Saturday, January 30, 2016

Laxatives: the dirty little secret

Today I'm going to talk about something that is very uncomfortable... even for me! Laxatives.  After receiving comments from a half dozen people about them since our book came out, I want to spend some time giving a more detailed explanation of why you should not ever even consider using them.

As evidenced in The Pathways Home I actually did lose weight when I was taking abusing laxatives.  However, it was not without ridiculous amounts of pain, damage to my body, and damage to my mind.  If those aren't big enough deterrents, then let me also explain why they worked for weight loss... because they DON'T ACTUALLY WORK FOR WEIGHT LOSS!

The belief that laxatives are effective for weight control is a myth.  In fact, by the time laxatives act on the large intestine, most foods and calories have already been absorbed by the small intestine.  Although laxatives artificially stimulate the large intestine to empty, the “weight loss” caused by a laxative-induced bowel movement contains little actual food, fat, or calories.  Instead, laxative abuse causes the loss of water, minerals, electrolytes and indigestible fiber and wastes from the colon.  This “water weight” returns as soon as the individual drinks any fluids and the body re-hydrates.  If the chronic laxative abuser refuses to re-hydrate, she or he risks dehydration, which further taxes the organs and which may ultimately cause death. ( 

 I saw some limited success when I was taking laxatives because I was SEVERELY DEHYDRATED! I literally would not allow myself more than one cup of water per day out of fear the scale would rise (which it would have). And also because I was STARVING myself and THROWING UP.  Between all of those things, the number on the scale did, indeed, go down.  But at what cost?

Physically, the damages include:
  • Dehydration.  Dehydration can cause weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage, and (in cases of severe dehydration) death.
  • Electrolyteimbalance.  Electrolytes are minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, etc.) that are in body fluids in very precise amounts and ratios.  Electrolytes are responsible for proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Laxative abuse can upset a person's electrolyte balance and cause improper functioning of vital organs, like the heart!
  • Laxativedependence.  This is when the colon requires larger and larger doses of laxatives to produce bowel movements.  People often become so dependent on laxatives that their body loses the ability to produce bowel movements on it's own without the aid of laxatives.
But beyond that, I don't know how I can more clearly convey how painful it is to abuse laxatives.  I literally felt like I was dying ALL THE TIME.  But because it was so embarrassing and such a secret, I usually had to pretend like I was fine.  People now have asked, "Well what if I don't abuse them? What if I just take the prescribed amount?" The truth is, there is no such thing. If you are taking them to lose weight, then you are abusing them. If you take them at all, then your body stops being able to poop all by itself.  Which is one of the many reasons they become habit forming. They are habit-forming, ineffective, pain producers.  Seriously, when I look back on my life it's hard not to come to the conclusion that I was masochist.  But the truth is, I did not understand any of that.  Nobody had ever talked about laxatives to me (except Larissa who I quickly dismissed), and my mental state was so tenuous that I would engage in any level of risky behavior to achieve my desired results.  It has taken almost a decade for me to even be regular in the colon department.  I used to faint on a regular basis, the toilet was never left without crimson blood.  It was awful.  And it was fleeting because eventually, even despite continuing in all those terrible eating habits, I still gained and gained and gained all the weight back plus an additional 80 lbs. 

And finally, what about the emotional/mental damages?

Laxative abuse for me encouraged overwhelming feelings of shame, embarrassment, loneliness, and self-hate. I felt completely isolated all the time because I had a dark secret that quite literally ruled my world without being able to share one word of it to ANYONE else.  I felt completely and utterly alone.  I hated myself for being unable to control my eating so that I had to rely on dangerous methods of purging my body of the self proclaimed poisons.  This caused me to feel like a failure every single day.  The isolation and feelings of failure led me to feel estranged from my family, my friends, and my Heavenly Father.  I felt unlovable, dirty, and disgusting.  My eating disorder significantly impacted my promiscuity and drug addictions. The psychological impacts are so far reaching it is impossible to accurately catalog all of the losses.  In short, do not be tempted by something that will LITERALLY only bring misery.  Laxatives have nothing else to offer including the coveted weight loss so many people take them to seek.  Ten years later, I can look back with great relief and gratitude that I no longer have that life.  So take my word for it, even if you "don't abuse them" which is not a real thing... they will NEVER WORK.  

Even though I'm much heavier now than I was then, I would not trade this life for all the skinniness in the world.  There are safe and effective methods to lose weight.  But beyond that, loving yourself enough to take care of your body and your mind also has more far-reaching impact than I can accurately convey. 


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