Eating Disorders

I just watched this documentary called ‘Thin’ which was, predictably enough, all about eating disorders. It followed the progress of four women at a treatment facility called Renfrew in Florida — Brittany, Shelley, Polly & Alisa. The movie ends with an update on all the women. One of them loses 40 pounds & tries to commit suicide. The other three continue to lose weight rapidly & are battling with anorexia/bulimia. It was AWFUL. I switched it off & started searching for information on the documentary, to try & get an update on whether the women featured were even still alive.

The movie has a forum, & I was really relieved to find out that they’re still alive & it sounds like most of them are doing better.

I’ve been asked to write about eating disorders on multiple occasions & so, here I am, writing about it. This is such a loaded & emotional subject, & it’s kind of scary to write about it in public because I don’t know who’s going to read it. I think the thing I am most worried about is having someone say, “Whatever, you were never that skinny, you were never that sick, you’re just pretending”. There is a common misconception that only the painfully skinny girls have eating disorders. It’s simply not true. There are plenty of average-sized & chubby girls who have them too. Just because it doesn’t manifest itself on the outside doesn’t mean it’s not affecting your body, your mind, your quality of life.

Once upon a time, I was anorexic. (Yuck, I don’t even like to say it. It’s like a dirty word.) My story isn’t that exciting, or even remarkable. My problems with eating & food really began when I moved away from home. I think I wasn’t ready to accept the responsibility of being an adult. I remember thinking, just before I recovered, that all I really wanted was to get really sick so I would have to go home & live with my parents again. I just wasn’t ready to deal with the world, so my solution was to get sick & revert back to being a little girl. The people I was associating with had weird food problems of their own, which I never really thought about until much later, but of course the people you spend time with influence you, everything rubs off.

I’m not going to talk about how little I ate or all the times I jumped on the scales all the time or cried in front of the mirror… I don’t think that’s helpful. Just know that I was miserable, & I thought that losing weight was the only way I was going to fix things.

If I had not taken steps to get over it, there is no way I would be writing this today, on this website. This website wouldn’t exist. I never would have thought I was capable of doing anything like this — I hated myself. I am a completely different person today than I was even a year ago. I am so much happier, & I have done so much work on myself.

Here’s another thing about eating disorders: they are really boring. It’s all you can think about. You obsess in supermarkets & freak out. Your personality starts to disappear. You sit in your room & smoke & try to keep yourself busy, distracted. You don’t want to go out with other people because they might eat something & then what would you do? It’s pathetic, it’s ridiculous. My friend called me once & said, “You know, having an eating disorder doesn’t make you interesting. You were interesting BEFORE. This shit is making you BORING.” I didn’t agree with her; I couldn’t. I didn’t have the self-esteem. But now, of course, I see that she was right.

Interestingly enough however; even though the disorders are quite different they all tend to share in common the use of the eating disorder as a means of coping with life stressors. Eating disorder clients share in common very low self esteem issues, distorted body image problems, obsessive thoughts and compulsions involving food, weight, calories, restricting, bingeing, or purging, difficulties with relationships, increased isolative and sneaky behaviors, ritualistic behaviors regarding food and eating, mood swings, feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, despair as well as feelings of being out of control.(

The cult of eating disorders is seductive. It beckons to you with a slim finger. You think you’ll be okay, you’ll just halve your food intake & continue to function as normal, but lose weight. You’ll be like one of those models: thin, gorgeous, beautiful, popular, intelligent & capable of living like a normal person. It is NEVER like that. I consider myself to be a person with good self-control — I have been smoking on & off since I was about 13 & I have never once craved a cigarette. (I tend to smoke in social situations, but even then, just as something to do.) I am about the furtherest thing from an addictive personality you can imagine. & to think, I was sucked in by anorexia. That, to me, says a lot about the disease.

I have read & thought a lot about this subject & by now, I am totally convinced that it is never really about food or body image. The media doesn’t help, but that’s not really it. Eating disorders blossom into being because of lack — lack of love, lack of self-esteem, lack of support, lack of control, lack of direction. An eating disorder is simply a convenient place to channel your frustration. Some girls eat to fill themselves up because they feel unloved, others starve themselves in an attempt to take the reins of a world in which they feel they have no impact. It is different for everyone, but it is never as simple as, “I want to be thin”, it is never as simple as disliking food, or loving it too much. Ever. The eating disorder is the symptom, not the cause.

if you really want to be in control of your own life, be joyous & don’t let anyone take it away from you.

Please, please, please, look after yourselves. Eating disorders are so destructive; they take over your entire life quickly. Even if you think you’re not losing weight, or it’s not making a difference, there is trouble brewing beneath your skin. At the time you won’t care, all you want is to be skinny & glorious, but when your teeth start falling out, you start vomiting blood or you have to go to the hospital for colonic irrigation because you’re so constipated, you might change your mind. You can learn more about this here. I am thankful a million times over that I never got to that stage, but it would have been very easy.

You are enough, you have enough, you do enough. You may not believe it, but it’s true. You have worth, & people love you, no matter how bad a person you think you are. You have to learn to accept & love yourself the way you are! I know it sounds cheesy but it is true. It is the key to happiness.

Tomorrow I’m going to post about how I got rid of my eating disorder for good. (If you’d like proof, I tend to eat cupcakes for breakfast if they’re there, & no guilt, ever!) It’s mind-blowingly simple, & I know that if you try it, it will work for you (& no, it doesn’t involve religion or money!). So stay tuned. & thanks for listening.

Extra For Experts:
Recognising & dealing with eating disorders
Fighting Anorexia: No One To Blame
Something Fishy: lots of information about eating disorders, recovery, treatment
Anorexia: The Little Things, a video worth watching. (Actually, everything this girl does is worth watching.)