to my husband that I was bulimic and together we committed to recovery. Frustratingly, for a time, recovery remained elusive: therapy proved ineffective, the best my doctor could do was recommend antidepressants and inpatient treatment was too expensive.
So with nothing left to lose, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Utilizing the research skills we’d developed at university, together we began researching, testing and questioning everything we could find on bulimia nervosa.
Over the years we tried many different recovery techniques, but frustratingly we found that most of them just didn’t work – (isn’t that always the case?). Yet there were a handful of techniques that showed promise, so we started to pull them together and began to compile our own recovery model. After years of research, we felt we had devised a recovery method that could really work, we later named this method the ‘Bulimia Help Method’.
By following this approach I noticed a radical reduction in the frequency and intensity of my binges. After 3 months I had completely stopped bingeing and purging and within 10 months I considered myself fully recovered.
It was remarkable. I have never looked back and I have been free from bulimia and all food issues ever since.
We decided to share the Bulimia Help Method with others and since 2007 over 12,000 sufferers of bulimia have passed through our recovery program… the feedback has been remarkable and we are happy to say The Bulimia Help Method is now recommended by experts, doctors, eating disorder professionals and charities worldwide.
So how does The Bulimia Help Method work?
Now before we go any further I do want to point out that this is in no way a “quick fix” solution, because unfortunately those just don’t exist. Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to snap my fingers and magically cure you of your bulimia, but we need to get real. Recovery is a journey and change happens gradually with plenty of ups and downs along the way. Recovery requires a sustained effort and a lot of perseverance, but ultimately it will lead you to a life you never even dreamed would be possible.
So with that said, let me share with you the 12 keys behind the Bulimia Help Method and how it works…
(This is where we start to get into the science bit of recovery. It will help if you can set aside any preconceived ideas you may have about bulimia and recovery.)
Key 1: Research shows us that food restriction is the primary trigger for eating disorders (Thompson & Sherman, 1993).
Did you know that food restriction (which includes dieting) is the number 1 cause of bulimia nervosa?
- Severe dieters have already begun the process of developing an eating disorder (Patton, G. C., et al. 1999).
- Girls who severely diet are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within 6 months than those who do not diet (Patton, G. C., et al. 1999).
- It doesn’t even have to be a severe diet – 2/3 of new eating disorder cases come from those who diet moderately (Patton, G. C., et al. 1999).
- Dieting and starvation are believed to be a trigger which switches on the biology and changes in the brain associated with the development of eating disorders. (All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image ”Reflections on Body Image”, 2012).
This leads us to the simple conclusion that food restriction or dieting precedes the vast majority of eating disorders. Put simply, dieting causes bulimia!
Key 2: Anyone can get bulimia irrespective of their mental state.
If you restrict your food intake then you are susceptible to becoming bulimic. Even if the healthiest, happiest person on the planet restricted their food intake, they would make themselves susceptible to becoming bulimic. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with upbringing, personality, or emotional state. This isn’t conjectured, this is a scientifically proven fact.
If you are malnourished, you will binge, this will happen to anyone. This has nothing to do with who you are as a person. You are not weak, broken or faulty because you cannot stop bingeing on food.
Key 3: Bingeing and then purging your food is a form of food restriction because it keeps you in a chronic malnourished (starvation) state.
This is important to keep in mind… bingeing and then purging your food is a form of food restriction in itself. I know you may feel like you are eating a lot of food with each binge, but if it’s followed by continual purging, either through fasting, excessive exercise, laxatives, or vomiting, there is a good chance that you’re still malnourished.
By purging you are not giving your body the chance to properly digest your food, this means that you are not getting the nutrition your body craves. Your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism slows dramatically. This can sound crazy, considering bulimics tend to eat a lot of food, but it’s true.
Key 4: Research has shown that a restrictive diet (bingeing and purging on food is a form of restriction) can lead to every single symptom of bulimia.
In 1944 a famous physiologist Ancel Keys conducted a semi-starvation experiment where 36 volunteers were starved for 24 weeks. This is still the leading study into semi-starvation and its effects. The results were remarkable and showed that many of the symptoms that might have been thought to be specific to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are actually the results of starvation (Pirke & Ploog, 1987) and that the effects of starvation are incredibly similar to that of eating disorders (Polivy & Herman, 1976).
Let’s look at some of the side effects of a restrictive diet. (Do any of them look familiar?)
- Extremely powerful urges to binge on food (so every cell in your body is screaming out for food)
- Powerful cravings for energy-dense foods (ice cream and chocolate never looked so good)
- An increased taste response to sugar (you can eat a LOT of sugar before you get sick of it)
- An insatiable appetite (that’s why you never feel full)
- Food obsession (including food dreams)
- Cravings for stimulants (is that your 5th can of diet coke today?)
