I know what you’re thinking – she doesn’t look like she has an eating disorder. But wait, please tell me, what does an eating disorder look like? 4 out of 10 people have either personally experienced an eating disorder or know someone who has. This means that if there is 400 people in this audience, around 160 people have either had an eating disorder themselves or knows someone who has. I was one of those children who grew up thinking I would never get an eating disorder. Sure, I had low self-esteem but I loved food and I was overweight. I had a vision that those with eating disorders were underweight and starving. Just go onto google and type in words along the lines of ‘anorexia’ ‘eating disorder’ or ‘person suffering with an eating disorder’. I can guarantee the search engine will give you a woman severely underweight. You can see why I never thought I would get an eating disorder.
Then in August 2013, when I was just 15 years old, I was in for the shock of my life. I developed disordered eating unknown to me at the time. I thought I was just on a diet. I thought cutting calories was normal – that exercising for over 2 hours every day until I felt like I could faint was what healthy people did. This diet of mine consisted of restriction and starvation, excessive exercise and nearly a 5 stone weight loss that left me severely sick. People complimented me on my weight loss. I felt strong. The number on the scales determined my happiness for that day. If I wasn’t satisfied, I refused to eat. Food stopped being something I enjoyed. Foods like pizza, ice cream and take away instilled fear into me. I was so oblivious to what I was doing to myself. I couldn’t be ill because I wasn’t underweight. The fear of the food, the refusal to eat, the fainting, the chills running through my body and blue nails seemed normal. Normal because I was a normal weight. I lost 31% of my body weight within a 10 month period. To meet a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa a person must lose at least 15% of their body weight within a certain time period.
I was eventually diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa but by then the damage had been done. Doctors didn’t take me seriously because I was a normal weight for so long, but yet an eating disorder is defined as a ‘PSYCHOLOGICAL’ disorder that involves an abnormal ATTITUDE towards food and it is not based on weight. The weight loss of an eating disorder is merely a symptom and not the actual disorder itself. My view on food was set – I didn’t want it. Food was the scariest thing to me. I didn’t want to touch it – I definitely didn’t want to eat it. Eating in public or going out to restaurants was a no go. My health was already failing – I was exhausted and my mental health was declining rapidly. Food made me feel guilty, ashamed, fat. Every single part of the day revolved around food and I hated it. I couldn’t last a full day in college because I was so weak and exhausted to cope with it. I couldn’t concentrate or focus and thinking was difficult. My memory was awful. People kept telling me I was losing too much weight but to me I still felt and looked the same as I always did – severely overweight. I didn’t want to get dressed because I felt that I looked too fat in everything.
I’ve been in recovery for over a year and gaining back the weight was such an horrendous feeling. I had spent so much time chasing weightlessness that I didn’t know how to forge an identity for myself in a world where I was no longer thin. My metabolism was so ruined that even eating one thing would make me gain a few pounds. My body began holding onto every single thing I put into my mouth, whether it was healthy or not. The weight gain came fast and people always assume once you reach normal weight you’re fine. But I’m not fine, and I never was fine. A normal weight does not signify a normal mind. People look at me and assume that because I am a normal weight, I must be doing good. No one seemed to care anymore; now I looked as healthy as everyone else. You’re recovered. No, I’m not. I don’t look sick and physical exams would confirm that my body is healthy. But my mind isn’t. The truth is – Anorexia Nervosa is a disease that will truly never go away. Some days, even weeks, the thought of food is too much to bear and I don’t want to eat it. I’ll exercise excessively and feel so exhausted I can’t move, but I have good days – where food is amazing and it’s okay to miss a day of exercise. The point of this speech is that I want you to be mindful. I want you to be educated on eating disorders. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder that is defined by an abnormal attitude towards food. A person can develop Anorexia whether they are 18 stone or 8. One day I was overweight and the next I was struggling to stay alive after losing 31% of my body weight. Eating Disorders have no clear victim – they affect people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all weights, of all cultures, of all social class.
THIN is NOT the definition of an eating disorder but MENTAL ILLNESS, FEAR and DEATH ARE.