Women Hiding Use of Laxatives
Every day I record The Dr. Oz Show. Like many, I fell in love with him when he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. I also had the opportunity to be hear him speak live while I was a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This was before the show that bears his name began airing on television. He spoke genuinely and authentically on holistic health – looking at a whole person, not individual symptoms and situations – to encourage and empower us to embrace our roles as leaders in the wellness industry.
I like knowing The Dr. Oz Show is on my DVR in case he speaks with an expert I admire and follow. I don’t watch it every day because, well, first and foremost, I don’t have time to just sit on the couch and watch television all day. And, honestly, I don’t like everything Dr. Oz. speaks about and represents. You could say it’s a love-hate (not hate; let’s call it love-dislike/disagree with) relationship.
The remote was in my hands, ready to hit delete on the February 19th episode when something told me to take a second look at the description. I was not prepared for what I would see. I was able to read that it was about a True Crime story, which I was not interested in, and then it said, “the secret addiction to…” My heart said I needed to know more and I saw this: the secret addiction to laxatives many women are hiding.
Someone might as well have punched me in the nose, slapped be across the face and stabbed me in the back. Dr. Oz was talking about me! Well, the me of about 18-20 years ago; those feelings of guilt, overwhelm and embarrassment have shaped the woman I am today. Of course, I watched the episode (you can here).
Dr. Oz spoke with a lovely young woman named Jule. My heart ached as she spoke about being afraid to be in front of a lot of people and how she couldn’t stand to feel fat after eating dinner so she would drink laxative tea. When pressed by Dr. Oz about why she would do this to her body, Jule replied, “I’m never good enough. And I don’t know how to live the rest of my life like that.”
Right then and there – this could have been me on Dr. Oz. I saw myself in Jule – the young woman who just wants be perfect. And always feeling less than, not enough.
Like Jule, laxatives were my go-to method for weight loss. The truth is, I was afraid to make myself vomit, but I needed something because I was eating way too many bags of gummy bears, Swedish fish, York peppermint patties and Hershey’s kisses. Dammit! If I wasn’t perfect, I was going to do anything I had to in order to be skinny!
Dr. Oz scared Jule into asking for help when he showed her what laxative use can do to the human body – particularly the brain, intestines, kidneys and heart (seizures, heart arrhythmia and more). You could see the horror and humiliation on the young woman’s face. He asked her, “you realize how precious you are, right?” Her reply, “that’s the hardest part.”
I really wanted to reach my hands through the television screen and hug Jule. I understand her anguish. She is very lucky that Dr. Oz is arranging for support and treatment. Her life has been given a second chance.
Jule was so vulnerable on national television. G-d bless her! I know there are so many who are suffering now, in silence, because of the shame. My hope is that there were women (and men) who were watching this very important episode of the Dr. Oz Show who will now seek help for laxative addiction (and other disordered eating). Laxatives seem harmless – their effect is something we need to do, right – move our bowels. It’s the constant, excessive use that can be life-threatening (there is a warning on the label: Stop use and ask a doctor if you need to use a laxative for more than one week).
If you are suffering, I urge you to seek help. Do not be afraid to share your struggle with a trusted friend or family member. Your doctor or clergy. Always remember you matter, people love you and want to support you.
National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: (800) 931-2237
The NEDA Helpline is available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET, and Friday from 9AM to 5PM ET.