This goes out to the person who is secretly struggling. The one who on the outside appears to have everything together, yet underneath it all, feels trapped.
The one who “eats normally” in public, yet binges on a jar of peanut butter, jelly, a loaf of bread, and a bag of tortilla chips, at night. Who goes to sleep with a painfully aching stomach and feelings of guilt, shame, and self-loathing.
Or perhaps you have intense anxiety around the thought of eating at a restaurant, and paint on a false smile, while underneath you are frantically tallying calorie counts in your head.
Maybe you struggle with exercising despite illness and injury. You wish you could let yourself rest, but the anxiety around doing so feels totally unmanageable.
Or perhaps you struggle with bingeing and purging. You feel exhausted and unable to stop, yet each time you tell yourself that it will be the last one. Afterwards, you feel disgusting and ashamed.
Maybe you question whether you are actually struggling with an eating disorder. That voice in your head may tell you, “But you don’t look sick,” or “You only do this behavior x number of times. It’s not that bad,” or “Eating disorders are illnesses that only impact teens.”
These are all statements that your eating disorder may tell you, in an effort to try to keep you from seeking help. While often people struggling with eating disorders are unable to see how “ill” they actually are, it’s also important to note that even if you struggle with disordered eating (rather than an eating disorder)-you still deserve to seek help and support.
It’s important to note that eating disorders can impact people of all races, ages, genders, weights, and body sizes. Think of your eating disorder as an abusive partner that will tell you anything to try to keep you trapped in its grip.
Maybe you tell yourself that you can handle this on your own, or that you simply need to have “more willpower.”
Eating disorders are not a choice and they aren’t about “lacking willpower” or being “shallow.” Rather, they are serious mental illnesses. No one would choose to binge until they feel physically ill, to purge and feel disgusted with themselves, to have constant thoughts about food and body, to have bradycardia and other health complications, to lose friends and to isolate themselves, or to be unable to eat at a restaurant without feelings of anxiety and dread.
You Deserve to Seek Help
No matter what your mind is telling you, you deserve to seek help from trained professionals. Eating disorders are treatable illnesses and recovery is possible. No one should have to struggle with an eating disorder alone.
Seeking help when you are struggling is a sign of true strength, not weakness.
Living with an eating disorder can feel miserable. It may give you a temporary “high” or feeling of “comfort,” however in the long run, it only leads to increased anxiety and unhappiness.
Maybe part of you is scared or unsure if you even want to let go of your eating disorder. This is entirely normal. However, you’ve been doing things the same way and continuing to have the same result. What if you tried something different? If you find that you hate your life in recovery, you can always go back to your eating disorder. However, once recovered, I don’t think that you will want to.
You deserve a life that is free from constant thoughts about food and your body. Take the first step to reach out for help. It will be worth it.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, compulsive exercise, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.