Eating Disorders have been developing at an exponential rate in our society. These disorders come with a range of sorrows, from very private to very public displays of a struggling victim. Overlooked by many, unless truly analyzed, are the secret, hidden sorrows that aren’t discussed in health classes or late-night talks with those who care about you.
Public struggles are often made worse by the applause given to a seemingly healthy, motivated individual. Rapid weight loss is seen as determination and dedication. A slim figure is given praise by all who see it. When a victim orders a salad instead of the burger that he or she craves, it often brings about smiles and congratulatory pats on the back for making a ‘healthy’ choice. The sorrow in this is the victim receiving applause for an unhappy, unhealthy lifestyle that they lack control of, unbeknownst to those around them.
To the sufferer, that rapid weight loss has cost them their energy, happiness, and most obviously their health. Their slim figure that the public is applauding is still seen as overweight and in need of a slim-down. Ordering a healthy salad instead of a grease-ball burger is not an accomplishment when they haven’t had a burger in three years out of fear.
For me, a public struggle that I faced was my obvious love for running. Around almost every corner, I was applauded for being one of the quickest women on the track. I loved how people would come to me and request I help them run faster. It motivated me to keep training and keep improving my times. What these people didn’t know is that I started running to lose weight, and couldn’t stop because if I did, I would gain it back. I was running over five miles a day out of happiness and fear, a confusing and frustrating combination that locked me into a stressful and anxiety-ridden battle against my own mind.
The private struggles are the weigh-ins, the skipped meals, the regimens and rituals that a victim subjects themselves to. It’s circling all the parts of one’s body that jiggle when you walk. These struggles include throwing up those two bites of chicken because you taste some grease and people cannot, I repeat, cannot consume that and still look good. It includes being afraid to shop for new pants because if you’re a size four, you shouldn’t eat tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. It’s being afraid to eat your own birthday cake.
My personal struggles included weigh-ins over twenty times daily. Once before and after every meal, before and after going to the bathroom, clothes on, clothes off, shoes on, shoes off, after I woke up, before I went to sleep, the list goes on. I couldn’t eat processed foods, and I developed many fear foods. It took me years to eat a slice of pie. I didn’t have pizza. I couldn’t even think about touching a calzone. I memorized the fat, calorie content, and sugars in almost every food I know. I would make loads of different dishes because food was all I could think about, but it would just sit in the fridge.
Through all these struggles, I had a friend. My husband would hold me as I cried at night after eating one too many bites of take-out. He would watch me scrutinize a cupcake and wipe off some of the frosting. He watched as I spit food out and threw it away instead of consumed it. He witnessed me criticizing myself in the mirror and bursting into tears at what I saw. He was there when I avoided foods that scared me, and cried because I wanted to eat them so bad but my mind would always echo, “Look, but don’t touch.”
My husband has helped me overcome many of my fear foods, and has supported me when I needed it. He’s held me while I cried, and talked to me about how I felt about myself. He’s listened patiently and learned how best to help me cope with the little voice inside my head that constantly repeats its wishes for me to skip my next meal. This is where the final, most sorrowful piece of an eating disorder lies. It speaks to those closest to the victim, through the victim.
My eating disorder speaks to my husband when he wants to take me out for a dinner date, but I am too afraid of the menu. Through me, it is able to convince my husband that I am too upset or scared to eat out, when in fact, I would love to.
My eating disorder speaks to my husband when he wants to get us candy or pizza and relax for a night but I feel too large and heavy to deserve either treat. It twists the wants and desires we share into the avoidance of a date night in that we both crave.
When my eating disorder speaks to my husband, I can see in his face the sadness and despair that it has caused me for so many years, projected onto the person I love most. True, it is a sorrow that he has to witness such a terrible mental illness torment me. The deeper, secret, hidden sorrow, however, is that I can see my eating disorder speak to and harm his happiness as well by taking away opportunities for our relationship to grow. Not only do eating disorders destroy a person’s inner growth, but they destroy the growth of meaningful relationships and harm your closest friends.
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Think: What can we do as individuals to ensure that those around us are protected from society's seemingly pro-eating-disorder influences? Leave your opinions in the comments.
Published by Angeline Hangeline