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What It Takes To Recover From An Eating Disorder (Part II)

Last week was Eating Disorders Awareness week, where Her Campus SFU featured an article on eating disorders. Part 1 was an overview of the basics, and the signs and symptoms of different eating disorders. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so. This part will cover conditions that contribute to EDs and how to combat them.

 

One thing that EDs have is the power to do is take control of an individual’s personality. They grab onto the brain and then the body.

The physical effects of an ED can be externally tiring as well as extremely wearing on an individual’s attitude. Malnutrition occurs when a person consumes too much or too little. In a state of poor nourishment, people often become irritable, withdraw from social situations, and isolate themselves. What’s hard for others to comprehend is that it’s truly a mental illness that can affect every part of someone’s day. Relationships become broken, memories become weak, the desire to find a purpose other than obsessing about food is difficult.

Enduring an eating disorder is truly a battle. It makes an individual live in perpetual fear. Fear of gaining weight, fear of losing control around food, and fear of not reaching perfection. It creates anxious individuals. The mental illness takes control of all aspects of life. Everyday tasks become difficult, and finding purpose in everyday tasks become difficult. The body becomes cold, fragile, and the brain becomes just as exhausted often effecting memory and mood.

 

Social Media and “Thinspiration”

Pro-Eating Disorder Culture is completely toxic. Media has taken the lead for the biggest promoter of eating disorders and their culture. It’s time that males and females of all ages, shapes, and sizes, make no room for body shaming, thinspiration, and unattainable figures plastered across advertisements. Lady Gaga was recently body shamed for her performance at the Superbowl. Despite her outstanding vocals, intricate choreography, and fierce energy, people took to her figure. Gaga, who recently came out publicly about her own struggle with anorexia and bulimia took to Twitter to dispel her critiques stating that she was proud of not just her body, but everyone else’s.

Social media sites are a double-edged sword.

While there’s been an increase in promoting self-love and acceptance, they still reinforce unrealistic yet historically dominant ideas of what image is desirable. Banishing body shaming seems like a fantasy in the age of social media and corporations that thrive off promoting unrealistic body standards. Many industries and social media accounts present a glorified idea of dieting behaviors.

Instagram is a great platform for photo sharing, however, it is also a home for fabricated identities that can brew unrealistic realities. Instagram along with other social media platforms set the scene for many thinspiration accounts as well as pro-ED, it also has been the attributed to praising Orthorexia.  Promoting habits that advice individuals how to starve and avoid food, accounts, and pro-ana websites send messages that lead many adolescents to believe that losing weight is good, and gaining weight is bad. This is completely false – a myth and is extremely damaging to one self-esteem. While it may not be able to be avoided, it’s important to recognize that what being presented to you is not always authentic. I’ve become hyper-aware that Photoshop, filters, inaccurate information, and struggling individuals can be easily hidden behind a fake smile, nicely angled photograph, and what seems like an ever-so-inspirational caption. EDs are not trends, acquired tastes, or accessories that can be simply slipped on and easily thrown off. It does not enhance, add joy, or peace in life.

 

Lessons on Loving Yourself

Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of soldiering through an eating disorder. It shouldn’t have to be something that must be done alone. People often wonder why someone would let themselves continue such self-destructive behaviors, and think that the problem can simply be fixed by eating more or less. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Many suffering from EDs often feel like it’s a self-inflicted struggle, so they have to venture through the battle alone. As I mentioned in Part I of this series on eating disorders, it is not a choice. “It’s my fault” is not something that anyone going through and ED should tell themselves as it only perpetuates isolating thoughts. 

Assess your environment, particularly the individuals and influencers that have a regular presence in your life. Position yourself around positive people and retire constantly comparing yourself to those around you. Making peace with food may be a hard take, but attempt to realize that food is fuel. It exists to nourish the body and the mind, not threaten it.  Furthermore, find a new way to focus your attention whether it’s adopting a new hobby, learning a new craft, or even diving into a new series that brings you a sense of happiness.

Learning to love yourself is a lifetime process. What exists at the root of many eating disorders is striving the need to control something, or desire to perfect something in an area of their life. The first thing to succeed in self-love is to combat the idea that perfection is possible. It’s not, and that’s okay. If people were perfect, where would originality come from? How could we admire the differences? What you may see as a blemish is what someone else sees as beauty, so do yourself the favor and admire your adversities.

 

 

How to Care for a Friend

You’ve noticed that your friend or family member may be going through an eating disorder and you want to help? Coming from a genuine place, I applaud you for looking out for those around you, but it’s important to be cautious about the way you address the topic. 

When approaching someone about any matter going on in their life, try to present the issue in a way that’s not threatening. Being confronted in an overbearing way can result in someone withdrawing from help even further.

Even worse, you don’t want to make them feel like they’re being monitored, or watched over like a child since that can make the already difficult process of getting help even more unnerving. Since eating disorders are normally a noiseless inner battle, reaching out to help often leads the person feeling as though they’ve been caught. Shame, embarrassment, fear, and frustration can easily overthrow anyone being confronted about seeking help. Realize that there needs to be both a mental conquest and behavioral conquest to recover from an eating disorder. To cure the physical, you must cure the root cause of the symptoms being expressed in the disorder. Lastly, don’t focus on the food itself but the feelings that the person may be going through. The behaviours of EDs are a symptom, so focus on the conversation, listen and let their feelings stream.

 

Road to Recovery It’s Always Closer Than You Think

Recovery is possible, but the truth is that it may be a long and hard journey. Many amongst ED survivors have mixed views once they finally reach a state where food doesn’t control their lives anymore. A close friend of mine who has overcome anorexia, shared that she doesn’t think the thoughts and tendencies will ever leave the back of her head. She stated that that’s okay though, what’s important is learning how to manage triggers, environments, and pattern of behaviors that inspire an individual to creep back into their lives.

Battling a mental illness is difficult, and if nothing else my hope it that this 2 part series could shed light on what eating disorders are, and how they affect individuals. Keep the conversation going! 

 

Samantha is a fourth-year student at, Simon Fraser University, pursuing a double major in political science and communication. When not keeping up with what's new in pop culture, Samantha can often be found sipping on Starbucks drinks, or enjoying one-too-many YouTube videos. Aside from writing for Her Campus, Samantha's passion for fashion, fitness, and nutrition is what keeps her going through the week. She's self-motivated, friendly, and never turns down a cup of tea and a nice chat!
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