Yesterday marked the start of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. A week to try and educate those who stereotype, ignore, or don’t validate eating disorders on either end of the spectrum. Something I’m very public about (because I hope that sharing my personal experience will encourage someone else to do so or to seek help), is the fact that I battled anorexia throughout high school.
Eating disorders cause dysmorphia. They force the person who is affected by them to see something different in the mirror than everyone else. Even at 5’7 and 80 lbs I felt I needed to continue to cut calories. Food was a struggle. School was a struggle. Life was a struggle.
For me, my eating disorder started as a tool to get healthy and fit. I slowly started eliminating things from my diet that were too high in carbs, sugars and fats. Soon, I was eating only an apple a day and trying to eliminate that when I could. Even walking was a chore as dizziness constantly crept in. The one thing that people didn’t understand was, why I was doing that to myself. But that was also the one question I couldn’t answer. I became obsessed with the numbers; on the back of food packaging, on the scale, on a Facebook “rate me” status – numbers were a constant battle. I didn’t see what everyone else saw. They saw skin & bones. I saw the same old me.
That’s just it though; that same old me is one in a million. That me is patient and kind. Strong and independent. A kick ass chef, an RnB singer, a girl who can dance and clean a house all at the same time. A dedicated friend, a supportive sister, a proud daughter, a loyal girlfriend. That me completed undergraduate college in three years and got her masters in one – working three jobs at the same time. She was on American Idol… twice and lived on her own in Italy for four months while taking classes. She’s gotten through pain and loss and has always been smiling. She stresses too much, but it’s only because she cares and she is optimistic to a fault. I have always been those things and that person… it just took me a while to see it. Finally I feel like I’ve found my way.
So here’s my message to all of you. Male or female. Old or young. Totally confident or totally conflicted: there will never be another you. Your body is your temple and it houses all of the amazing things that make you special. Take care of it. Love it. It may be easier said than done, but if you cherish the amazing gifts you were given in this life, it makes living in your own skin that much easier. Even if it takes hours for you to see, reflect on the things that make you beautiful. Ignore the ignorant and have pity for the fact that they must be lost along their own way. We’re all here for a reason. The sooner you learn to love yourself the sooner you realize why.
And for those of you who have constantly loved themselves and therefore can’t understand eating disorders or why they exist. I’m happy for you. It’s amazing to say you’ve never battled any self confidence issues and you should feel blessed. At the same time, empathy is the key to life. Take a moment to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who makes up excuses to miss lunch, who lies to their family about eating their dinner while they pass bits and pieces off to their dog under the table, who aren’t able to see their own beautiful because their mind is playing tricks on them, who avoid parties because food is at parties and it’s easier to not go than to be questioned, who’s bodies hurt because they’re not getting nutrients, who are always tired and sluggish, but who feel they have to live that way to reach their version of ideal. Even though you can’t feel what they feel, you can try and understand. At the end of the day, isn’t that what always helps us make a difference?