Anyone who has ever dealt with an eating disorder knows the struggle of coping with the accompanying confusion. On one hand, you are fully committed to attaining your version of a “perfect” body, or exercising control, and on the other hand, you hate that you are hurting yourself and potentially hurting those around you. You may want to get better and face the issue head on, but contradictingly, you may also want to keep your disorder a secret so that it can continue on, uninterrupted. When you are in the thick of an eating disorder, it can feel nearly impossible to see outside your own convoluted body ideals. This is something I experienced firsthand as a young teenager, and although it has been a few years since things were at their worst, I still struggle with “disordered eating” on a day-to-day basis. This begs the questions: are eating disorders ever really gone? What can we do to dispel them as well as possible, allowing ourselves to lead healthy, body-positive lives?
Although getting rid of all remnants of an eating disorder once and for all seems futile, there are plenty of things a person can do to create a generally positive mindset regarding their weight. It is extremely important to find someone you can confide in during your recovery. This person could be a friend, a parent, or a therapist, as long as they have the ability to be there for you in your times of need.
For me, finding a trusted person with whom I could speak about my disorder was the most difficult part, because it meant drawing attention to my unhealthy habits. However, it was also one of the most important parts of dispeling my eating disorder, as it gave me someone to confide in and receive support from. It also forced me to hold myself accountable and confront the origins of my disorder.
Helping a friend or loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder is also a truly difficult feat, and it is important to remain understanding and nonjudgmental during the process. Even more important, though, is maintaining your friend’s safety. If you feel like the situation is urgent and maybe even fatal, it is essential to encourage your friend to receive help from a professional.
Since eating disorders are illnesses that manifest in obsession with one’s appearance, it is easy for anyone without any knowledge on the subject to ignorantly assume anorexia, bulimia, and other related conditions are vain, but it is important to remember that eating disorders almost always stem from some bigger, underlying cause. They cannot be treated without deep exploration of oneself. I am of the belief that eating disorders never completely go away. Although this sounds pessimistic, I think it is realistic to realize that body dysmorphia fluctuates; at one point, a person might feel happy and comfortable in their own skin, and the next day, or even a couple hours later, these feelings could be completely different.
For me, the real evidence of my healed eating disorder is the awareness that my version of my body is different from the real thing, the body everyone else sees. Even more so is my desire to be healthy, exercise, and eat well so that I am treating my body with respect, not so I can look a certain way.
Photo by Emma Jane Haas