If you saw me in the grocery store, you wouldn’t think I have an eating disorder. I look healthy. I have curves. Some might even judge me to have a nice figure. But what you don’t see is that I’ve already been to the gym twice, and I’m planning on going a third time today.
I’ve weighed myself five times already, and I’m frustrated with the number on the scale. I didn’t eat breakfast, and I threw up my lunch. All of these things are easy to hide. You cannot tell just by looking at someone if they have a disordered relationship with food.
ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, reports that at least 30 million people (of all ages and genders) in the United States alone suffer from eating disorders, and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
What most people don’t see is that an eating disorder isn’t just about the food. It’s about having a second voice inside your head, constantly criticizing you for how much you weigh and how you look, even if you’re at a healthy weight and you look just fine.
My critic tells me to wear clothes that are two sizes too big because that’s probably what actually fits anyway. She calls me horrible names like “fat ass” and “lazy bitch.” She tells me I’m unlovable. In the same breath, she’ll tell me I might as well eat everything and get fat and starve myself so that people will love and accept me.
This voice in my head is loud and powerful. It’s a lot like being in an abusive relationship with myself – with no chance of escape. The best I can do is counteract it with positive self talk.
I have learned to treat my eating disorder like my addiction. The scary part is, I have to literally feed my addiction three to five times a day. I can’t not eat. I can’t eat too much. Exercise is good for me but only so much. Every day is a test, a battle against a demon I don’t have the strength to fight on my own.
Fortunately, I’m not alone. I’ve found help in Eating Disorders Anonymous. It’s a twelve step program that works a lot like AA. The fellowship I find there is a huge help. Just knowing I’m not alone helps me feel stronger.
This is also a helpful resource: Bulimia.com
When I started looking for treatment options, I found this site full of useful information. They also offer a list of reputable hotlines that are available to anyone who is looking for help – from those who are in crisis to those who need help getting through a meal.
Even when I’m maintaining a healthy diet (and not purging it) and exercise program, I still struggle with a constant mental calculation of calories in minus calories out. I still fight the urge to purge after eating pizza or pasta. I never eat dessert. This battle is intensely private for me. Reaching out for help when I need it is one of the most difficult things I can ever do.