Have you guys ever seen the show, “I didn’t know I was pregnant” on TLC? Have you ever wondered “how in the heck did that person not know they were pregnant until the baby popped out?!” I have too. But as strange of a comparison as it is to make, that’s how I felt about my eating disorder (ED).
No, obviously having an ED is not exactly like having a baby, but it caught me by surprise, just like the people on that cheesy TLC show are caught by surprise.
Also, let’s get one thing straight right now- I did not choose to have an ED. ED’s are a serious and deadly mental illness. I didn’t just wake up one day with an ED. The way I describe my experience is that it was both the perfect storm of events in my life and my biology that lead me to ED. You will also see me refer to ED as “he” and “him” throughout this blog post. I have personally classified my ED as a male, it’s a trick I learned in therapy and it’s really helped me, but that’s not the case for everyone- this is strictly my experience. Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on!
From a young age I was taught in school health classes and showed by the media, that someone with an ED was an extremely thin, emaciated, white, teen girl with anorexia. I didn’t understand that not only were there more types of ED’s, but I also didn’t know they affected people of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, and races. I was only given a very small picture of what ED’s looked like. It was from this lack of education that my ED remained hidden for so long.
When I began my quest for the “perfect” body (aka beginning of ED), in 2014 I was met with non-stop praise and accolades at the pure announcement of me attempting to change my body size. But once I started losing weight at a rapid pace, the praise and recognition increased tenfold. I was told I was “an inspiration”. I was told I had “so much willpower”. I was told I “looked great”- among many other materialistic “compliments”. I would have people who knew me stare at me in awe because of how different I looked, some not even recognizing me at first.
Looking back, my ED behaviors were so noticeable, yet no one noticed.
No one noticed because I was in a fat body. No one noticed because what I was doing is deemed “acceptable”, “normal”, and “commendable” in our society.
I think about it this way, if someone in a thin body was doing the things I was doing, they would have been sent to treatment, no questions asked. But because I was in a fat body, I received praise instead of concern.
If I was in a thin body, my eating habits would have raised concern.
If I was in a thin body, my exercise habits would have raised concern.
If I was in a thin body, everything I did would have raised concern.
But I wasn’t, so it didn’t.
The funny thing about the whole thing, is how I came to realize I even had a problem in the first place. I say funny, because looking back now, I laugh a little at myself for how I reacted, but obviously in the moment it was nowhere near funny.
You want to know how I discovered I had an ED? Watermelon.
You read that right, watermelon made me realize I had an ED.
I broke down, sobbing, in the middle of a grocery store holding a pack of pre-cut watermelon. Even though I had the food in my hands, literally, and wanted it so so so bad, ED wouldn’t allow me to buy it, let alone eat it.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I got to the point where I was scared to eat watermelon….WATERMELON. I know. I can’t believe it either, but that’s what ED does to you. He makes you believe that even yummy, delicious, and crisp watermelon is the enemy.
Of course, once I understood my so-called “quest for perfect” hadn’t gone as I had originally planned, my first thought wasn’t “OMG I have an ED!” I wasn’t emaciated and I didn’t have my bones showing, so there was no way I could have an ED…right? I wasn’t “sick enough”…right? WRONG! ED’s do not discriminate. They don’t just occur in thin white teenagers, although that is a population within the ED community, not all 30 million people that struggle with ED’s are white, teens, or women (ED’s are actually as common in men as they are in women). To reiterate my point from earlier- ED’s affect people of all all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, and races.
But, because of the society we live in, I was lead to believe that the behaviors I was engaging in were “normal”. I was taught that because I lived in a larger body, I was “doing the right thing” by losing weight and changing the way I looked. Because I wasn’t doing the things I thought (and was taught) “typical people with ED’s” did, I never even thought ED was on the table. I never saw ED as a threat in the first place, because I never saw or knew of anyone who looked like me that struggled with an ED.
To be honest, that was my main motivation for starting this blog (and corresponding Instagram account). I want to create more visibility and awareness for those who don’t fit the stereotypical “ED look”. I want people to understand that behaviors that seem “healthy” and “innocent” could be anything but.
Looking back on ED, I’m glad it happened. Not because of how much harm and damaged it caused me, both mentally and physically, but because of how strong I’ve become because of it. I’ve gained my voice. I’ve taken my life back. I finally feel happy and at peace in my body. I’m no longer trying to conform to some unreachable societal standard. I no longer tolerate bullies (both inside and outside my head). I’m no longer afraid to stand up for myself or others. I’m no longer a slave to ED.
If you think you are at risk for or currently struggling with an ED I encourage you to take the screening tool offered on NEDA‘s website. If you are at risk or currently struggling, I also highly encourage you to seek help. Asking for help with fighting ED was the best thing I ever did. Seeing a non-diet Dietitian who specializes in Intuitive Eating and seeing an ED therapist have truly changed my life. Choosing to begin recovery was the best thing I have done and will ever do for myself.
I would choose living a life in recovery over living one second with my ED any day.
Recovery is powerful.
Recovery is possible.
Recovery is worth it.
That’s all she wrote…
What do you think about the stereotypes surrounding ED’s?
Have something you’d like me to write about? Let me know here!