Guest post by Laura P.
Trigger warning: eating disorders
For the purposes of this article, we are going to call the eating disorder “ED,” and we are going to treat this character like the abusive ex-boyfriend/father/brother living in your head. I also happen to like this name because it’s the name of the one boyfriend that triggered my eating disorder, so I think it has poetic meaning.
The truth is scary. 9% of all males, and 13% of all females would have struggled with an eating disorder before graduating college. I had about 18 people in my recovery group and only 12 made it. The other 6 forgot to take their cellphones 6 feet down under because unfortunately they don’t have reception.
And yes, I know my comment is insensitive, but so is ED so deal with it. If you get easily offended, I highly recommend stopping right HERE.
You need a minute?
Okay cool. Now for the hard part.
It’s scary when you have a second person living inside your head telling you you’re not enough. Usually, eating disorders are accompanied by their cousins: Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and my personal favorite (not) Self-harm tendencies. It’s like a traveling circus. Imagine not inviting 10 relatives to your house, they still show up, and then trying to get them out one by one.
My traveling circus stayed with me from the time I was 13 and now, 17 years later, they just visit from time to time, but I make sure to put enough dreams catchers and amulets on the doors so that they know that they are not welcomed. Did I mention that this traveling circus doesn’t listen very well?
Below is a guide for what not say to a person with an Eating Disorder, or that struggle with Body Dysmorphia. Basically, don’t say this to anyone, no matter the gender.
1.) You would look so much prettier without 5 lbs
ED: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to do but unfortunately, the 7 laxatives I took the morning and the 3 times I purged are not enough. Get back to me in a month and we will reconvene because #challengeaccepted
Laura: No. What I need to do is be my best healthy self. And listen to my body. Not that I was asking you for your opinion, Margaret.
2.) You don’t look like you have an eating disorder
ED: I am sorry that you can see 3 of my ribs and not 6. Thank you so much for giving me new #notlifegoals
Laura: Is there such a thing as “looking” like you have an eating disorder? No. Unless you struggle with one. It has nothing to do with your size and everything to do with the other things you can’t see. Just take it in stride and don’t give opinions.
3.) Why don’t you just eat? It can’t be that hard.
ED: Eureka! Why didn’t I think about that? (Thank you, Sherlock Holmes)
Laura: Eating Disorders are accompanied with other disorders, and although, for you it may not be hard. For me, eating is also counting calories and Macros. My head is a mean calculator for how awful every single calorie is going to be for my body, so yes, eating is not hard. What’s hard is what comes afterwards.
4.) Did you really just eat all that?
ED: Yes, babe. It’s called binging. But don’t worry. Give me 20 minutes, and I’ll be purging this while you have a conversation with Trevor about how cute he is, and you wont even know it.
Laura: Stop being the food police. Making people mindful that you are watching them eat, unless you are their therapist and are in the middle of an Eating Exercise, it’s none of your business. Leave me alone, and you do you, eating your Kale.
5.) Maybe you should give up sugar treats or carbs?
ED: That is exactly what I needed! Thank you. I needed advice to lose weight. Because the 20 diets I did before purging were SO effective.
Laura: The first thing they teach you in recovery is that there is no food group that necessarily makes you gain or lose weight. They teach moderation. Stop telling a person that they need to stop eating something! I don’t care what your profession is, unless you are a nutritionist is not your job to tell me what to stop or start eating. Back off, Susan!
6.) Seeing you go through this is so hard; I cant bear it.
ED: Oh, I’m sorry I’m making you uncomfortable! Let me go purge in the bathroom in the hall so that you can’t hear me.
Laura: Truth is that we are very aware of how HARD it is to go through this and I understand because I think you love me in your own weird way. But if you think this is hard for you, IMAGINE how hard this is for me. The enemy lives inside my head
7.) Why is it taking you so long to get over this?
ED: I didn’t know that we were on a schedule, can I book “Recovery from my Eating Disorder” after your Brunch with Barb?
Laura: Truth is, there is NO ONE more eager to get over this than I am. BELIEVE ME. But sometimes it takes years, falling down a lot, getting rid of people in your life, or in my case, moving out of my country to recover. It’s going to take years with a nutritionist, therapist, trainer, and a great group of support to get over this. I am going to have to make decisions about who to include in my journey. Recovering is a full-time job, that I have to combine with working, going to school, etc. Multitasking for the win.
8.) “Eating Disorders are such a 21st century disease”-> Please insert Regina George’s voice from Mean Girls here for FULL impact
ED: Well, I wear it like a good vintage. Call me Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. It was a great year.
Laura: I get violent with this statement. Yes, I am aware that in a society that has increasingly placed weight on bodies, eating disorders are going to be prevalent. But normally, they are a manifestation of a bigger issue, which in my case was depression and anxiety. Imagine the eating disorder as being just the tip of the iceberg, and everything in the body of the iceberg is pretty much what’s going to kill you. IF you don’t believe me, ask the people from the Titanic. Oh right…
9.) Just get a boyfriend/girlfriend/pet
ED: Why didn’t I think about maybe not concentrating on me, and devoting all of my time on another person who will hopefully not bring me down?!
Laura: If you don’t love and respect yourself, you aren’t going to do that with others, and it would be awful if you lose friendships because you tried to substitute your own love and affection with theirs.
10.) You look so (fill in the blanks)!!!
ED: OH COOL! What I’m doing is working!
Laura: Sweet baby Jesus! Just abstain from tying “weight loss/gain” to body positivity. No matter what their size and color is, every single body is beautiful and interesting and it’s not your job to point out their beauty based on size.
The truth is I am tired.
I am tired of going to the gym and seeing that 15-16 year old with a full face of makeup wearing tiny outfits, looking like they want to ride more than the bike. Let me give you some simple insights: girls are mean and they are going to say things about you, no matter how you look like. So if you are going to make someone happy, make sure that person is yourself. Last but not least, men are simple creatures. They would much rather have you without all the makeup and all the fancy stuff, and they would rather see you in a pair of PJs, eating Ben and Jerry’s while you Netflix and chill with them.
It took me years to understand that the only person whose opinion mattered was mine.
Might as well love yourself in this ride called “your life.”
PS: For more information on recovery groups, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association. They provide counseling and group sessions for people at all stages of the recovery process as well as interventions.
For a great read on how to love yourself in spite of adversity:
- My life without ED – Jenni Schaefer (this book changed my life)
- Perfectly Imperfect – Harper Sloan (If you wish to love who you see on that mirror)
- Find your Strong – Cassy Roop (Personal Favorite)
- The last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish (If you want to laugh lots)
- Fugly – Mimi Pampiloff (If you want to believe in the happy ending)
Feel free to contact me through Cristin Harber if you have any questions, or if you just need help. This makes you human, NOT imperfect. Accepting something is not right is the first step towards recovery.
You is Kind
You is Smart
You is Important