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Mary Black, 48, who runs a small business in the Mildlands, battled with bulimia for several years but eventually found the road to recovery.

"I think my bulimia may have had its roots in my claustrophobic upbringing. My mother had me when she was very young and was very strict. I never thought it was right to express my feelings and kept them to myself. As a result, I grew up thinking I was never good enough. Even at school I felt like an outsider.

"I was a normal size 12, but by the time I was 17 I was convinced that I was fat and unglamorous. I started to diet but I just ended up getting larger. I used to starve myself for three or four days, then I would binge on anything I could lay my hands on. This was usually bread, biscuits and cereals. Then I felt so disgusted with myself that I would make myself sick as fast as I could in the hope that I would get rid of the food before I had time to digest it.

"I was still living at home and this was my secret. My parents had no idea what was going on. Even when I went into hospital with a ruptured bile duct from vomiting so much, I managed to explain it away as appendicitis.

"By the time I was 22 I decided to go on a healthy eating regime, which I managed to stick to for two or three years, but then the bulimia started again. I had just come out of a relationship and was feeling pretty low generally. I also felt my life was running away and there was no purpose to it.

"I existed like this until I was about 28 but then I met someone who was a recovering alcoholic who suggested I had an eating disorder. It suddenly dawned on me that my problems weren’t about food, but about my whole attitude to life.

"I decided to look for help and started going to an Overeaters Anonymous (OA) Wednesday-night meeting, which took place about 50 miles from where I lived. It was very helpful and provided a framework for my recovery. But I quickly realised that if I wanted to recover I had to do it myself.

"I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired so I decided to keep a diary. At the end of each day I wrote down what had made me feel uncomfortable and the things that had happened that I had tried to soothe with food. As soon as I looked back at what I had written, I realised things weren’t nearly as bad as they seemed. Gradually I stopped whingeing about things in my diary and started to write about my achievements.

"Slowly I started to eat normally again and lose weight. I also set up a local OA meeting and have a massive attendance each week. I now feel that I am 99% free of my compulsive eating and I would not dream of vomiting.

"I am healthier now than I have ever been and just so grateful that my bulimia didn’t destroy my looks. The body does heal itself and it's never too late to start on the road to recovery, but you have to take that first step yourself. Nothing is permanent and my recovery process is ongoing every day."

view information about Bulimia on www.nhs.co.uk »

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