- Depression (as though your soul is being leaked out of you)
- Anxiety (including social anxiety, increased worry, paranoia)
- OCD (including perfectionism).
Bear in mind that these are side effects of food restriction… NOT the side effects of bulimia.
Key 5: A restrictive diet (that includes bingeing and purging folks!) makes you miserable.
Whenever you restrict your food intake you suffer from a host of mental side effects too. Large-scale studies from reputable universities such as Harvard and Oxford have noted that people on diets can significantly deplete their serotonin levels within three weeks of dieting.
When your serotonin levels drop, so do your feelings of self-esteem and overall happiness. Over time this can lead to outbreaks of unpleasant psychological problems such as obsessive and compulsive behavior, depression, anxiety, cravings, general moodiness and poor motivation.
Simply put… food restriction can, and will, make you miserable.
Key 6: Your body is in “starvation mode” and it is doing everything it can to get out of it.
You might think it is strange that your body creates what seems like a huge “hunger monster” inside you that just wants to gorge on a ton of food.
Well, this is actually a basic and natural human survival mechanism. There is nothing wrong or weird about this type of hunger. In fact, it is healthy for your body’s survival mechanism to kick in when it detects that something is wrong. This is happening because your body thinks that you are in the middle of a famine (remember bingeing and purging has put your body into starvation mode) and it is doing everything it can to ensure you are eating enough food.
(Think of it this way, if we didn’t suffer from food obsession and binge cravings when we were malnourished, then it is very unlikely we would have survived as a species past the Stone Age.)
Key 7: Bulimia is mostly a physical/biological condition and not a mental one.
From the previous 7 keys (you did read them, right?) we can conclude that bulimia nervosa is mostly a physical/biological condition and not a mental one. This means it can be helpful for recovery to treat it like a physical condition rather than a mental one.
Science agrees. You may be surprised that studies show…
…no scientific evidence supports the idea that resolving underlying psychological problems leads to recovery (Walsh & Cameron, 2005).
This might help to explain why traditional treatments that focus only on the mental aspects of eating disorders aren’t super effective. If bulimia is mostly a physical condition, you cannot possibly “think yourself” better. Try “thinking” a broken leg better. It won’t get you very far.
Key 8: To escape from the “binge/purge cycle” you need to undo the damage that restriction and malnutrition has caused.
To recover, we need to remove the starvation state and you need to teach your body that the famine is over. To do this you need to provide your body with regular, balanced, adequate food. One of the best ways to do this is to follow a structured eating plan.
By doing this you can expect a DRAMATIC reduction in your binge urges.
Structured eating has many, many benefits and will help you to:
✓ Undo the damage of malnutrition.
✓ Stop restricting food.
✓ Feed your body the nutrition it needs.
✓ Rebalance your blood sugar levels.
✓ Kickstart your digestive system.
✓ Increase your metabolism.
✓ Normalize your hunger.
✓ Normalize your satiety.
✓ Dramatically reduce your urge to binge on food.
✓ Relearn normal eating habits.
Key 9: We’re not quite there yet.. your brain may still be conditioned to binge under certain conditions.
Bingeing on food (especially those with high sugar and fat combinations) causes a flood of “feel good” chemicals (including endorphins and serotonin) to surge through your brain. This can temporarily infuse you with a sense of numbness or euphoria. This chemical rush can provide a temporary relief from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Over time your brain can become conditioned to crave binge eating as it is an easy way for you to (temporarily) change how you feel about an uncomfortable situation. This is similar to smokers who crave a cigarette when they feel stressed, or drinkers who crave alcohol to calm their nerves. They were not born with this desire, but over time their brain was conditioned to crave cigarettes or alcohol under certain conditions.
Eventually you may wonder how you could possibly cope with life without your binge fix to quiet the mind or to eliminate any uncomfortable feelings
In reality, we have very little control over this type of brain conditioning. This craving comes from the unthinking part of your brain that reacts automatically based on instincts and habit, rather than logic and reason. We could try to argue against this binge urge with logic and reasoning but it wouldn’t be very effective.
To overcome these binge urges we need to undo the conditioning. We teach a powerful combination of distraction, delaying and acceptance to help you to undo this conditioning.
Key 10: As well as removing the binge urge we want to remove the urge to purge.
As well as removing the binge urges, we also want to remove the urge to purge. This urge is mostly created by the fear and anxiety of potential weight gain due to eating food. The good news is that purging is extremely ‘ineffective’ for weight management. It is possible to stop purging and not gain any weight.
You were not born with this fear of food, this is something you picked up over time. In the Bulimia Help Method we teach some powerful strategies to remove the fear induced by eating food.
Key 11: If you are not bingeing and purging… you are recovered.
