Bulimia: Modern Latin, from Gk. boulimia, "ravenous hunger" as a disease, lit. "ox-hunger," from bou-, intensive prefix (originally from bous "ox") + limos "hunger;" as a psychological disorder, technically bulemia nervosa. Anglicized bulimy was used from late 14c. in a medical sense of "ravishing hunger."
I've just read Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far and it contains some of the saddest things I've ever read. Here's part of what she writes about her initiation into the wonderful world of bulimia:
"Starting my freshman year at Emma Willard, being very thin assumed dominance over good hair in the hierarchy of what really mattered...Carol Bentley...from Toledo, Ohio,entered Emma Willard and became my best friend...Carol joined me in having major body-image issues. It was she who introduced me to bingeing and purging, what we now know as bulimia. She said the idea came to her in a class on the history of the Roman Empire. She read that the Romans would gorge themselves on food during orgiastic feasts and then put their fingers down their throats to make themselves throw it all back up and start over again. The idea of being able to eat the most fattening foods and never having to pay the consequences was very appealing.
...We assumed that we were the first people since the Romans to do this; it was our secret, and it created a titillating bond between us."
She tells, in very depressing detail, of how this practice lasted into her forties and caused massive disruption to her life, including bone breakages due to malnutrition. The theme of her self-perception as worthless, inadequate, ugly and all the other woeful cliches pervades the book. No-one could have imagined any of this from the public demeanour she maintained. She says that bulimia can, unlike anorexia, be concealed and that she managed to hide it from her closest ones.
It's often said that the hands go first in the ageing process. They can also give away the secrets of a self-starver. Regard the wrists and the back of the hands as displayed in photographs taken during that time and it's possible, once you've been told the secret, to detect the signs of it.
It's was a case of horrified fascination for me to read the story of her enslavement to this futile obsession and a reminder to any man with a speck of decency to never tell any girl that she might do well to lose some weight.