In 2019, the well-known fitness influencer Sophia Thiel suddenly disappeared from the scene. The reason for this was an eating disorder: bulimia nervosa. Sophia Thiel has been back since 2021 and has been using her channels to talk about her eating disorder ever since. Her binge-eating addiction is characterized above all by strong and sudden binge eating. Through her therapy, the 28-year-old has already reached important milestones on the way to a good relationship with food and her body.
In her latest video, Sophia Thiel speaks openly about what a typical binge looked like for her and goes shopping for it as an example. "I want to show you how something like this is created, what I feel about it, what I would buy and what it all looks like to me," describes Thiel in the video.
The young woman buys Franzbrötchen, nut pastes, muesli, chocolate, semolina pudding and rice pudding in an organic market. "You see, it's all pretty sweet," says Sophia Thiel. She describes how uncomfortable she always felt that she only bought unhealthy things. "If it was really bad one day, I would eat until I was in real physical pain." In an interview with "Fitbook", Sophia Thiel said that after binge eating like that, she reduced the calories the next day, didn't eat anything until midday and did a lot of exercise. She also vomited at times.
But what exactly does it mean when someone is addicted to eating and vomiting? An overview:
Bulimia is a mental illness. The main symptom of the eating disorder is regular binge eating. According to the Federal Center for Health Education (Bzga), a binge eating is characterized by the fact that those who are ill have the feeling that they can no longer stop eating. Nor can they control what and how much they eat. During such binge eating, sufferers sometimes eat large amounts of food.
For fear of gaining weight, people with bulimia take laxatives, exercise excessively, or vomit on purpose. "Eating is not pleasurable, it has become an addiction. Bulimia patients are so excited about the moment of eating that they align their lives accordingly. This also means that appointments are canceled in order to be able to indulge in binge eating," said dr Katrin Jakobi Senior Physician at the Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the Harlaching Clinic towards the health insurance company AOK.
The eating disorder bulimia is not triggered by a single thing, usually several factors play a role. These include frequent dieting behavior, hereditary predisposition, constant availability of high-calorie food. And also personal factors such as low self-esteem, perfectionism and a slim body ideal of beauty. "The disease develops insidiously. Ultimately, the triggers are often diets that are made during puberty," said Jakobi. According to Bzga, several factors that determine the timing of the onset of the eating disorder can favor an outbreak. These can be stressful experiences such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one. But the physical changes that come with puberty can also trigger bulimia.
Katrin Jakobi explains that unstable self-esteem also plays a role in the development of bulimia. In the puberty phase, young people are confronted with many questions. But for young people, questions about their own worth or future are not easy to deal with, which can lead to anxiety. "Those affected eat to regulate their emotions." According to the expert, young men are less likely to be affected by the disease than women because they are less likely to regulate their negative feelings with their eating habits.
People who suffer from bulimia often have a desired weight that is below what is healthy. Self-esteem is heavily dependent on weight. Patients are often ashamed of their binge eating and try to keep it a secret. The lives of sufferers are clocked around the eating disorder - and revolve around it. The disease also affects relationships with other people. This means that those affected often withdraw or break off contact.
In very severe cases, bulimia can even lead to death. Frequent vomiting damages teeth and esophagus. The electrolyte and water balance is disturbed, which can lead to life-threatening symptoms such as cardiac arrhythmia. Kidney function disorders can also occur.
Eating large amounts of food can cause problems in the digestive system. The disease can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Menstrual cycle disorders and impaired fertility can also occur. Patients have a disturbed feeling of hunger and satiety. Sometimes it also disappears completely. Because sufferers buy large amounts of food for their binge eating, the eating disorder can also put them in financial difficulties. In addition, the eating disorder can exacerbate other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety disorders.
Bulimia is a long-term condition. Patients often experience ups and downs. In therapy, patients learn to develop a healthy approach to eating again. The treatment is not just about that, but also about those factors that led to the disease. Patients learn strategies to prevent a relapse into behavioral patterns associated with the disease.
Sources: Bzga, AOK, Anad, Fitbook, Youtube