Once we remove the urges to binge and purge you won’t binge and purge. If you aren’t bingeing and purging then you are no longer bulimic. And then you are recovered.
Key 12: Let’s make sure this is a LIFELONG recovery.
But that’s not all… some of you may have been struggling with weight/food issues for years prior to the onset of bulimia. Some of you may have never had a “normal” relationship with food. Perhaps you fear going back to your old eating habits, as you know they caused you the trouble in the first place.
To ensure your recovery is lifelong we teach you how to become an ‘Intuitive Eater’. In this advanced stage of recovery, you will learn how to stop relying on calories, food plans, and food rules to dictate how you should eat and instead you will rely on your intuition. Intuitive eating is an extremely powerful and simple way to eat food that will allow you to maintain a healthy weight for life without any pain, suffering, rules, or plans. I consider this stage to be the secret key to lifelong recovery from bulimia.
So, in a nutshell….
To recover from your eating disorder you need to remove the starvation state, remove any residual brain conditioning and get back in touch with your hunger to become an intuitive eater.
So what does this mean for you?
Think back to when your bulimia began. Were you restricting your food intake?
If the answer is yes, then perhaps it’s time to accept the fact that food restriction is responsible for trapping you into the “binge/purge cycle” of bulimia. To escape from the “binge/purge cycle” and to recover from bulimia you need to undo the damage that restriction and malnutrition has caused.
Chances are there was nothing “wrong” with you before you restricted your food intake. If you had never restricted your food intake, you would never have felt compelled to binge on food in the first place and you wouldn’t have developed bulimia.
Please take a moment to consider the fact that there is nothing wrong with you, that you are absolutely perfect and that you are just experiencing the natural and very normal side effects of a restrictive diet.
- How does this make you feel?
- How does this change your view of yourself?
- Can you see how empowering this approach is?
“There is nothing WRONG with you! You are not broken, weak, disgusting, or crazy. This is a problem – almost like a broken foot. It needs to heal, but it doesn’t say anything about you as a human being. It feels like it does, but that is a LIE! It’s not your fault (this was huge for me).” – Shanna
The 5 Stages of the Bulimia Help Method
Let’s briefly cover the 5 stages of the bulimia help method so you have a better idea of what’s actually in the program. Each stage is designed to take you step-by-step closer to a full recovery.
Stage 1: Structured Eating
In this stage we explore how to gradually build up your own structured eating plan. This is the single most powerful thing you can do to recover fully. Structured eating will help form a solid, stable foundation for the rest of your recovery. Everything else you do in recovery will be built upon these principles.
Stage 2: Stopping Bingeing and Purging
In this stage we explore powerful strategies to undo the brain conditioning so you no longer feel the need to binge or purge in response to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Stage 3: Making peace with food
In this stage we gradually break down your ‘black and white’ thinking and destructive food rules. Everything is done at at pace and speed that is comfortable for you. This is where we end the war on food.
Stage 4: Self acceptance
Understandably it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you are suffering from an eating disorder. In this state of mind your negative self-worth can manifest as self-destructive behaviors (like choosing to restrict when you experience fat thoughts). In this stage we explore strategies that help you to improve your self esteem, discover your true values and encourage a shift away from the negative mindset.
Stage 5: Intuitive Eating
In this final and advanced stage of recovery we gradually let go of your structured eating plan and instead move towards a more intuitive lifestyle. This is where everything in the program comes together. This is where you finally spreading your wings and break free from the shackles of bulimia and food issues.
The Super Short Version…
I get it… life is busy. For those in a rush, here is the super short version.
The Bulimia Help Method will help you to:
- Make sense of your bulimia, (because believe it or not, bulimia doesn’t have to be confusing!)
- Recover at a pace that suits you by following our step by step guide to recovery.
- Eliminate binge urges and cravings for life by restoring your body’s own natural food regulation system.
- Establish a pattern of regular meals and snacks while learning strategies to curb urges to overeat.
- Get back in touch with subtle feelings of hunger and satiety which guide you to relearn what, when and how much you should eat.
- Overcome the barriers that unhelpful negative thoughts and uncomfortable emotions often create.
- Boost your self-esteem and general well-being.
- Effectively deal with relapses and setbacks.
- Have a normal, peaceful and natural relationship with food even if you never remember a time when eating has been this way.
- Recover without your weight spiralling out of control
- Maintain a healthy weight for life, without ever having to diet or watch what you eat again.
So, there you have it. The Bulimia Help Method in a nutshell!!
Ok, I know I have given you a lot of information here. Don’t worry if it all sounds a little unfamiliar at this point. I know some of these concepts can be hard to grasp at first (that’s why we wrote a book about it). I just wanted to give you a simple brief outline of what to expect.
