What’s Eating You? Eating Disorders Unfiltered

Alondra, Contributor

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“I was bringing myself closer to my death,” Ana recalls four years after defeating anorexia and bulimia. She wishes she was aware of the risks before putting her body through the dangers.

    Ana had always been petite, but in 2012 when she was a freshman, she became a victim of eating disorders. She started to become more self-conscious and aware of the way her body looked, after seeing all the models the media glorified so often. Ana decided to eat healthier and work out, but the process was taking too long, desperate for results she turned to anorexia and bulimia.

There are currently 30 million people who suffer from eating disorders in the U.S alone. The most common ones tend to be anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is when an individual restricts the food and amount of calories consumed per day; at times they can completely cut it off. Bulimia is when an individual binge eats then proceeds to vomit it all. While eating disorders may not seem as dangerous, they have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, women are more prone to eating disorders than men. After speaking to a therapist, she agree and said, “women are just more concerned about their body image rather than men. Most of my patients tend to be girls in their teens”. She added, “Social media is a big factor when it comes to it. It’s always full of people who are fit or skinny, and when looking at it, it can affect the way an individual feels about themselves”. Social media is what impacted Ana the most, Ana pointed out, “You look at magazines, social media, commercials and it’s always a skinny girl on the cover, it’s the skinny girls that walk the runway. The media is so good about subconsciously formulating this idea in your head that being skinny equals acceptance and success.”. That was precisely what Ana wanted; she wanted to feel acceptance from herself. She wanted herself to be happy with the way her body looked, but it was never enough. Every time Ana thought she was pleased with her body, she would see a thinner model. This would eventually cause Ana to feel disgusted about herself, and she would fall deeper into her disorders.

Although wanting to look like the models on the media was one of her most significant attributes, Ana also saw eating disorders as a getaway from reality. She claims, “I just felt like it was an escape from whatever was going on in my life like rather than focusing my energy on the problems that were happening in my family or at school, I would dedicate all that energy to what I thought was bettering myself.” What exactly did she mean by bettering herself? Ana said “I thought that by dieting and exercising I was making myself a better person, but then things got out of control. I went from only eating healthy foods to completely cutting all foods. I’d starve myself a majority of the time, and I would exercise like a maniac.” this caused more damage rather than good. Ana was severely underweight, her hair and nails were very brittle, and most of the time her body was fragile and swollen. Apart from the physical damage, Ana’s mental health was also affected. She reported, “I felt very depressed and full of self-hate and self-doubt.” This caused her to fall behind on many things; Ana didn’t have the energy for school, her grades suffered as well as her attendance. She wouldn’t spend as much time with family, and whenever she did, she was always timid.

The amount of weight Ana was losing was very noticeable, but yet she felt that no one noticed or even wondered. Ana herself didn’t think much of it. When asked if she knew what she was doing, she replied “Yes I knew what was happening, but it never crossed my mind that what I was doing was not okay or healthy. It seemed normal to me; I mean you look about what the media tells us about beauty. So yea I didn’t think that my eating habits and lifestyle were wrong, there was a whole industry of successful people backing me up”. Ana also told me, “I don’t think those around me were aware of what I was going on because it’s something that went on for years. My friend would always compliment me or envy my body but never showed concerned or thought to look deeper into what exactly was I doing to have that body. Same with my family, they would tell me that I needed to eat more, but it never went further than that.” With the compliments she would receive Ana felt happy, she felt accomplished. But if it was ever mentioned that Ana was too skinny, she would get furious and insulted.

Eating disorders are not easy to recover from, and everyone’s recovery process is different. Ana’s parents took her to doctors and therapists after finding out. They saw this as a way to help her and also speed the recovery process. They also became more aware of what she would do. Ana explained, “The recovery took years. There was a lot of relapses. If something triggered me, I would fall right back. We’re given all these reasons to dislike ourselves, but no one ever teaches us about self-love. I had to learn to love myself and recreate a healthy relationship with food.” Luckily for Ana, she got the support and help she needed, but that’s not the case for many. Ana is just thankful that she was able to overcome this before things got too dangerous.

Looking back now Ana thinks it was unjustified of her to look at the models as inspiration. She states “The same individuals that the media portrays so often are fighting their demons, eating disorders being one of them.” While the models do have a beautiful body, the risks that come with having that body are just too dangerous. Instead, she preaches, “Beauty is not defined by the number on the scale or the size of your clothing. Learn to love yourself, and it’ll be alright”.

           As of 2019, Ana is healthier now, and her eating habits have improved. However she admits, “I still struggle with self-love, and it’s something I constantly work on.”