Thursday, September 22, 2011

a post about eating disorders

For those on here that don't know: I used to have an eating disorder. One that consumed me from the ages fourteen until eighteen. Anorexia Nervosa, to be specific. But I spent so long having to talk about it in the out-patient program, then to my friends and family afterwards, that I soon tired of mentioning it, and from there it didn’t take long until I tired of thinking about it as well.

But I saw a program on television a little while ago that brought it all to the forefront of my mind again. The program was like all others, trying to decipher exactly why people stop eating. The media is almost always blamed. The size of models, the obsession with looks, and the unhealthy eating habits that is often encouraged with articles like ‘I lost 6 kilos in 3 days!’ And I agree that this sort of attitude that is currently pervasive in society is detrimental. And I believe that it can contribute to people abusing food and their bodies.

But it is not the cause of eating disorders. I certainly never wanted to be a model; I found the whole idea shallow and quite frankly, boring. And I knew that I looked worse the more weight I lost, when looks from boys turned from interested to scared or amused at the sight of my now emancipated frame. The other girls in my out-patient program felt the same way. For us, it was never about looks, it was never about trying to be beautiful. It was so much deeper than that.

I went into the program in 2005, when the buzz surrounding the media hadn’t quite picked up yet. At that time the theory was that girls (the focus was mainly on girls; the theories surrounding boys were completely different) stopped eating because they were scared of growing up and developing woman’s bodies. But the thing is, yes we were scared of growing up, but we were scared of everything. We had looked ourselves in this tiny safe bubble, become more and more segregated from the outside world, until soon anything outside our bubble terrified us.

The theory that we were scared only of our changing bodies did not last very long, thank goodness.
And just like that theory is now null and void, the theory that the media causes eating disorders will soon pass too, and another one will take its place; one formed through studies and interviews conducted by professionals. But they will always be wrong.Because when it comes down to it, the answer as to why eating disorders occur is so much simpler than anyone would dare to believe.

Happy people don’t stop eating.

Happy people don’t starve themselves to the point of hospitalisation.

I was sad, and the other girls in the group were sad. This unhappiness could have been manifested in a variety of ways, such as drug or alcohol abuse, self-harm etc. But this was the path that we just happened to go down. Telling people with eating disorders to learn to feel beautiful, doing a lot of ‘love your body’ work, is simply fixing a problem on the surface. The reasons behind it all are much further down; outside appearance is just another issue amid a myriad of issues that these girls are facing.

Because of this, we need to realise that we can’t put all people with eating disorders into one box, with one idea for treatment. People are sad for a multitude of reasons, and we need to recognise this. Those with eating disorders are so completely different from one another, in a way that current theories do not recognise, and as such, need completely different approaches when beginning recovery.

But the first step will always be the same: Ask them why. Ask them why they stopped eating; ask them why they are sad. Instead of pulling out a textbook and making assumption.

If we recognise that each person is different, and adjust treatment to suit the individual, then the road to recovery may become a whole lot shorter, and we may be a whole lot closer to really understanding than we are at the moment. Jumping from scapegoat to scapegoat is not helping anybody, particularly those who need our help the most.

33 comments:

cricketfreak said...

You're an inspiration to girls everywhere.

Hazel said...

Thank you for sharing this. It never occured to me that it could be caused by other things. I naively thought they occured because girls wanted to look like a certain model etc :(

Sabrina said...

Wow I had no idea but it makes perfect sense. Happy people don't stop eating. I'm glad you're okay now though, and thanks for the eye opener.

~BB~ said...

thank you for sharing. More girls suffer from eating disorders than people realize, for more reasons than people realize. I can't imagine the battle it must have been for you...

ellie said...

I do agree with you about everyone being different, about this issue. Especially, with eating habits. Some are so specific in what they eat, early on. Like I have a friend who's so thin..but she only eats cheese. She can't eat veggies or fruit.

And..then there are those, like me, who only dated a guy because she lost weight when he was in her life. Intoxication, perhaps. This new high. Silly..I know. But he found it troubling later, too. Because when he was around me, he always wanted a burger.

But I think deep down, there is this satisfaction we have that we are in control..when we don't eat. Its like a certain strength consumes us.

We are all so complex.

I'm glad you posted about this.

Gentri said...

Thank you for this. I'd never looked at it like this before. What an important thing to know.

lucy and sarah said...

Great post. Very insightful. Thanks for doing this. It is a subject we can all relate too. Some may have this problem, and not even realize it.

Depriving ourselves now, might endanger you body to other things later on in life. Even diabetes. Of course, I'm sure no one thinks of that at the time, how we are adjusting the body to extreme low blood sugar, then have it come back years later as something completely the opposite. We aren't thinking how we might be making the body old by what we do to it now.

Mary Grace said...

Wow. I think this might be one of the best posts that you've written. Honest and straight from the heart.

ana said...

thanks for sharing.. i have struggled with being good enough too. . i wish i were as honest as you however.

http://thebookisaworld.blogspot.com/2011/09/post-about-happiness.html

Norwegian Señorita said...

Thank you for sharing! I had never thought of it that way before, but it makes perfect sense! Such an insightful post. Thank you, and glad to hear you got through it!

Rachana said...

You showed me a whole new perspective!

becky said...

This is one of my favourite posts of yours. It has the right mixture of personality and blunt, blunt perspective--of someone having been there, of someone understanding.

