Trigger Warning: Eating disorders mentioned.
As human beings, we strive to be as comfortable as possible. So why are so many young girls starving themselves for days on end, exercising until they collapse, eat until their stomachs ache, and vomit every morsel they consume? Discussions about food, diets, exercise, and body image flood our society and have become a major topic amongst us. Oftentimes this is the bait used to lure in young girls into an eating disorder. The belief that one can eat whatever they like as long as they purge afterwards can be alluring to a vast majority of young women. Over-exercising, extreme diets, and fasting may also catch the eye of some who are struggling to reach the “ideal body type” that society has presented. But many of these young individuals have no idea about the dangers that can arise from these actions and how quickly they can consume your life.
There are a number of eating disorders that infect our society and damage the lives of those of all ages and genders. Anorexia is an obsessive desire to lose weight and involves restricting caloric intake, over-exercising, being obsessed with weight and diets, and an extreme fear of weight gain. Bulimia involves a distortion of body image and once again, an obsessive desire to lose weight. Those suffering from bulimia will overeat and make themselves vomit afterwards, feeling guilty and depressed about their overeating. Those who binge will overeat and feel a lack of control while doing so, oftentimes feeling guilty and depressed afterwards. Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy. Although this may seem contradictory, those suffering with this disorder will restrict certain foods, reduce their caloric intake, and over-exercise. Although similar to anorexia, those suffering from orthorexia will attempt to have the “perfect diet” and exclude all “bad foods.” Our bodies are not designed to completely cut out certain foods such as sugars, carbs, etc. There are so many other eating disorders that millions suffer from, finding themselves in a constant loop. These extreme measures can have serious damaging effects to our bodies, making it difficult or even impossible to ever recover from.
Eating disorders have many more physical repercussions than passing out and can do damage to your body that can never be fixed. Muscles will break down, pulse and blood pressure drop, and the risk for heart failure increases. Your period may stop, and some may experience infertility and will never bear children. Those suffering from bulimia will develop scars on their hands, experience tooth decay, throat and facial swelling, etc. Eating disorders also cause problems in your digestive system. Some may develop stomach ulcers or other damages to their stomachs. Those overusing laxatives may develop painful haemorrhoids in the digestive tract. Those with anorexia may experience hair loss, kidney failure, anaemia, and their body will begin to reject solid foods and they may need to go to the hospital to be force-fed through tubes. At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the US. Every 62 minutes, someone dies from an eating disorder, making this the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These disorders are highly competitive, meaning that people will attempt to restrict more so than others, making these disorders far more dangerous.
Ever since I was a little girl I have struggled with various eating disorders, binging when I was young, to then a combination of orthorexia, anorexia, and bulimia in my teenage years. These disorders consumed my life, making it a challenge to climb out of bed in the morning and experiencing an overbearing weight of guilt if I did eat that day. Because of my disorders I have gained and lost countless pounds, from being overweight throughout my childhood, to my spine sticking out like a string of beads during my teenage years. My digestive system doesn’t work as well as it used to, I developed scars on my hands from purging, and most days my throat was sore. Some days I couldn’t stomach much and I was unable to digest certain foods. I allowed myself to get competitive within my disorders and attempted to go more days without eating or eat fewer calories than someone else. There were days when I didn’t even want to drink water and see that number on the scale rise just an ounce. I spent most days in bed and it became embarrassing to hang out with friends because I couldn’t walk as fast as them or I would have to stop and rest time and time again. I would exercise in my room for hours late at night, being as quiet as possible so my family wouldn’t hear. This led to me feeling lightheaded most days and even passing out a number of times. I struggle to consume anything without feeling nauseous and experience severe stomach pains most days. Some days I wake up and am sick, throwing up all day and unable to eat. I struggle digesting certain foods and will sometimes make myself vomit out of fear of waking up sick the next day if I fail to empty my stomach. I get bloated easily and my period skips some months. I had to quit doing a number of things that I enjoyed, including my job; I would pass out and get sick most days, I was physically unable to perform the tasks that were required.
I long for the days when I didn’t obsess over my figure or diet as I do now. I miss being able to eat anything I wanted and not fear how I would feel the next day. I’ll admit that I’m not perfect now and still have hard days battling against my disordered urges. Recovery is a long and tedious journey. It took me years to eventually open up about my deepest insecurities and seek help but by doing so I began to gain energy and finally continue doing the things that I loved. I still obsess over parts of my body that I wish were different but I'm beginning to accept who I am. Everyone has fat in their body and that isn’t a bad thing, this is just as important as any other part of you. I have also learned to balance my meals out more. Obsessing over “the perfect diet” isn’t healthy. We all need balance in order to function. Eating too healthy can damage you and understanding that carbs and sugar aren’t bad is a very necessary thing to learn. We’re not supposed to live our lives on a specific diet or exercise hours everyday on a low calorie diet. Not to mention that the majority of women on social media that we compare ourselves to photoshop their pictures to present an unachievable image. One of the most valuable things that I’ve learned is that you see yourself in a completely different light than others do. The flaws you see in yourself are unnoticeable to others or perhaps not flaws at all.
The reason some individuals purposely live uncomfortably is due to such an extreme standard that many women feel they must reach. Society has crafted a mould that can not and should not be reached. We must refrain from these temptations and accept and love ourselves for who we are.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.