Content warning: body talk, eating disorders.
Last week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week and, while I realize that I am late to the game with this article, I feel as though it is still something worth writing. Being aware of and addressing eating disorders should not be limited to one week of the year. Eating disorders are difficult to talk about because they are so viscerally personal and can often go unnoticed and unseen – especially among women – because often times they align with behaviors expected of women. There are just a few things I want to address here:
- There are many ways for eating disorders / disordered eating to manifest themselves.
It was this week last year that I first openly admitted that I struggle with disordered eating. After years of going back and forth between having good/fine and less-fine/terrible relationships with food and my body, I was able to put to words what I had been feeling for so long. Even now I grapple with whether or not I can claim the term “eating disorder” because I’m afraid that I’m going to insult someone else who actually has an eating disorder, while I “just feel bad about myself sometimes.” But what does that even mean? What does it mean to “actually” have an eating disorder, or at least, struggle with disordered eating? So many people are told that they “don’t look like” they have an eating disorder, as if being visibly underweight is the only real criteria for having an unhealthy relationship with food, as if the mental struggle and emotional turmoil that goes along with binging, purging and restricting matter less than the number on the scale. Eating disorders manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Just because you don’t fit the most “well known” type of eating disorder does not mean your personal struggles in regard to food and your body aren’t valid.
- You are not alone in this!
It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one feeling the way you’re feeling. You look around and everybody seems to have their shit together (a common illusion). Everyone else seems confident and comfortable in their own skin and to have no issues at meals with their friends. There are more people feeling the way you feel than you think, and so many of them are able and willing to be positive resources for you. Personally, I don’t know where I would be without the women in my life who have provided safe and comfortable spaces for confiding and listening and understanding what I’m feeling. If you don’t know where to go or who to start with, I can recommend: Macalester student organization Voices on Mental Health, Health and Wellness counseling, a trusted friend or even myself (seriously, I would love to be an empathetic ear for anyone).
- You deserve peace and happiness.
I’m not going to tout the “everyone and everything about them is beautiful” mantra because I don’t believe that everything has to be beautiful in order to be valuable, but I will tell you that you have every right to feel comfortable in your own skin and in your own body. Bodies are cool, man. They’re functional and complex and yours can do so much that other things in this world can’t. Your body can lift weights, read theory and novels, run miles and sing and dance like a fool. Your body is awesome, regardless of its shape and size, and you deserve to celebrate and love it. Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, wear whatever makes you comfortable, and take care of yourself. In the words of black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”