The funny thing about Eating Disorders is that there is nothing funny about them at all, yet people still tend to have one of three reactions to hearing or reading about them. Someone will crack a joke like, ‘I wish I had one, I eat too much’, or think people who do suffer from any kind of ED are just too focused on their image or believe that ED’s only belong in Hollywood.
One of the many problems with Eating Disorders is that not enough awareness has been raised about them. Most people are familiar with at least one form of an ED, and yet the subject remains taboo. Nobody wants to talk about them and for those who do suffer from an ED, it can be incredibly hard to open up about.
Another issue is that, while there are several movies about Eating Disorders, a lot of the films tend to glamorize them. This can have a negative impact on young minds who do not know the full extent of what such a disorder entails, or can give people the wrong idea about what they really are, which only produces more negative connotations about them.
As someone who has been experiencing what it is like to struggle with disordered eating, I know just how hard and brutal it can be. Eating Disorders aren’t just about losing weight, or gaining weight due to binge eating. Weight loss or gain is just a symptom of the disorder.
Eating Disorders are psychological disorders that are distinguished by atypical, troubled eating habits. What they are not, are lifestyle choices or diets gone too far? ED’s have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses and those who have an eating disorder often suffer from other mental issues such as severe anxiety or depression.
So, how can such a dangerous disorder NOT be talked about?
There are many reasons. Those suffering from eating disorders often keep their issues private and the only time their disorders are brought to the attention of others is when they become physically apparent.
In my case, when I first started experiencing disordered eating, I lost a horrible amount of weight in a very short period of time due to purging and insane restrictions. In less than a week, I dropped thirteen pounds because I did not digest anything for six days. I kept it secret, hid it from everyone I was close to because I was ashamed – I knew what I was doing was wrong, but more than that, I hated the way I looked and at the time. It was one part of my life that I felt that I could control. Then my best friend and I went to the beach at the end of the week and she noticed I had lost a fair amount of weight.
So, my ‘strategies’ became even more sneaky, and frankly, gross. There is nothing pretty or glamorous about an eating disorder.
Another reason why they are so taboo is because of how unpleasant they can be and how ‘unlikely’ they seem to people. We look at supermodels strutting down the runway, and we see every bone in their body, and yet they still give off an air of beauty. They’re elegant, dressed in designer clothes and their hair is always perfect. Such beautiful people have to have some unattractive thing about them, right? Which is why it’s ‘only models who have eating disorders’.
If you’re not on a catwalk or behind a camera 24/7, then why deprive yourself?
I never wanted to look like a model, but I wanted to be attractive. I have always been a fairly active girl, though more so in high school. As I got to university, I gained the freshmen fifteen and the extra pounds on a short frame of five feet looked terrible on me (according to me). I became extremely self-conscience and my anxieties worsened because of how I viewed myself. My eating issues only brought on an onslaught of other mental issues and my self-hatred began to grow and grow. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without wanting to cry or make myself throw-up.
Another thing is how impossible an eating disorder seems to people. How can someone live with that gut-wrenching feeling of being so hungry you swear you could clear out a buffet by yourself? How can someone resist a fresh slice of cheesy pizza? How can someone not like food or not like to eat?
In my experience, the last part couldn’t have been more wrong. Food is my obsession. I am constantly thinking about it, craving some form of it. But more than that, I think of it as the enemy. Every item of food becomes a contributor to potential weight gain. I won’t put anything in my mouth unless I know how many calories it contains, and if I do eat something that I believe will cause me to gain weight, there is a high chance that I will sneak off to a bathroom and make myself throw up.
Probably too much information, but it’s the reality for many men and women alike, and the less support and awareness there is for individuals battling the disorders, the less likely it is that they will seek help and get treatment. There is so much at stake for those who do battle with eating disorders, including their relationships, their opportunities, and even their life.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder yourself or know anyone that is, please try to talk to someone and seek help. It may be hard to do, but it is so, so, so crucial that you do because there are so many health issues that can come with eating disorders.