What We Wish You Knew About Eating Disorders
Part of my mission on this blog is to spread awareness and educate others by sharing my story, and documenting the highs and lows of eating disorder recovery.
This week, I asked a couple of my closest friends the same question: “what do you wish others knew about eating disorders?”. I have kept their responses anonymous, but I found their words to be extremely valuable.
Please, please share these responses with your loved ones so we can continue to undo eating disorder myths and stereotypes and instead focus on providing those who are suffering with the most adequate and beneficial treatment and care.
What do you wish others knew about eating disorders?
“Food and weight are not the underlying issue. They’re symptoms we use to mask the underlying issue. Just because one is weight restored does not mean they’re cured, and commenting on my food and my body are triggering. Recovery is a choice I must make every single day - I didn’t choose the eating disorder but I must choose recovery daily. A healthy looking body doesn’t equal a healthy mind or a healthy relationship with food. Seeking treatment is half the battle and doesn’t make one weak”.
“I can answer that so quickly. What I wish you knew about eating disorders is you don’t have to be “super sick” or “super skinny” to get help. Eating disorders are in the mind and are not always reflected in what the body looks like”.
“Eating disorders are not problems of or about weight, but in a lot of cases, they can result in weight loss (which then requires weight restoration in recovery). They are deep-rooted mental illnesses and are not something you can just “get over.” They are not a “phase” nor a choice, and they are certainly not just a problem that affects children and adolescents. Just like any other mental or physical disease, eating disorders can affect someone of any gender, age, social class, and socio-economic status.”
“I think it all comes back to one thing: the suffering, the pain, the distress. It is beyond what one can imagine, and even further beyond what one can understand. Eating disorders appear in people who have suffered for some reason (not necessarily a major trauma, just everyday sorrows) and have kept this suffering in their heart. As they develop, insidiously, EDs bring more pain and anxiety. Yes, related to food, but in fact, much more complex. And even when you are doing "much better", this pain just doesn't go away. You have to co-exist with this suffering. I eat and people see it as "normal", but for me it is almost always a painful, stressful moment. I need at least one distraction (something to read, or TV, or radio...) everytime I eat, because it is just too hard. So don't think "okay, now she is eating, everything is fine"... NO! It is far more complex than that. Eating disorders come in many forms, and with a variety of symptoms, but there is always one thing in common: the emotional pain and distress. At times, I have felt like I was burning at the stake, really, screaming with intolerable suffering. So although EDs are hard and impossible to understand, just never forget: this person lives with daily pain in her/his heart”.
“Eating disorders are HELL. They are not glamorous. They are not fun. They rob you of your mental AND physical health and cause the loss of friends, family, jobs, hobbies. Eating disorders are isolating and consume your mind in a way that makes it difficult to enjoy the simple things in life. Treatment is not a magic cure, and for some, recovery will look like just trying to keep our heads above water. We have to continuously choose recovery every day… and at every meal. If you know someone who is struggling, please, please don’t stop loving them. Even though eating disorders cause us to put up walls, it is also really nice to feel loved DESPITE how sick we are in both our body and mind. Don’t give up on us”.
What do YOU wish others knew about eating disorders? Leave a comment so others can see and hear your thoughts and hopefully better understand this complex illness. If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There is ALWAYS AT LEAST one person out there fighting for you. Rooting for you. You can do this.