This week is very near and dear to my heart, as it brings eating disorders into the light and helps destroy the horrible, and plentiful, stigmas surrounding them.
I’ve suffered from my eating disorder since early childhood, and it wasn’t until winter of 2016, at age 20, that I finally couldn’t suffer and hide in silence anymore and reached out for help.
As scary as it was, I will NEVER regret my decision to get help and voice my struggle. I suffered in silence for so long, fearing that people would judge me for being so “vain” or for overreacting, for not understanding what I was truly going through, for assuming that I could recover if I “just ate,” for having people invalidate my struggle because I wasn’t sick, but simply had “amazing control” over what I ate and my ability to keep a strict workout regimen. I was scared to tell people that, although I seemed to have control over what I ate, behind the scenes I couldn’t stop eating. I was afraid to tell people that, although I seemed to be very dedicated to fitness, the gym was just another way to purge after throwing up didn’t feel like enough punishment.
Eating disorders are very complex and serious mental illnesses that go way, WAY beyond food. They often involve a lot of anxiety, depression, trauma, and other co-occurring disorders. Society doesn’t understand what someone who suffers from an eating disorder tautly goes through on a day to day basis.
According to NEDA, approximately 20 million women and 10 million men have an eating disorder at some point in their lives, and anorexia is the deadliest mental illness.
Eating disorders are very prevalent- and not only in the stereotyped eating disorder sufferers of dangerously thin teenage females; eating disorders can affect anyone, no matter their age, sex OR WEIGHT.
There were times in my disorder when I was a healthy weight, slightly overweight, emaciated and just average- and at each of these weights I was equally ill.
Signs someone is suffering from an eating disorder are much more complex than just their weight. Often people who are struggling become withdrawn and isolate, avoid eating in front of others, make self-deprecating comments and often engage in negative food talk, take exercising a little too far, have swollen cheeks and blisters on the back of their hands and knuckles, have hair loss, loss of tooth enamel, and dry, ashy skin, and often disappear after meals. There are many more signs of someone suffering with an eating disorder, and I encourage people to read about those signs on the NEDA website.
So many people suffer in silence because their suffering goes unnoticed and they are too scared to open up to people who have little knowledge about eating disorders- and often even the people suffering from the disorder are also confused as to why they are struggling.
Everyone deserves recovery, and you are NEVER not sick enough to need help. Life is too short to waste away in the grasp of an eating disorder- there’s so much more to life than calories, exercise, food, and weight.
You can read about eating disorders and take an eating disorder screening on the NEDA website, which I highly encourage because everyone deserves recovery and proper support.
It’s time to end the stigma.