Questions we regularly get from people after reading the above:
1. This doesn’t make sense to me. I use my bulimia as a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings and emotions. How do you explain that?
The mainstream view of bulimia today is that bulimics binge to cope with negative thoughts, feelings and circumstances.
Spend a moment imagining this scenario: Something happens in your day that triggers an uncomfortable emotion, for example someone is extremely rude to you at the grocery store. This makes you feel insecure and depressed. Normally these emotions would trigger an urge to binge but the strange thing is – you have no urge to binge at all. None what so ever. You still feel the uncomfortable emotion, but now there is no urge to eat food. Now the question is… Would you still binge on food to deal with the uncomfortable emotion even though you had no urge to do so?
I am guessing not. That would be like smoking a cigarette to help calm your nerves even though you have no desire to do so.
Emotions are not to blame here. It is the conditioning. Yes, negative emotions may trigger a binge urge, but they are not responsible for the urge. Non-bulimics who are perfectly healthy still experience negative thoughts and feelings, yet they do not experience any binge urges to dull these feelings. This is because their brains have not been conditioned to do so.
Blame the conditioning, not the emotions. If we blame our emotions, then this can lead us to think that our emotions are somehow wrong or faulty in some way. I don’t believe that they are. Studies show that 80% of daily thoughts tend to have a negative element to them. Humans are naturally a little negative by nature. At times everyone feels insecure, vulnerable, anxious, miserable and not good enough; this is just part of being a normal human being. These are normal natural emotions. They are not wrong.
On top of all of this you have bulimia, it is destroying your life, it is making you miserable and slowly killing you. How can you be expected to feel happy, confident and secure? Your emotions and feelings are not faulty. You are normal. Putting the blame on negative emotions only makes you feel worse whenever you do experience a negative emotion (which is inevitable). It’s like adding misery on top of misery.
2. Do I have to resolve all of my underlying issues to recover?
The good news is that you don’t have to build your confidence or improve your self-esteem in order to recover from bulimia. It actually happens the other way around. First recover from bulimia and then you will watch as your well-being soars.
Nourishing your body, stopping bingeing, and regaining your life from bulimia are the best things you can do if you want to rebuild your confidence and improve your self-esteem. The mind body connection is profound. Once we heal the body, many biological and physiological changes will occur in your body. Your brain chemistry will start to normalize, your hormone levels will balance out and this will go a a long way to resolving any psychological issues you may have. Put simply, if you heal the body you go a long way to healing the mind.
We have helped thousands of people overcome bulimia and many of them say that they can’t believe the difference in their mental well-being once their bulimic behaviors stop. They feel so confident, positive and alive without ever engaging in therapy or analyzing their lives. Changes to your mental well-being will happen naturally, over the course of your recovery, without you even having to think about it!
I am not saying that the Bulimia Help Method will cure all of your personal issues and make your life perfect. We all have challenges in life, but these challenges are a LOT more manageable when you are not dealing with bulimia on top of them.
3. Will I gain weight in recovery?
I really want to stress that by following this program, although it is normal to experience some temporary weight fluctuations, and although some of you may gain a little ‘needed weight’, your weight will not spiral out of control. Research shows that most people with bulimia (who are in the healthy weight range and who adopt regular eating habits and don’t purge) end up within 1kg of where they started, and some even lose weight (http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au).
4. Should I see a doctor?
It is strongly recommended that you see a doctor before undertaking any self-help treatments. This Bulimia Help Method is meant as general advice only. It’s not a professional opinion.
I have anorexia, will this program help?
Anorexia and bulimia are remarkably similar and many of the strategies outlined in the Bulimia Help Method and would be beneficial for someone suffering from anorexia. However, the concern is that anorexia is more of a life threatening illness than bulimia. Therefore, someone suffering from anorexia needs urgent medical intervention, not self-help.
5. How will I know when I am recovered?
You will know when you are recovered from bulimia when you no longer crave or desire to binge or purge on food.
6. Do I need a therapist to use this program?
It is your personal preference. In the Bulimia Help Method we will avoid in-depth personal assessments and analysis, (we find it’s not really required for recovery). In saying that, this book can work as a great companion piece if you are currently working with a therapist.
7. Does it matter how long you have had bulimia?
It doesn’t matter how long you have had bulimia, or how intense your bulimia is, this approach still works. We had one sufferer who was 63 years old when she recovered, another recovered after living with bulimia for 45 years. Her patterns of disordered eating began at three years old!
All of these people considered themselves to be lost cases when they came to us, yet now their symptoms have gone. They are not just managing their bulimia, they are fully recovered. Their lives have been transformed and the way they think and feel about themselves has dramatically improved.
8. This makes sense to me. Ok, so how do I get started?
If you have any more questions about our program please do not hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com (we love to hear from you).