Just recently, I had a woman I have known for a number of years say to me that she wished she could have a little bit of my eating disorder. At first, I took it to mean that she recognised how awful and difficult an eating disorder is to sustain and put up with day in and day out and that she wished she could take away some of that load for me – but I realised, as she continued on, that this woman was actually telling me she wished she could have an eating disorder. Have a bit of that “willpower” and “control” around food. “Lose a bit of weight”. I was so taken aback by this that all I could manage to reply with was “No. You don’t want ANY of this, trust me.”
Her reply? “I don’t know …” with this sort of wistful look on her face.
Not going to sugar coat this – I was pretty pissed off, to say the least. And I may have referred to her as an “idiot” when I recounted this story to my GP yesterday.
But now I’ve had some time to mull over it, and I figure this: this woman clearly doesn’t know a great deal about eating disorders. Is that her fault? Not particularly. We’ve grown up in this society that essentially worships “thinness”. That rewards individuals when they manage to “be good” and “cut back”. We’re surrounded by advertisements condoning restrictive eating and overexercising. And new diets popping up left, right and center that generally all tend to have the same effect – quick weight-loss, followed by quick weight gain once the diet is discontinued (… which also happens to be seen as a complete failure by that same society that has created the unrealistic lifestyle in the first instance).
Generally speaking, when someone doesn’t have an understanding of eating disorders, they tend to just think “thin”. They may be unaware of other psychological, social and physical repercussions the eating disorder can have.
You see, people without an understanding of eating disorders don’t realise that they can have a devastating impact upon every facet of an individual’s life. That their life is dictated by rules, their day can revolve completely around exercise or eating or not eating. That their nights can be completely sleepless or spent in the bathroom or spent in the kitchen. They don’t see the urges that arise when the individual is experiencing guilt for “only exercising three hours that day” or for “eating extra sultanas out of the Sultana Bran” at brekky time. People don’t see the exhaustion, or the fears, or the thoughts that harangue the individual every single moment of every single day. They don’t understand the outbursts or the tears at mealtimes. They don’t get the rules or the rigidity; the desperate need to feel safe, and if that need can be fulfilled by eating out of the same bowl every day, then so be it. They don’t see the 4am walks; the exercise in the pouring rain for hours on end which leads to extreme hypothermia. They can’t understand the inability to work or study because of a malnourished brain – caused by deprivation of carbohydrates, leading to incapacity to function adequately. They don’t think about the dry skin, the falling out of hair, the bruises that appear the hell out of nowhere, the endless injuries caused by overexercise, and the excruciating leg cramps that awake the individual in the middle of the night. The low blood pressure. The low blood sugar. The osteoporosis. People don’t see the guilt and grief that is felt when the individual “can’t” go to their friend’s birthday parties or be social ever, due to having to be exercising instead or out of fear of the food that may be present at said event. And they don’t see that they eventually lose their friends, because those friends will only put up with so much shit before they crack. I could go on for ages, but we’d be here all day.
People don’t see these things.
People just see thin.
You don’t want an eating disorder. You just want to be thin. And an eating disorder is much, MUCH more than a particular weight or shape. So much more.
Let’s stop idolising “thinness”.
– Bek X