By Taylor Smith, CHOP5 Nutrition & Wellness Blogger
Eating disorders (EDs)—-A term that is close to my heart because I developed two of them. I know what the obsessive ED thoughts that constantly float in your mind are like. I know the pain it brings and all that it takes away from you.
However, no one without an eating disorder can ever truly understand what someone who has or goes through mentally and physically. I’m not asking you to, but I’m asking you to be aware that eating disorders are a real and dangerous thing. They can be silent killers. Collectively, eating disorders have the highest death rate among all mental illnesses. So, to say the least, I’m very passionate about this topic and strive to bring awareness to others.
So, let’s talk about it!
National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week is February 22nd-28th. But eating disorders should be a topic that are discussed all year long because it affects countless people every single day. Some people are open about their EDs, while others attempt to hide them due to feelings of shame or lack of acknowledgment.
MY PERSONAL STRUGGLE:
There are various types of eating disorders that one can develop. I personally struggled with undereating and obsessing over the quality of what foods I would allow myself to eat. I became very restrictive and created insane food rules for myself, like not being able to have more than one grain a day. As a result of depriving myself of needed nutrients for so long, I eventually developed a second eating disorder and began to overeat/binge. I couldn’t seem to control myself around food.
My appearance visibly changed over time and my mental health deteriorated. Eventually my parents tried to help me because they could see the signs of both of my eating disorders (at different times), even though I didn’t believe them at first. After years of struggling and relapses, I can finally say I’ve committed to change for real. I have discovered intuitive eating and what works best for me through trial and error. I realized the importance of honoring your cravings as well as eating everything in moderation. Consequently, I’ve discovered my passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle that allows me to feel my best both physically and mentally.
NORMALIZE SHARING YOUR STORY & SPEAK UP:
Unfortunately, some people’s eating disorder stories do not match mine—-Some people suffer in silence because they do not fit the stereotypical description. Or they may be afraid to speak up in fear of being viewed as weak in a society that praises mental toughness. However, I believe that sharing your struggles and showing others that they are not alone takes an immense amount of courage, vulnerability, and strength. THAT should be praised, not pretending everything’s fine.
What can we do to help? We must normalize being open about mental health and eating disorders, so people feel comfortable reaching out for help and others understand the signs to look out for in those around them.
BREAK THE STIGMA:
Navigating eating disorders are not as simple as telling someone to eat more or less. It’s not someone trying to seek attention. It’s about more than food. It could be about body image. It could also be due to someone’s of lack of a sense of belonging or acceptance from society. Or from the toxic diet culture or glamorized/edited pictures of influencers/peers on social media.
So please be kind to everyone. Check in on your friends, even the ones who seem to have it all together. Be nice to strangers. Make someone’s day. You have absolutely no idea what battles people are fighting. You may have no idea the person who just smiled at you could break down into tears at any moment. Just because people look fine on the outside does not mean that they are!
EDS DO NOT DISCRIMINATE:
Going off that last point, eating disorders do not discriminate. There’s not one size, gender, race, etc. that can have an ED. Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Just because someone does not look super underweight or overweight, does not mean that they do not have one. Many people who do not fit the stereotypical description are able to conceal their eating disorders because no one thinks twice to question them or reach out.
I was “lucky” that my parents could tell that I wasn’t eating enough and then was eating too much based on my various changes in appearance. But it took a little while for my body to change. So, we must be aware of the signs before things spiral out of control.
EATING DISORDER SIGNS:
Uncomfortable eating around others
Losing control around food
Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
Dressing in layers to hide weight or stay warm
Restricting certain foods
Maintaining an excessive/rigid exercise regime
Distancing yourself socially—depression & anxiety
Hiding/hoarding food or empty wrappers
Lack of a period
Bad body image
Obsessively weighing yourself
Changes in mood/personality
Eating when not hungry/“eating your emotions”
BE THE CHANGE:
Everyone’s eating disorders are valid. There is no “sick enough” to get help. Everyone deserves help and recovery.
I urge you to please stop normalizing diet culture and encouraging people to change their bodies. Don’t contribute to the idea that people need to look a certain way to be worthy or that athletes need to have a certain body type to be good. Think before you post, comment, or make a joke to someone about their appearance or plate.
IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING:
Remember recovery is not linear and is different for everyone. You’re not alone. Reach out to loved ones/trusted people for help. There are many resources that can help you! You can also call the NEDA Hotline: 1-800-931-2237 to talk to someone.
Keep going, keep showing up. Commit to change even when it’s scary. Do it for the person you want to be. Take control of your life and put the light back in your eyes.
And if you’ve overcame an ED, I’m so proud of you. If you’ve relapsed, you haven’t failed. I’ve been there before many times, so trust me when I say keep fighting, keep learning. You can do it even when everything seems hopeless. Recovery is so worth it I promise you.
Life is too short to spend another day at war with yourself.
Sending lots of love to you all!
New Year’s Intentions Update – January:
This month one of my intentions that I’ve held myself accountable for is reading! I’m an avid reader but seem to make excuses when life gets busy. This month I’ve made the time to read even if while sitting and eating a chopped salad, and I have finished multiple books! I love getting lost in a good book—escaping into a new world and feeling the characters’ emotions is something else. Reading is also so valuable to me because I always gain new perspectives on life, which allows me to grow as a person!
Catering made easy!
Serve your group healthy food that tastes really good!