An Open Letter to Those With an Eating Disorder

Those around you might not notice your hipbones slowly starting to poke farther and farther out of your jeans. You might not even notice your ribs pushing against your skin a little tighter. As far as you know- and as far as your friends and family know- you’re normal. I know that you are surrounded with denial and at this point you might not even identify with your disorder. But there are a few things you might know. You know your clothes are starting to fit differently, you know that in the middle of the day you start to feel weak, you know that something like this couldn’t possibly happen to someone like you, someone ordinary. They are all around us, in our past, in our friends, in our classes, sometimes even in ourselves. Eating disorders cling to the darkest corners of those we think we know and lurk in the most unexpected places. An eating disorder is not something you can hide from and it certainly is not something you should be ashamed of because our struggles make us who we are. Something as toxic as an ED has to be confronted with no wavering. The best way to accost this issue is to tell our stories in order to help one another and remind others like ourselves that they are not alone.

I don’t know how your story began or what drove you to this point but I do know how my own unfolded. I was a sophomore in high school struggling with an array of issues. Everything seemed so chaotic, so out of my control. But there was one thing that I could control and that was my weight. For years of my adolescence I struggled with being overweight and suffered from paralyzing insecurity, as I’m sure a good majority of us do. I needed something to cling to, something to make me feel worthy of love and self-love. I was searching for something to make me feel like I had control over my own life. I began skipping breakfast, not a huge deal, no one has time to eat breakfast anyways. After this I began packing lighter lunches, lighter and lighter until I packed no lunch at all. I thought I was fine; I just was cutting down. I drank so much water, trying to fight the mid-day faint feeling. This was control, this is what I needed, this is what I told myself. My eating habits were paired with extensive and excessive exercise, I ate little and exhausted myself to no end. But my life felt structured, my grades were high, my social life was rich and looking in the mirror was easier, for a while. This pattern continued for approximately a year before I realized that what I was doing was not normal. My body was failing me, the faint feeling was no longer deniable, I couldn’t function normally. At this point I still thought I was normal I just thought maybe I had low blood sugar or I was dehydrated. It wasn’t until my best friend was sent to treatment for an ED that I realized that I had a problem. I always saw her as unbreakable, she wasn’t different, she didn’t have a problem and neither did I, right? Eating disorders have a way of sneaking up on you until you have no choice but to either choose it or choose yourself. Fortunately for me, I chose myself.

Not everyone knows what to say or what to do when the ominous term eating disorder is mentioned in a casual conversation. The term carries a stigma, a stigma that cannot be overlooked. As hard as this is to believe, you are not alone, there are so many like you. So many people have conquered this and you can too. This isn’t something that has to last. You can choose yourself at any point. You are not defined by your current predicament. Whether it’s as simple as integrating breakfast back into your routine or possibly reaching out for help, you are completely in control of your health and your well-being. I promise you, no one is going to judge you, no one is going to see you as less because of your disorder. I know that it seems like you are trapped in this viscous cycle but you are worth so much more than your body and you cannot allow something like this to limit your life any longer. The time to act is now, don’t let this crippling habit dictate your life further than it already has. Confide in a friend, a family member, find someone to share this with, lifting the weight off your shoulders is the first step to recovering. Creating a support system is crucial and can lessen the burden significantly. After you have a team behind you, supporting you, you have to convince yourself that you are worth it. No boy, no friend group, no outfit, no amount of control is worth sacrificing who you are and your well-being. Luckily, any semblance of an eating disorder that I was displaying was mild enough that I quickly regrouped and proceeded to fall back into who I was as a normal teenage girl.

I understand that the complexity of this issue seems daunting and you might not be ready to conquer it, but believe me you have it in you. You have the power and the strength to stare straight into the mirror and decide to choose yourself. Start now, start working now, start changing now, choose now.