People are obsessed with food. We talk about food, we bond over food, we take pictures of food and post them for the world to see, we read about food, we wear food, we personalize our food, we fight over food beliefs. But what if I told you the one thing we are so sure is about food is actually not? Would you be surprised to hear that an eating disorder is not all about food? That maybe you who is considered “normal” is more obsessed than someone with a disorder? Because that is what I am going to tell you right now.
I got a lot of great feedback regarding the depression (Dear Depression) and the bully (My Bully) post, so I thought I’d go for Round 3 with another friend of mine:
How long have you had an eating disorder?
-Since I was 11, but it has come in phases.
So you’ve had periods in your life when it hasn’t been active?
-Yes. Certain ages it was worse than others. When I was younger, I did not even know I had one; I thought my behaviors were normal. I literally stretched an unflattering picture of me on photoshop, printed it out, and hung it on my wall to serve as “motivation” to eat less and exercise more. I was only in sixth grade and I thought there was nothing strange about this.
What disorders have you been diagnosed with?
-Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Athletica, Body Dysmorphia
Would you consider yourself healed?
-I can be considered healed if you look at my actions. However, psychologically it’s something I can never fully recover from. Sometimes this is difficult to accept, but I have to remind myself that this is my reality.
Can you explain a little more of what you mean by that?
-My eating disorder is sneaky. I may feel perfectly healthy and fine, but subconsciously be falling into my behaviors again. I might not realize that the runs I go on have grown longer and the time I spend eating has shortened. Or that I am choosing lower calorie foods at restaurants and reading all the nutrition labels at the grocery store. There is this voice in the back of my mind that constantly haunts me–it makes me believe my clothes are getting tighter and my athletic performance is weakening. One word to describe it: shitty.
Are there any stigmas you’d like to put an end to?
-I wish I could put an end to the idolization of eating disorders. People assume that you do not have a disorder if you are not extremely underweight and think you are fat. In fact, most insurances will not pay for treatment unless you are a certain percentage underweight, which is absolutely ridiculous. It disgusts me that people congratulate others who lose a significant amount of weight and call them an inspiration, simply because their starting weight would be considered “a few extra pounds” or “improvable”. I started at an average weight and people complimented my body as I began to shed pounds, and unknowingly encouraged a premature death for me. I cannot be angry with people for being ignorant…I just want them to understand that unhealthy weight loss is unhealthy weight loss, regardless of what you look like.
What is your opinion on society’s perception of eating disorders?
-Society does not truly understand what an eating disorder is. It is about so much more than weight and food–it’s about control, trauma coping, genetic susceptibility, etc. I used my eating disorder as a comfort; it gave me a sense of control and security. In fact, it gave me a sense of superiority and false confidence. Thus, telling me I am skinny and saying all I have to do is eat to solve my problems is honestly quite humorous. If only it were that simple–I would not have had to spend 45 days impatient. An eating disorder is an addiction, but unlike drug addicts and alcoholics, I cannot stay dry. I have to face my addiction…at least 6 times a day. I do not expect perfection, I just want society to not be so narrow-minded. You can say the words “fat” and “throw up” in front of me…you can invite me to get pizza…you can make a joke about weight. I am a human, not an illness.
And one more thing:
-To anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder, think you might be, or know someone who is, push for treatment. It might be the greatest challenge of your life, but if you even want a life, it is vital. I did not realize how exhausting every day was for me–both mentally and physically–until I accepted help. You are capable and you deserve recovery.