Friday, March 29, 2013

Why I don’t talk about my eating disorder

{Photo taken by my hero and husband, Craig}

As you probably already know, I struggle with an eating disorder.  I will probably struggle to keep a positive body image for the rest of my a miracle...which I am still praying for...

However, by the grace of God, I am not practicing any eating disorder habits.  I call it “practicing” because, to a person with any kind of eating disorder, there are two parts to the disease: thought and action (or inclination and habit, to be more specific).  Personally, I am still battling the eating disorder “thoughts” daily.  However, I am not habitually practicing any of the eating disorder "actions" for the time being.  I guess you could say my eating disorder is in remission.

Even though I have made great progress in the recovery department, I never will disclose the details of my eating disorder.  I choose not to talk about it for two reasons.  First of all, it is difficult to bring up those sad things of my past.  God has already forgiven me, why go there again?  The only important thing is that I never want to go back to the way I was.
And second, even if I would be comfortable talking about it, I will never share specifics because, I believe, the details can be harmful to other people.  When I was in the pits of despair, I looked for ways to become a “better” anorexic or better at my eating disorder in general.  People tried to help me by telling me their stories and sharing their own difficult journeys with eating disorders.  I even went to a few AA groups for eating disorders.  But the nature of my eating disorder was competitive.  In group, I could only be validated if I “one upped” the other.

A common symptom when you have an eating disorder is, essentially, you don’t think you deserve to take up space.  So in order to deserve to be somewhere, anywhere, even at the eating disorder recovery meeting, I had to prove it.  I felt like I was taking up someone else's space that needed to be there more than me.  I had to prove that my eating disorder was bad enough to merit help.  You see, I didn’t understand that ALL eating disorders are VERY dangerous.  I thought that if I was to receive a grade for my eating disorder, I would get a D+, maybe a C- at best.  I thought that only A+ anorexics could get help.

But, nonetheless, the disease was so overrun in my body that I actually used my peer's experiences to learn and develop more dangerous habits.  You see, I essentially wanted to go to the fringes of death because I wanted to be the best anorexic in the world.  I had absolutely zero self-worth.  By hearing people talk about their eating disorders, I would only hear them bragging and gloating about all the “incredible” feats they accomplished while practicing an eating disorder.  Instead of scaring me, I was encouraged.
In one desperate attempt to get help, I read a book about a young girl’s journey with an eating disorder. The book was meant to shock and stun and probably to scare anyone out of practicing an eating disorder. However, I saw it as a challenge. “At least you are not that bad”, a doctor would say. And I thought, “oh yeah, watch me”.

I don’t want to enable anyone else in their eating disorder.  In a culture that already breeds body-bashing, I feel like I would only be adding fuel to the fire.

The best thing you can do for someone with an eating disorder, and maybe the only thing you can do if you are not a professional, is to have healthy eating habits yourself.  Do not take this lightly.

If you want to help someone heal from an eating disorder, rid the twisted eating disorders from yourself.

That means, no more diets, no more talking about weight, calories, fat, etc.  The mere mention of appearance, good or bad, can cause a downward spiral in eating disorder recovery.  Do not gawk at skinny people or overweight people.  Do not body-bash.  Do not comment on appearance and weight, even if it is a compliment.  There can be absolutely NO association between self-worth and appearance, hands down.

If you are personally struggling with an eating disorder, stay away from people who can’t stop talking about appearance or weight.  Surround yourself with people who have positive body images and severely limit your time spent with friends who are on a diet, at least in the beginning.

I am a recovering “diet-oholic”.  For me, dieting is like a recovering alcoholic taking a sip of whiskey.  It is a dangerous choice and not one without major repercussions.  For me, hanging out with dieters who constantly talk about food, healthy lifestyles, etc. is like an alcoholic hanging out at a bar.  It is an unwise decision and should be carefully discerned.

We must take this seriously.  We live in a society that promises three out of every four girls will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life.  Think before you speak.  Educate yourself on the statistics.  Be compassionate.  Be there to listen.  And pray.  We must never stop praying.  We can do this!  I truly believe that we can raise a new generation of women who know and feel loved and cherished for who they are no matter what they look like.

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