I stare at the clock. Tick… tick… tick. Without even realizing it, I’ve spent three hours checking and double-checking what I’ve eaten throughout the day. I’ll do better tomorrow, I promise myself. Tomorrow comes and I find myself trapped in the same vicious cycle. Hours spent weighing myself numerous times a day and excessively exercising. World Eating Disorders Action Day takes place on 2 June. The aim is to expand global awareness of eating disorders as genetically linked, treatable illnesses that do not discriminate. Eating disorders impact people across gender, age, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, ability, class and so on. The good news is, eating disorder recovery is possible.
The roller coaster
What most people don’t realize is an eating disorder often extends beyond issues with food. Each day can feel like you’re trapped on a roller coaster you don’t even know you’re on. Let alone know how to get off. This can be exhausting. I had a constant, incessant internal monologue running through my mind telling me nothing I did was good enough. This was psychological torture. The eating disorder voice berated every decision I made. Regardless of whether that decision was about food, exercise, or something else.
While I can pinpoint the inception of my clinically diagnosable eating disorder to when I was 15-years-old, the roots of my illness were planted long before
the eating disorder behaviors took hold. I turned to starving myself and later to bingeing and other self-destructive behaviors such as over exercising. Because I didn’t have access to resources that could enable me to better manage my anxiety and experiences with trauma. I didn’t have the language
to describe what I was experiencing.
My eating disorder was not an exercise in vanity or a way to simply lose weight in a fat-phobic world. My eating disorder, like all eating disorders, was a mental illness. Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.
The National Eating Disorders Collaboration states that combined, eating disorders and disordered eating are estimated to impact over 16% of the Australian population. Both binge eating disorders and other specified feeding or eating disorders are most common. They affect an estimated 6% and 5% of Australians respectively. Additionally, AN and bulimia nervosa each occur in less than 1% of the general Australian population. Mortality is five times higher in individuals with AN than the general population according to recent estimates.
Contrary to popular belief, an eating disorder is not a choice. For me, recovering from an eating disorder was.
Recovery was and is an active, life-saving opportunity in the wake of a deadly, evil disease.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, as first steps, see your GP, seek counselling and speak to eating disorder specialists. These actions may also be helpful for eating disorder recovery:
- Work one-on-one with an eating disorder coach who’s had first-hand experience with an eating disorder and is able to create a safe and non- judgmental space for you to express your feelings.
- Daily journaling as this can allow you to make discoveries about who you\truly are and help you to work through your thoughts.
- Throw the scale out and stop weighing yourself. Not having numbers controlling your day will make a huge difference to your mental state and allow you to focus on what is really important to you.
Choosing Eating Disorder Recovery
I am a big believer that your relationship with food is a direct reflection of your relationship with life. Food can be a beautiful doorway to a deeper
understanding of yourself. Learning to re-frame my relationship with food was a big part of my journey. This took a couple of years, but I am so
happy with where I am today – mentally, physically and spiritually. I’ve mastered the art of being my own best friend and making self-care a priority.
I do not weigh myself anymore and I do not allow fear to guide my food choices. Today I eat healthy food because I love my body. And because I have a newfound respect for this beautiful vehicle that allows me to experience life.
Each day we have a choice to be honest about how we are feeling and whether or not to take care of ourselves.
I now choose to stay connected with friends and family, to get out of my head, and practice being vulnerable. Because I understand complete control is not possible, my energy has been freed up so that I can enjoy life.
Of course, it’s normal for me to have days when I criticize every part of my body. But I believe this is a part of the healing process. I practice gratitude
and quiet the shame that drove my eating disorder. I am fortunate to have worked through my illness and am now dedicated to supporting people who
are going through similar struggles.
Honesty and transparency are part of recovery.
For more information about eating disorders, including warning signs and how to find support and help, call the Butterfly Foundation: 1-800-33-4673. Alternatively, visit their website.