Before I start todays post I want to clear up the common misconceptions I come across in regards to people asking me “what exactly is an eating disorder?”.
1. An anorexic person doesn’t eat any food.
With no food we would die in a short period of time. Anorexia is the consumption of as little food as possible by the suffer. It is very common for an anorexic person to get consumed with calories and numbers. I had a calorie limit I wanted to eat and a max calorie limit. The sicker you get, the smaller the numbers get. Someone suffering with anorexia does not need to be skin and bones. They do not have to look sick to be suffering. Avoidance of food and obsession with numbers are the key signs to look for.
2. Bulimia. Someone who throws up the food they have ate.
Misconception is that bulimics only throw up after large meals. That is not always the case. That may be how it starts but quickly it turns into throwing up after every meal, then after everything that is consumed. I once made myself sick after a cereal bar. Again an individual does not have to “look sick” to be bulimic. Common signs, going to the bathroom straight after eating. Blood shot eyes and red knuckles from putting fingers back the throat to induce vomiting.
3.Binge eating disorder. Eating excessive amounts of food, even when not hungry.
Both bulimics and anorexics may also suffer with this. Binge eating does not always mean a high volume of food or unhealthy food. One could simply consume loads of peanut butter, bread, or any food that they feel they don’t have “control” over. As the pringles advert says “once you pop, you can’t stop”. It is that not being able to stop feeling you need to look out for.
As we discussed yesterday, eating disorders are more about a lack of control than they are about vanity. The person is suffering with an issue that effects their self esteem. For me it was the worthiness of love. Am I a loveable human being? I still struggle with that today. Bulimia, Anorexia, Binge eating disorder or any combination occurs to fill the emptiness inside of us. We are depressed. Starvation is a punishment, we are not deserving of food. Binge eating with or without purging is punishment. “I am so fat and disgusting, I might as well eat all the food, because that is all I do anyway, eat, eat, eat, get fatter and fatter”. It is also an attempt to fill a hole inside us that sadly can not be filled by food, drink or drugs. Purging is like a cleansing, you are bringing back up as much as possible of what you ate. It strains the body. Hurts the heart and eyes. Makes you feel weak. Allowing you to curl up and fall asleep. Sleeping the pain and your life away.
20% of people suffering with an eating disorder will die from their illness. That means if you know five people who suffer, one of them will die. I knew a lovely girl who died from heart failure. She was just 21 years old. I only like to mention my experiences, because I know them to be true. There is no debate then. No one can say “you are wrong”, I went through it, therefore it can happen. The health side effects I developed was hair loss, heart palpitations, low blood pressure, inflamed joints and damaged cartilage from over exercising, cavities (erosion from purging). I couldn’t take a bath because it hurt my bones to sit down on anything that didn’t have a cushion and I slept for 14+ hours a day simply due to the fact that I had no energy.
You just feel lonely all the time. No matter who is around. You do not love yourself so you look outside for validation but that validation is always fleeting and soon you are right back to hating yourself again. You feel like friends and family don’t understand and with some people, they feel like they don’t have the right to talk. They feel like they are complaining or that their happiness doesn’t matter so why bother bringing it up? One way to get more validation is to set yourself “Rules” these rules are really punishments, but once we make ourselves suffer enough, we give ourselves a break, and that is twisted into a feeling of self acceptance. A rule could be, X amount of hours fasted, calories ate, or foods to be avoided at all times. When these rules are met we reward ourselves with some food. Less harsh criticism, maybe even give ourselves a compliment. Then it’s straight back to the rules again. However, if we break them, that can be horrific. The belittling things we say to ourselves, things we would never say to another human being.
Depression plays a huge part in all eating disorders and I feel it is greatly overlooked. Ireland doesn’t have the best treatment centres. America is leaps and bounds ahead of us. These places seem to focus on getting the persons weight up. Yes it is important to gain more weight so one doesn’t die, but most people relapse when they get out requiring them to have to go back in and that is because once they get out, they are back to reality. None of the emotional issues that caused the eating disorder to develop in the first place were addressed. The person is back under stress and loses all the weight again. Making it a more vicious cycle. Counselling should be the main focus, then weight gain.
Tomorrow I will be discussing the effects fad diets, the media and society has on our body image. Until then, keep talking, keep breaking the silence. ~ Love Roxy