Updated: Mar 4, 2020
"I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food and I still don’t really. It’s like, the savior or the enemy."
Commonly described as: any of range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits, eating disorders are still very taboo and misunderstood. This is crazy to me, because at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
Plus, their consequences can be very severe. In fact, every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
Perhaps the fact that it can easily be mistaken with non-pathological, unhealthy, and common habits may be a reason that this is so misunderstood. Just like many psychological diseases, people tend to underestimate eating disorders. Others are quick to say : “It's just a mindset, adjust it” or “It's in your head.“ Yes! Exactly. But aren’t most things, in fact, in our head, in our brain, in our memory, in the way we learned to give meaning to things?
I think we can all remember the fallout of at least one (billion) belief(s), or so-called knowledge, that we had about us or the world we live in. We all struggle with our mind, constantly! Eating disorders are a mental illness, it goes beyond not wanting to be fat. People suffering E.A often have an inaccurate perception of their body. It's quite often the result of a prior and important injury.
There are many factors causing eating disorders:
-psychological and emotional
-lack of self-confidence
-difficulty handling emotions
-traumatic events (violence, abuse, etc.)
-cultural and environmental
-ideas and precepts of how we should look
-biological: 50-80% of the risk for anorexia and bulimia is genetic
-Irregular hormones functions, such as puberty, which is a very sensitive period where a lot of anxiety may occur and increase this type of behavior.
Eating Disorders, Different Forms:
Anorexia: the intense fear of being fat, which leads to restrictive behaviors in order to lose weight.
Bulimia: binge-eating followed by purging (vomiting, laxative, excessive exercise).
Hyperphagia: unlike bulimia, hyperphagia doesn’t apply compensatory behaviors which can cause obesity. 2.8% of American adults suffer from binge eating disorder in their lifetime.
And the symptoms can be very subtle: obsessive thoughts about food and weight, major weight loss or gain in a short amount of time, starvation, establishment of purging mechanisms, withdrawal and unsociable behavior, insomnia, absence of menstruation, fatigue, etc.
"I starved myself, counted calories obsessively, made myself throw up. I also had nights where I binged intensely and then threw up." Explained someone who suffered from anorexia.
So try and be patient - whether you are suffering or someone else is suffering. Try to be patient and learn about the disease. Undoing a habit, a belief, or trauma takes time. So you need to remember: you deserve and owe it to yourself to love yourself.
Can Body Positivity Help?
“Over the years I’ve learned to love and accept myself for who I am. Once you realize it’s all in your head, it becomes easier to adjust your mind in a more positive way.”
Can body positivity help? Yes, because acceptance can lead to change! However, don’t neglect seeking a specialist for help. And don’t be afraid to open up about it to other people you trust. But one thing you can start to do is work on yourself. In fact, self-love is the beginning of a lot of things. This can be a motivation to make a difference.
"I think (body positivity) could definitely influence eating disorders. We are groomed by social media, and media in general, to look up to thin women with perfect bodies - and we are held up to unrealistic standards. We are normal men and women. We need more examples of this everywhere. I think that could help a lot."
The movement of body positivity can inspire yourself to do so. Indeed, body positivity is not just a concept, it is a way of living. It goes beyond not seeing flaws in your body. It is accepting it the way it is. Embracing all of you, the inside and the outside.
Acknowledge the variety of people, souls and bodies. There is not one way to be healthy, nor to be pretty.
But like all mindsets, it can come and go easily. It has to be nurtured. Some days it'll get blurrier, some days it'll feel impossible, some days you’ll have to shape and reshape it. It’ll be lost and found again, if not improved! As long as we are alive we have the ability to make it work and to reach the best version of ourselves.
Take care, and a special thanks to the people who open up to me about their experience.
Love and may you all be good.
Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348–358.
Le Grange, D., Swanson, S. A., Crow, S. J., & Merikangas, K. R. (2012). Eating disorder not otherwise specified presentation in the US population. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(5), 711-718.
Trace, S. E., Baker, J. H., Peñas-Lledó, E., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). The genetics of eating disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 589-620.