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American Idol Runner-up Admits Bulimia

Quest for Ideal Weight Led to Eating Disorder Before Appearance on Show

How Bulimia Is Treated

According to Teen People, McPhee's treatment involved reading the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, as well as attending individual and group therapy six days a week.

McPhee tells the magazine she hasn't binged since the two weeks before entering the TV program and has since adopted a much healthier attitude about food.

Today, treatment for bulimia typically involves a multidisciplinary approach, including a medical checkup, a psychiatrist who can prescribe helpful medications such as antidepressants, a psychologist to help deal with emotional triggers, and nutritional counseling, explains Linda Hamilton, PhD. Hamilton is a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City who often treats performing artists with eating disorders; she has not treated McPhee.

"You probably need a full year to get a full handle on [bulimia], and stressstress is likely to bring about a resurgence of symptoms. But that doesn't mean you have to fall back into a full bulimic episode," she says. In People, McPhee admits she's still learning to deal with stress and has not stopped biting her nails.

Triggers for Eating Disorders

"Like most women, McPhee doesn't fit the ideal. So then you get into this routine of dieting and that really can set you up physiologically to binge," Hamilton explains. "If you eat too-small amounts of calories, your body sends out signals to overeat."

It's a common trap, she says. "More often than not, dieting sets you up to binge and you can become bulimic."

Hamilton is quick to point out that there are other causes of the eating disorder. Bulimia can also be triggered by depressiondepression, anxiety, or sexual abuse.

"It's very positive that she came out and is talking about it [bulimia], because she can be a role model," Hamilton says. "It shows intelligence that she went into treatment before taping because the earlier you can get treatment, the better the prognosis.

"She was very brave to come forward and the message is that she doesn't want other people to fall into the same pattern that she did," Hamilton says.

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