The stigma around being fat and overeating holds people like me back from talking about it.
It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Canada (Feb.1-7, 2017). It has taken me about 15 years to ADMIT that I had an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa) as a child and teenager. If you know someone with an eating disorder, here are a few things to be aware of.
This yo-yo or extreme dieting may be seen as harmless or even vain but we must recognize it stems from a very dangerous place. Negative body image is the negative self-perception of your body. It is often accompanied by shame; the unworthiness we feel due to our flaws. This combination of negative body image and shame is what leads us to take desperate measures with our bodies.
When it comes to trauma, in particular, pushing away the thoughts and feelings can often exacerbate the intensity of the symptoms. The more you try to evade the problem, the more the internal pressure will build, until you explode. The problem won't just go away on its own.
As a mental health advocate, I was addicted to appearing to be recovered. I was afraid to admit that I am living with an eating disorder. Afraid that it meant the messages I was telling people about recovery being possible wasn't true. That living with an eating disorder, while being highlighted as recovered, meant I was a fraud.
Eating disorders are more than just "extreme dieting," they are psychological disorders that stem from complex underlying issues. There are many stereotypes and myths surrounding eating disorders, and the resulting stigma can make it more difficult for those affected to seek treatment.
If you feel that your eating is out of control, don't run into the arms of another diet, it will only make things worse. Instead, try eating three normal meals every day and consider how labelling foods as "bad" is affecting you and reach out to a local dietitian who practices mindful eating.
One way to avoid eating too restrictively is to plan to eat a treat once in a while. This plans gives you something to look forward to -- which can motivate you to eat better on a regular basis AND help you avoid feeling deprived.
Here's the thing: eating disorders are not about a fear of getting fat. The weight gain is not fueled by the number on the scale, but by the feeling of perfection at having maintained self-control.
As I was reading through Twitter accounts and bios of people advocating for the recognition of eating disorders as real and dangerous, I came across the words "ex-anorexic." I was jealous. I am able to eat a meal with my family, and quietly endure the self-loathing afterwards with no physiological consequences; but the mental battle drags me through such an obstacle course, that by the time I've reached the finish line, I am no longer certain of whether or not I want to get better. Unfortunately, part of me is convinced that there is no such thing as getting better from this