Standing on the scale feeling the insatiable desire to lose more weight every time I looked at the number, was when things began to feel out of my control.
When I would go out with friends, and someone said “Hey, let’s go to Whataburger!” but I’ve hit my calorie budget for that day, the feeling of pressure and panic overwhelmed me.
I panicked as I quickly tried to scan the menu for the lowest calorie item, feeling eyes on me, wondering why I couldn’t just decide already. Purging or binging didn’t feel right, but there was a voice inside my head telling me, “just ten more pounds and then everything will be perfect.”
A pivotal factor that leads to more cases of eating disorders is society being force-fed social media from a young age, where people paint a pretty picture of their lives while comparing themselves to others.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears endorse detox teas, appetite suppressant lollipops and flat-tummy “vitamins” to their combined 481,681,664 followers.
These successful women attribute their bodies to these FDA unapproved products while little girls and boys look at celebrities’ manufactured bodies and see themselves as not good enough.
“Just stay offline” and “delete your social media” are poor words of advice for anyone struggling with self-esteem issues in this society.
Giving that advice is like telling a child that is being bullied on the playground to just stop going to recess and to just stay inside. Instead of barking at a victim of a circumstance for what they can do to avoid the problem, let’s hold those in the position of power responsible.
Along with social media, television advertisements featuring the “ideal woman” misogynistically holding some cleaning product, burger or blender right next to her full bosom illustrates the societal pressure to look the part.
Now, wherever you turn, you are planted right in front of an irresponsible image from some celebrity who inherited influence by privilege, who thinks the best way to utilize the billions of eyes and ears that are watching and listening to what they say is to advertise “Skinny Tea.”
Jameela Jamil, a British actress and activist, calls out celebrities over Instagram or Twitter for their endorsement of not only unsafe products but an unsafe mindset.
That is the attitude we as consumers need to applaud in celebrities.
Not only should no one be pressured into losing weight, but people shouldn’t be coerced into comparing themselves to an unrealistic and unhealthy body type.
When it comes to the power of medical professionals, even those who could be labeled “experts” on mental health are capable of saying harmful, ignorant and triggering things.
During my recovery, I heard medical professionals ask “Are you sure you restrict food? You aren’t anorexic. I’m sure you mean bulimic or binge eating disorder, right?” Even better someone even told me, “Usually anorexics are underweight, I don’t think you have that,” and “You don’t look like an anorexic.”
Until I found health care professionals who specifically studied and treated disordered eating and body dysmorphia, I was not treated with the respect and integrity I deserved while seeking recovery.
Jenni Schafer, author of the book “Life Without Ed,” stated in her personal account of coping with an eating disorder, personified as “Ed,” and she recalls being told she wasn’t skinny enough to be considered anorexic, despite the fact her symptoms were worst at her heaviest weight.
Literary works like “Life Without Ed” kickstarted my recovery and I am looking forward to reading Schafer’s other two books, “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me” and “Almost Anorexic.”
What is important to remember is that there is support out there.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, there is no specific body type to fit any kind of eating disorder — people of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and body types are affected by eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorder Association has a helpline you can call at (800)-931-2237. You can also contact the Chestnut clinic at (940) 565-2333 to schedule an appointment or get in contact with someone qualified to assess you.
There are also numerous eating disorder specialists, rehabilitation centers and group therapy sessions in the Denton and North Texas area. Picking up the phone or asking for help is the hardest part, but you do not have to recover alone.
These are great resources for those who want to seek recovery or educate themselves on disordered eating and body dysmorphic disorder.
If a friend comes to you asking for help detailing unhealthy eating and exercising habits or saying that they are afraid they might have an eating disorder, you should never respond with, “Ugh! Lucky! I have been trying to lose weight for like, ever!” or “Are you sure you have an eating disorder?”
The best way to help is to empathize, listen and help guide them toward people or organizations that can help. Remember that you are not vain, crazy or alone. Eating disorders are a serious mental and physical illness and you deserve to be helped.
Illustration by: Chelsea Tolin.