Feb. 21, 2022
By Lily Malinowski
Today marks the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It is an annual campaign to educate the public about the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support and visibility to individuals and families affected by eating disorders.
There is a lot of information about eating disorders that many people may not know. An eating disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by eating, exercise and body weight or shape. There are several different types of eating disorders, the most common ones being anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia and orthorexia.
Anorexia develops from a fear of gaining weight, which can lead to undereating, overly exercising and abnormal weight loss. Binge eating disorder is classified as feeling out of control around food, frequently consuming unusually large amounts of food in one sitting and eating past satiety and fullness. Bulimia is a disorder in which one also consumes unusually large amounts of food followed by an effort to rid their bodies of the extra calories by purging (self-induced throwing up, fasting, excessive exercise or misusing laxatives). Finally, orthorexia is a disruptive obsession with living a healthy lifestyle and removing any “unhealthy” foods from a diet.
These disorders can stem from many different causes and are not limited to any specific age, body weight or gender. While women make up the majority of those struggling with eating disorders, one in three affected individuals are men. About 9% of the worldwide population is affected by the illness. It is among the deadliest mental disorders, killing over 10,000 people per year.
Teenagers are especially vulnerable to developing eating disorders because social media has set unrealistic expectations and made teens feel as if they aren’t good enough.
Recovery is an extremely difficult process that requires mental strength, therapy and time.
In my own experiences, I allowed these unrealistic expectations to affect my self-love and confidence, which caused me to resort to unhealthy methods to try to fit into the standards I believed were desirable. I have struggled through more than one disorder, from body dysmorphia to binge eating disorder, which then developed into anorexia and later bulimia.
Going through these illnesses took a toll on much more than what I expected it to. Not only did I have to suffer the physical side effects like being unable to focus, feeling fatigued, losing hair and losing my menstrual cycle, but it took a serious toll on my mental health, relationships and schoolwork.
An eating disorder does not define who you are. It is like a separate identity or voice in your head that, in many cases, overpowers the individual and takes control over their life and the decisions they make.
The most important thing to have in recovery from an eating disorder is a strong support system. Recovery is an extremely difficult process that requires mental strength, therapy and time. It may take a few weeks, months or even years. It is not just a simple fix.
It is also important to seek help no matter what point you are at. It is common to feel as if your illness is not valid or real; disordered eating habits may not seem like a big deal at first, but it is crucial to try to prevent something even more serious from developing in the future.
Disordered eating starts to become apparent when food becomes something more than just fuel. If it becomes something you always think about, try to avoid or have an obsession for, you should not be afraid to talk to someone you trust and ask for help.
There is so much negativity and an unlimited amount of false expectations out there, which have an unfortunate influence on people. Therefore, spreading positivity and awareness is not something that should only be focused on during this week. It is something that should be made an effort to do all of the time.
Recovery is possible. It may seem impossible at first, and the disordered thoughts will never fully go away, but powering through those bad thoughts and making an effort to be honest with yourself and your team can go a long way.