– Ernest Hemingway.
It is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I would like to use this as a cue to contribute my part towards starting up an open dialogue on anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. You don’t always see when a person next to you is hurting. It’s not always visible, not always tattooed on their forehead, not always noticeably covered in a bandage or supported by crutches. Often, people with eating disorders feel ashamed to speak up. We don’t blame people getting cancer but we do assume that it is a personal choice to go down that spiral of starvation or overeating. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2012) clearly states that “eating disorders are the most fatal mental illnesses. (…) In the United States alone, more than 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from eating disorders that are clinically significant.”
Hence, it is safe to assume that everybody knows somebody!
I knew somebody who suffered from an Eating Disorder and I would like to share her story with you on her behalf:
“The truth is, I had always been very critical of myself. Having never really fitted in anywhere during high school, I soon blamed the reasons for that entirely on myself. My body. My mind. My goals. Nothing in me seemed good enough or why else would no one ask me out, why else would the cool kids in school avoid me?
During college, things changed to the better but I also very much suffered from the Freshmen 15 phenomenon and gained almost 30 pounds. Long long months of working out and self-restrain followed. I started obsessing over the number on the scale and I let my weight define my perceived self-worth.
Then, a little over a year ago, I did something really stupid. I made myself throw up. And that changed my life, my mindset, my happiness. I entered that cycle of bulimia. I started living for the Highs I got from skipping meals and yet I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror after a purge. I was disgusted and ashamed of myself, of this girl that was clinging to the toilet and then hanging over the sink crying. So yes, I was hurting but it wasn’t visible to anyone until I decided to tell my closest friends- which are amazingly helpful and supportive to the day. It is because of them that I didn’t give up.
Now, a year later, I am ten times happier. However, the bulimia story in my life, is not entirely over. Your body gets into a certain rhythm, a habit of craving food- and masses of it- at any occasion. I haven’t purged in a long time but eating healthy still requires so much more self-control these days because it takes me twice as much willpower to stop eating after a healthy amount. I need to avoid binging because I know that it would lead to feelings of regret which would then trigger a burning urge to get rid of all that food again. Eating has become something that needs to be scheduled, very consciously controlled, debated with myself over every bite. It is still a battle. One that I think I am fighting quite well and very strongly but one that will probably also still go on for quite a while.
Everybody has chapters in their lives that they would rather keep unpublished and my darkest one is based on the destructive assumption that unhealthy measures could actually make me happy over the long run. It didn’t make me happy, it just trapped me in, what sometimes seemed like, a neverending, cycle! And although it was hard and cost courage at that time, opening up to my friends was the best decision I could have made. “
It is never to late to offer a hand, speak up or ask for help. My friend got better and so can you! For more information, please visit the website of the National Eating Disorder Association!