Since I started my blog, I began to reach out and explore some other food blogs from the foodies I follow on Instagram and in doing so I started to notice a common thread through many of us. Several of us now healthy food advocates struggled with eating disorders in the past. We all have an obsession with food that at some point in our lives was extremely unhealthy. Some are very vocal about it and some breifly mention it from time to time but I am inspired by all their stories as I relate to them on a very deep level.
I struggled with an eating disorder for 10 years from the time I was 15 and about to start high school, to 25 as a young woman working and living in Los Angeles. I am 26 now and recovered but it was a battle that lasted two years to get healthy and it took hitting rock bottom to finally realize I needed help. When I started to share with my closest friends and family about my eating disorder I realized that many of them had misconceptions about what an eating disorder actually is and then my boy friend shared this article with me and it inspired me to share this list of 5 things you might not have known about having an eating disorder.
1. It’s hard to identify who has an eating disorder
When I went to my first ABA meeting (Aneroxics and Bulimics Anonymous) I noticed that most of the girls (and some guys) were of normal weight like me. Although I was anorexic in the beginning and underweight I become predominetly bulimic in the later years and maintained a healthy weight for my age and height. Turns out that most bulimics never become serverely under weight.
If you scroll back up and take a look at the photo, the girl on the left is noticably thinner than the girl on the right yet both girls are sufferring from an eating disorder. The girl on the left is 109 lbs, has a flat butt and super thin legs; she is battling anorexia. The girl on the left is 134 lbs and has a curvy booty, filled out legs and arms but is sufferring with bulimia. I am the girl in both of those photos and I remember how differently I was treated when I was underweight versus when I was normal weigth. I looked different on the outside but I felt the same on the inside.
Another reason why it is hard to know who is sufferring with an eating disorder is because we become masters of decepetion. We learn to lie and hide our disease and food addiction, (just like those with drug and alcohol addictions) we sneak around and learn tricks to keep the suspicions at bay (assuming someone is suspicious). Many bulimics throw up in the shower, outside in bushes or in bags or tupperwear that they hide under their beds to dispose of later. We are a creative bunch, no doubt, going to crazy measures to conceal our secret.
2. Having an eating disorder involves more than starving or puking
As discussed above, some sufferes go to great lengths to maintain the secreacy of their eating disorder, but not all bulimics throw up. Some take laxatives, duretics or work out for hours every day to purge their calorie intake. I mean you are far less likely to accuse someone who works out constantly of having an eating disorder. That just doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t fully understand that an eating disorder is much more than just a desire to be fit and thin. The mental commitment someone makes to work themselves to exhuastion to burn calories is a serious mental issue. It goes much deeper than wanting a thigh gap.
3. An eating disorder is more than a desire to be thin
According to one study, 97 percent of eating disorder patients also suffered from at least one other psychiatric illness like anxiety, severe depression or substance abuse. An eating disorder is really an expression of one or more of those underlying illnesses. We lack self love, self acceptance, a feeling of being good enough, and live in a world of comparison to the constant barrage of rail thin models in advertisements and magazines. We have such a low self image that we abuse ourselves with food. I mean think about it, does a psychologically healthy person just decide to start starving themselves or throwing up because bikini season is around the corner? Probably not. If you have an eating disorder chances are there is alot more going on inside that big heart and busy mind of yours and it is painful. Trust me, I know.
4. Having an eating disorder is expensive
I can’t even begin to tell you about how much my eating disorder has cost me, not only 10 years of my life but hard earned cash. I wish that money was in the bank and not down the toilet. No matter what you are sufferring with it is costing you money. Diet pills like ephedra and perscription adderall, laxatives, duretics, gym memberships, all that costs money. Just like drugs or alcohol, we with eating disorders spend a lot of money on our addictions. I haven’t even mentioned food yet. Purchasing the food for a binge can make the cashier at the checkout think you are feeding a family of four. Ask a bulimic or a complusive overeater (that’s an eating disorder too by the way), how much money they spend on food and I can almost guarantee it is a pretty penny or two.
5. Recovering from an eating disorder is like recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction
When you spend years of your life mistreating your body through starvation, taking laxatives, duretics, throwing up and over excersing it goes through some changes and adjustments. Your metabolism is a complete mess, your body is in constant survival mode and it becomes reliant on some of the drastic measures you took to be thin to function properly. For example, the second you stop taking laxatives but still have to eat your body doesn’t just go back to digesting normally. It forgot how to properly digest and you are left dealing with cramping, bloating, and constipation. Your body literally doesn’t know how to poop anymore. (Sorry guys, I know that’s gross, but it is a reality for many of us).
We suffer from withdraws, headaches and body pain just like those getting sober from drugs or the bottom of a bottle. But one thing that is different from other addictions and eating disorders is that anything is a trigger for us and you can not abstain from food if you want to live a healthy life. Think about it. Alcoholics and drug addicts have to stay away from those substances but an anorexic or bulimic has to face food 3 TIMES A DAY and find a way to be healthy! Talk about a challenege. So much of our culture surrounds around food, birthdays, holidays, hanging with friends, dating… you name it, food is involved. So suit up tough cookie, your in the recovery ride for life. Please know that I am not at all trying to compare the recovery of different addictions or say that one is easier than the other as I have no idea what having a drug addicition is like, all I am doing is pointing out a significant difference. We have to eat food to survive and be healthy but we do not need drugs or alcohol.
I hope this post helps shed some light on the dark world that is having an eating disorder. It is a serious issue that is sometimes dismissed as someones vain desire to be perfect but it is not like that at all. If you are sufferring I hope you know that life does not have to be this way and you can get help. I joined ABA and sougth out a therapist who specialized with those batteling an eating disorder and it was the best decision I ever made. I have my life back and anything is a possible now. My strongest piece of advice is to talk to someone about what you are going through, stop hiding and ask for the help you need. Have the courage to fight for yourself, you are worth it! And you have a beautiful body! Sending you all my love.