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Beating bulimia after 42 years

24 February, 2015

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and Evolve Hull Eating Disorder Service, run by City Health Care Partnership CIC, is holding an open day on Wednesday 25 February to give local people the chance to find out more about their work.

It’s a commonly-held misconception that eating disorders only affect young people, but one Hull woman has spoken out about her experience of living with bulimia for 42 years. Mary Codd has finally broken free from this horrible condition with the help of SEED charity and then Evolve Hull Eating Disorder service, run by City Health Care Partnership CIC.

“When my bulimia started I was on a diet of cottage cheese, tomato and Ryvita. One day I was sick by accident and realised I could quite easily be sick and get rid of food; I thought it was a free ride. If I’d eaten more than my diet permitted I purged. Then I started eating more and purging many times a day. I was pudgy and found myself unattractive. 

“Bulimia is very isolating and makes you secretive. I would try to look invisible, and be secretive about binging and purging. At university I locked myself in my room and ate cream cakes; I left after one semester because I had a really fragile sense of self. I think my eating disorder had a lot to do with the breakdown of my two marriages as well, because bulimia was the biggest thing in my life.”

Mary found out about Evolve through SEED support charity, who are based in the Evolve building on Beverley Road. “I went to SEED and a few of the women there were going to Evolve so I thought I’d give it a go. I actually stopped being bulimic three weeks before I went to Evolve thanks to the psychotherapy work at SEED and Evolve helped consolidate my stopping. I asked for a referral to Evolve through my GP and it was quite straightforward, everyone co-operated. There is more awareness from the medical profession about eating disorders these days. I have got on really well with everyone at Evolve and really like them. Paul, the clinical psychologist is particularly helpful. He said that eating disorders rarely have a life of their own but leech onto some other problem and this has been a great revelation to me. He asked me what I wanted out of the course and I said not to graze so much and to get more confident. He has put me on track to my own assertiveness.

“With Debi Lawson, Evolve's eating disorder practitioner, we are currently doing body image work, diet and assertiveness. I’ve been going every week, looking at several factors which have affected me. We do a lot of cognitive behaviour therapy, which is helpful but it’s consolidating things I knew already; the psychology work with Paul is completely new to me.

“I liked meeting other women at both SEED and Evolve; an eating disorder is a big bond to have. The classes are run by one of the staff and the women contribute and get to know each other as it goes along. We had a trip to the Ferens art gallery with the OT to look at how to bring art forms into our lives.

“I’ve had bulimia since I was 17 and I’m 59 now, so I’ve lived with it for 42 years. I’m diabetic but I’m taking half as much insulin now as I was and I feel much better, not just physically but in my confidence and self-esteem. For many years i have had a very close female friend who had an eating disorder and we gave each other a lot of mutual support. More recently I have met a man who is very understanding and supportive and treats me as an equal, which has helped me meet other people as equals. The body image group at Evolve keep saying that we should focus more on character than looks which I have believed for some time. Now I’m loosening up; it’s a good feeling.

“It’s been such a long recovery for me. I feel so very good about stopping the bulimia, as it’s really bad for my self-esteem and my health. The work at Evolve has helped me to stay away from the wretched bulimic habit. I’m proof that it’s never too late to ask for help.”

Yvonne Elliott, operational service director for primary care and psychological wellbeing services at City Health Care Partnership CIC, said, “We would like to invite anyone who is affected by eating disorders to come along to our open day on Wednesday 25 February. This includes parents, partners and children of people experiencing eating disorders and colleagues from the Evolve team will be on hand to talk about the service and explain how we can help and work with them.”