Eating disorders. Let’s talk about them for a minute. This week has been set aside for the explicit purpose of being aware of eating disorders, so let’s raise some awareness.
Fuck eating disorders.
I’m no mental health professional, but here’s how I see things: Everyone’s a little crazy. All of us have a little nugget of total instability inside waiting to grow into a full-fledged problem. For whatever reason (societal or biological), men tend to develop externalizing disorders (they fight and yell and blame other people) and women tend to develop internalizing disorders (we blame ourselves). And one of the most common types of internalizing disorder is an eating disorder.
Why? Because it’s so sexy, of course. Before you know what an eating disorder really looks like, you see them on Degrassi and Glee and even though they’re presented as something you want to avoid, you can’t help but think “man, she’s so cool for doing that.” You read YA-novel after YA-novel about the girl with the eating disorder whose life is miserable, and the whole time you’re thinking, “I can’t believe how lucky she is, that her unhappiness makes her pretty.”
(I really think most of those YA novels are severely counterproductive. They depict something horrible like an eating disorder or cancer or being in an evil gang or something, trying to show how much you shouldn’t want to do that thing, but then they write really compelling characters and interesting story lines and I always ended up putting them down and thinking, “I wonder where I can find a scary evil gang to join?”)
So you decide it’s not fair. You have all the same grounds for unhappiness that these other girls do. Your parents aren’t paying enough attention, or you’re under too much pressure, or your dog has diabetes and hogs the family spotlight, whatever. You have some considerable angst, and rather than let it make you unhappy, why not let it make you thin? Being thin is pretty great! It will make people like you more, or if you’re really hardcore it might make people worried about you, which would be so satisfying.
That’s how it starts. Sometimes. Sometimes it starts in other ways. Maybe you got the flu and decided you liked it. Maybe your friend stopped eating and you started feeling weird about eating in front of her so you stopped eating too. Maybe you had a dream one night that Hillary Clinton came down from heaven and told you to stop being fat. I don’t know what happens in your head, and I’m not blaming you, because it’s 100% not your fault. Even if you woke up one morning and decided, ‘I’m going to develop an eating disorder today’, you have to understand that there was a lot of other shit outside your control going on.
I blame society, as always.
We ladies are told that being thin is super important. We’re discouraged from fighting and drinking and doing the things that boys do to relieve their unhappiness (I’m not saying those things are better, just that both genders are pushed into boxes and I’d like the opportunity to develop whatever internalizing or externalizing disorder I want, thank you). We’re under pressure from everyone to be pretty and sexy but not slutty, and smart but not more powerful than the boys, and kind but not a total pushover, and it’s really really hard to manage.
But depriving yourself of food is not the answer at all. If you’re in the middle of this shit, I’m so sorry and I hope you’re getting help, because this shit sucks. I’m not going to be able to talk you out of it, but you know this isn’t something you want to do for the rest of your life. You deserve reasonable amounts of food like every other human being, and depriving yourself isn’t going to change anything.
But it’s hard. To everyone going through this right now, good luck. To everyone who’s been through it (a startlingly high number of people, by the way), rock on for getting through it and being a stronger person because of it. You rock.