CONTENT WARNING: eating disorders.
HAVING AN EATING DISORDER MAKES ME FEEL
I call myself a feminist, yet I do not believe that I deserve to be equal to others. I will never be skinny enough to feel as if I am entitled to eat. I will never feel as if I am worth breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I wake up every morning and make sure that my hip-bones still protrude. I clench my teeth together in front of the mirror and make sure that my cheekbones are still apparent. I bend my body side to side and make sure that my ribs still touch my hips.
Out of control.
I eat lunch and have a panic attack when I see the amount of rice my mom has given me. I go to my nutritionist’s office and come close to tears when she tells me that a serving of yogurt is one cup. I start a fight with my dad when he asks if I want the last brownie.
I can’t tell anyone how I feel. They will not understand. They will judge me for the insignificant battle I am facing. It would be selfish to complain. What I am fighting is nothing compared to the suffering that people around the world face every day.
But, I am not alone. In the United States, at least 30 million others are going through the same thing as me. When I decided to talk to two of my friends about what I was going through, they both admitted to me that they had gone through periods of restrictive eating. I had never guessed.
Eating disorders are an issue that most everyone is aware of. We are taught about them in health class, we hear about other’s battles, and we make assumptions about people we deem “too skinny.” However, in all these contexts, eating disorders feel far away. They feel like something un-understandable, something unimaginable. After all, who doesn’t love to eat?
It is hard to understand that love of food does not factor into the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a result of a lot more than not liking food. They are a false sense of control when one’s life feels uncontrollable; they are the manifestation of years of self-deprecation and hatred; they are conforming to the expectations that you feel friends, family, and society has for you.
In our society, is it even possible to act in different ways as to not prompt these thoughts? We are taught to watch what we eat and that gaining weight is the last thing we should ever do. We are indoctrinated with posed, photoshopped images and skewed clothing sizes. We are brought up complimenting others on their bodies and forget to compliment on their achievements. So, what can we do?
I think we need to recognize that eating disorders are more than a weird behavior. They are a mental illness. They are distinct from the person they inhabit. We need to make the routes to recovery clear and discuss eating disorders as diseases that could affect ourselves and not just others.
Some of this is beginning to happen—as shown in recent governmental health legislation. President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law in December of 2016 which recognized eating disorders for the first time in federal legislation and ensured that the 2008 mental health parity act covered eating disorders. However, I feel that we still have a ways to go in our everyday response to and understanding of eating disorders.
I hope that writing about this topic which has affected me so much will inspire others to write (anonymous or not) about their experiences as well, thus bringing awareness of the issue to people who previously felt far removed from it. I hope that, as our society begins to realize the prevalence of the disease, we will change the way we talk, think, and react. I hope that we will make recovery more attainable for those who are struggling. I hope that we will teach ourselves to love ourselves as we are. I hope that we will do all this, and I hope that I will wake up one morning soon and feel content in my feminism, my body, my life, my community, and myself.