By Stephenie Karony

Friday, August 23, 1996

Bulimia an eating disorder that
has several tell-tale symptoms

QUESTION: I suspect my girlfriend has an eating disorder. What are the symptoms of bulimia?

ANSWER: Eight million Americans, 90 percent of them women, have either bulimia or anorexia. Usually anorexics and bulimics are from middle- or upper-class families, where there is an undue emphasis on achievement, body weight and appearance.

The definition of bulimia is when someone engages in frequent bouts of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting and/or laxative and diuretic abuse (purging). Bulimics are usually of normal weight or slightly overweight.

Bulimics often have tell-tale abrasions on their knuckles (from their teeth scraping their hand), and their teeth may have lost enamel from repeated contact with stomach acid.

The amount of food consumed during a binge episode is far greater than what most people would eat in the same time period. Binging is always done in secret. People with bulimia often fast between binges or engage in excessive exercise. Both the binge eating and purging occur at least twice a week, often more.

Bulimics have a negative perception of their body shape and weight. They are often preoccupied with food, diet, body weight and body fat. They have low self-esteem and experience high levels of guilt, especially after a binge. They are often perfectionists and people pleasers. They usually live a carefully controlled and "regular" life. If your friend seems to fit this profile, she may need help. Please call your local health department for further information .

QUESTION: Will estrogen make me fat?

ANSWER: Some studies indicate no correlation between the use of hormones and the likelihood of gaining weight after menopause, while other studies do show a correlation. But as any woman who has gone through menopause will tell you, gaining weight seems to be par for the course.

Nobody really knows why postmenopausal women gain weight, or if the tendency to put on pounds has anything to do with menopause or hormone replacement. I have a theory, though. As women age, their lifestyles tend to become more sedentary. Consequently, they lose muscle and as a result their metabolisms slow. If they don't reduce their calorie intake they become fat. Once you're fat, it's easy to stay fat.

The solution? Get up and move! Exercise aerobically for about 30 minutes most days of the week, and lift weights three to four times per week for 30 to 45 minutes. Also, be sure to stick to a low-fat diet - 20 to 25 percent of your calories from fat.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and co-author of "Workouts with Weights." Send questions on fitness and exercise to her at P.O. Box 261, Wailuku, Maui, 96793, or by E-mail at Her column appears every Thursday in the Star-Bulletin.

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