It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and as someone who is almost 16 months into recovery from anorexia, there are a minimum of two things I would love for you to be aware of. Ready?
- Anorexia is not a body disorder. It’s a mental disorder. I didn’t go into recovery because I was severely underweight. I went into recovery because of my compulsive behaviors and thought patterns that were based on distorted beliefs about my body and food. Specifically, I was struggling with:
- Strict food rules–constructed from our health industry’s “healthy habits”
- Food restriction/skipping meals
- Food anxiety–counting calories in/out, panic attacks, social avoidance
- Controlling other people’s food– especially my family–what they ate, how much they ate, if they ate, when they ate
- Distorted body image–(though I was underweight I typically “saw” fat when I (constantly) looked in the mirror
- Addiction to the scale/working out–I experienced physical anger or despair if I couldn’t work out; I experienced literal withdrawals when my scale was taken away from me.
- Abusive self-talk–I verbally chastised, disciplined, and scolded myself about food decisions, cravings, and lack of control. I even called myself horrific names.
This is what anorexia looked like for me, beyond my physical symptoms. Please know that you can be at a normal weight and still exhibit disordered behaviors and thoughts. Eating disorders are mental health illnesses. It’s important to get help no matter what size you are!
2. Be mindful of what you teach your kids about food. It is 100% NOT okay for any of us to be in each others’ food. It’s even worse for children to be judging and commenting on each others’ food. I deal with this on a daily basis with my daughter (7 years old) who comes home and says:
“C and J said my lunch looked like barf.”
“L said candy makes our butts fat. She gave all her candy away.”
“H said I shouldn’t eat that because it has sugar.”
“I’m afraid to take this soup for lunch because H and L will say it’s gross.”
When I ask how these comments make her feel, her response:
“It makes me feel like I can’t eat it.”
If you shame yourself and judge others about food, so will your kids shame themselves and judge others. Shame is contagious and dangerous.
If I die tomorrow, I’d want to leave you with this:
Turn off the media–all of it. Instead, listen to your body. It knows what it wants and needs and will ask for it. Your body needs ALL the nutrients including sugar, carbs, and fat. Eat what sounds good and you’ll be perfectly healthy in a body that is perfectly right for you.
If you struggle with food, dieting habits, and body relationship and you’re wondering if you need help, start here: http://nedawareness.org/about
For more information about eating disorders and resources go here: http://www.getcenteredcounseling.com/eating-disorder-resources/