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When Loved Ones Can’t Understand Your Eating Disorder

When I first told my mom about the eating disorder, she seemed to continually ask the wrong questions and make the wrong suggestions (“Well let’s step on the scale to see where you’re at!” and, “But did you throw up all your food?”). It’s tough to get off to a good start when someone hasn’t experienced an eating disorder. My dad probably had one of the most difficult times trying to break it apart.

“How can you physically keep stuffing in more and more food?” he asked one night when we had agreed to sit down to talk. “I mean, I get to the point where enough is enough in one meal.”

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We Must Speak

I want to tell you that it is okay to ask for help. That even now I still struggle to do it myself. That just the other day, when I finally admitted to myself that the eating disorder was worsening again, that it was okay to say something.

That I must.

I want to tell you that no problem is too small to keep to yourself. That you deserve to speak for your body, and that perhaps those of us who suffer from eating disorders or other modes of self-harm have some of the toughest times asking for help because we have learned to speak with our body instead of our tongues. That we do speak, but in a language of silence when we leave the dinner table too soon, when we skip lunch, when we creep to the kitchen at midnight to fill our bodies too quickly and too guiltily, when we stow away to the bathroom after every meal–because doesn’t it feel like your eating disorder will always be there for you? That it will keep you company when you feel your worst, and no one else will get hurt but you? That you don’t have to “wear anyone down” but yourself when you feel stressed and hurt and angry and frustrated?

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Hungry to Speak

You ask me why I eat in secret.

I wish you couldn’t see me eat. I wonder how much you think about what I eat. I decide what I will eat next to make it look like I am not eating too much. I wait until it is noisy enough in the room so that you may not notice how much I am eating when I grab more food.

I sit there acting like nothing is wrong because I don’t want you to notice I am screaming inside. I don’t want you to know how embarrassing this is for me.

You ask why I can’t have more self-control. I tell you, it is because I used to have all the control in the world.

You ask me why I take food out of the trash. I tell you, it is because I used to spit my food into it.

You ask me why you find food wrappers, empty cans of vegetables in strange places around the house. I tell you, it is because I pushed food away for so long–and now there is a shaking, anxious girl inside of me that is terrified she will never have enough.

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Weightism: Eating Disorders and Mental Health in Obesity

“They almost treat me like a leper, really. Like I don’t deserve a place in society because I’m obese. You know, I must be so fat that my heart doesn’t break when people say things.”
~Jean Marie from “Fat Doctor,” Series 3 Episode 1

Weight discrimination: It’s real. It’s happening.

And I’ve been guilty of it.

I used to be one of those people who said, “They just need to have more control. They just need to eat healthier.” Just because it was easy for me. But once I fell into the pit of food obsession, once I endured the overwhelming cravings and seemingly never-ending restrict-binge cycle, and as I’ve gained weight despite every intention to try to lose weight again, I feel as if I’ve had a glimpse into the world of an overweight person.

Not only have I not endured the physical disabilities that come with being obese, but most of all I have not faced the torment, the never-ending weight discrimination that haunts many people for the rest of their lives.

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