'Bulimia Was a Compulsion I Just Had No Control Over'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Lydia Whitfield South Wales Echo

Through her teens and twenties, 35-year-old Dawn Lee exercised compulsively to try to stop the binge-eating, associated with her bulimia. Now, the recovered mother-of-three is actually enjoying exercise through Nordic walking - a kind of power walking with sticks. She is even undertaking The Four Inns Challenge and Nordic walking 45 miles in one day to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

In the past, dental nurse Dawn has fluctuated from a size eight to 18 and back again and was told her metabolism was wrecked after her eating disorder.

But through training for the challenge, her metabolism is back on track and she's lost weight healthily for the first time ever.

'I do feel quite proud of what I'm doing and my whole family are behind me and have been so supportive with my training,' says Dawn, mum to Rebecca, 14, Shannon, 11, and seven-year-old Thomas.

'Part of compensating for over-eating was exercising, but it was obsessively and not in a pleasurable way like this is. I've learnt exercise isn't a punishment anymore.

'My bulimia started as a teenager right into my twenties, when it got quite bad. In my teens, it was more about comfort eating, just because of low self-esteem in general. I reacted to stressful situations by bingeing on lots of fattening food and quite quickly learnt to counteract the guilt that came with that by sticking to no more than 600 calories a day for a few days afterwards or by vomiting.

'When you don't like yourself, you go through everything, from 'I wish I was slimmer' to 'I wish I was prettier'. There's always something.

'It wasn't until my twenties it really became a problem and not until much later people knew about my bulimia. It was a very well-kept secret, which was quite easy for me, because I wasn't living at home by then. But even when I was at home, I was hiding food wrappers and wouldn't really think about what I was eating. I'd eat anything and everything.

'I wasn't weighing myself but went from a size 8 to a size 18 and back again. My weight never stabilised.'

In 2004, Dawn, a dental nurse in Barry's Broad Street Clinic, finally realised she needed help and contacted Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC).

She says: 'It's no way to live when you have children and I realised I needed treatment.

'Bulimia didn't serve a purpose in my life anymore. I was much happier and didn't need it but it was a compulsion I had no control over.

'In the end, my weight was just going up, no matter what I did. My doctor told me how I'd damaged my metabolism and was losing muscle, as well as fat, and it's muscle that keeps your metabolism going. I wasn't at my smallest when my GP referred me to the St David's Hospital clinic, where I had weekly appointments and doctor Toni Hoeskins there was especially good with me.'

Dawn, who is married to John and lives in Barry, was treated from September 2004 to May 2005.

She says: 'After that, my bad behaviour around food never came back. When I was getting treatment, I spoke to my eldest daughter, just to instil in her and my other children that they are valuable. I'm never going to be able to eat a cake again and not think about it, but I feel in control. …