I posted a similar thing on Meg's wall the other day--about an understanding of eating disorders being a culmination of these things. I think there is a lot of sad "fad" attributed to eating disorders: a badge of honour that many girls wear to emphasise that they have been troubled--that they have gone through this. But they haven't--because real eating disorders, diseases that are compulsive and consumptive and a fabric of the being, are not paraded like that. They can be likened and explained by the media--they can, indeed, be worsened by it. But I wholeheartedly agree it is NOT their cause: I think their cause, as you say, is far more internal. You are disposed to manifest it in that way or not. I think the approach taken to these sorts of things is often too much of a banner--they are large, vague sweeping statements of proposed understanding. But the heart of the matter--the truth of it--is that every single case is different. Person centred therapy--person centred understanding and care and concern--is, I believe, the way forward. I think that goes for every mental illness, too. Talk to the person. Treat them AS a person--not a textbook or a case study.

Thank-you for being so coherent and clear and upstanding about this. You're always discussing important issues--and it's wonderful, so wonderful, that you are happy to share.

Anna said...

'Happy people don't stop eating', I felt quite tearful when I read that. Poor girls. Poor people.
X

demie said...

thats a very good post !

Missy said...

This hits close to home. My closest friend suffered from anorexia (and bulimia.) We were far from family. I was her only friend, and she mine. I always felt that if I could be more fun, she would be happier.. if I could do more, say the right things, be more supportive, she would be get better.

keishua said...

thank you for sharing your story. it has definitely giving me something to think about.

SJ said...

thank you for sharing this kaylia, you've summed it up so perfectly. i went to school with a few people who were hospitalised with eating disorders and i knew it could never just have been about looking at skinny girls in Dolly magazine.

Bonnie said...

I think you beat me in the bad-ass competition. You are such an inspiration, and I admire you so much for what you have been through. I love that you are brave enough to share this with everyone, too.

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

Deidre said...

So very true. My college roommate had an eating disorder and hers was both sadness and a fight for control. She felt the only thing she could really control was what she put in her body.

People are always fighting so hard to tell everyone to be their own unique little flower or whatever, but then end up lumping us all together as soon as possible with overarching answers to problems.

Poppies and Sunshine said...

Such a good post!! Thank you for sharing your ideas and insight.

Autumn said...

My sister has a horrible eating disorder hers has nothing to do with being thin or fat and it is killing her. She hoards food and is well over 400 pounds.

Thanks for sharing.

Brandi {not your average ordinary} said...

Kaylia, this post was incredible. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I've struggled with an eating disorder too, but mine took the form of binging and while my body was never at either extreme, such things do take a toll on you. I really admire you, especially for going to get the help when you needed it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.
After reading the comments from others I was quite surprised that something as small as a blog post could be so informative and so enlightening to so many people.
I've struggled with an eating disorder so I empathise with everything you wrote and understand it to a 'T'. I'm so happy for you that you are past those days - you must have so much strength and determination.
Take care :)

Aquí said...

this is very inspiring! I had no idea this was something you once struggled with. I like your blog because you cover a lot of ground here about women's perceptions of themselves, hang-ups, set back and all the things that real people face. Thank you for being an inspiration and I'm so glad you found light to bring you out of that dark time!

Chelsea Lane said...

I. Like. That. You. Posted. This. Hardcore.

xoxo

Eleanor at Mirror Of My World said...

wow sweetheart thank you so much for sharing this, it is so brave of you to share this knowledge to us. i totally agree with you, every person is different and every person has differing reasons why they develop an eating disorder. you must be so strong to have got over that! xxxxxxxxxxx

Lipsy said...

This was an eye opener indeed...great post got to know so much about eating habits and disorders and how complex life we as girls live and get caught by such diseases!!

Ashley said...

Good post. I have a friend who is a therapist and has worked with eating disorder patients. She told me that those patients all had straight As, and usually also had some OCD issues. These were girls that were very much about finding control in their lives while everything else was falling down around them. Very interesting.

kimbirdy said...

i am so glad you wrote about this. i am a therapist working at a residential home for people with eating disorders and i am CONSTANTLY explaining to people that eating disorders have nothing to do with food or body image. yes, anxiety around food and poor body image are involved, but they are merely tiny pieces of a very large puzzle. after seeing dozens of people with ED come through our doors, i've learned that it's the never the same from person to person. there are all sorts of reasons why people develop eating disorders and there are all sorts of thoughts and feelings that accompany ED with each individual. it's really just like depression or anxiety - it all comes from a different place for each person. and sure, our media doesn't help things AT ALL, but it's certainly not to blame. thank you for your honesty here, and i really hope you are in a good place after all these years of recovery.

Jo said...

"Happy people don't stop eating." Wow. Those few words say so much! This is so insightful and so well written. Thank you for posting this.
xox

Ashley Nixon said...

Wow. I'm so...glad I read this. I'm in a body image class that assumes everything you said was just wrong. This is definitely an eye-opener.

Alissa said...

Thank you very much for sharing this. I'm a first time reader on your blog and was like, "Yes! An ED post!" You see, in addition to working as a counselor in an ED treatment center I'm also in recovery from one myself. I think you're right about how easy it is to get all theoretical and scientific about issues like EDs...but there's so much power in asking questions and listening. In not making assumptions.

So yes, a great reminder, thank you!

Anonymous said...

An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast due to the fact that I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your blog.

My website; weight loss forum