By Diandra

Eating disorders often come hand in hand with feelings such as shame and uneasiness. Suffering from disordered eating is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. However, the reason for feelings of discomfort and hesitancy in speaking about this mental illness often stems from a lack of education, awareness and understanding. 

Eating Disorder Facts: 

  • The most common form of eating disorder (ED) is Binge Eating Disorder;
  • Most people who suffer from an ED are of a normal, healthy weight;
  • Both men and women of different ethnicities, social standing, age and sexual orientation can be affected;
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses due to suicide;
  • There is Anorexia, Bulimia, Diabulimia and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS);
  • Celebrities such as Elton John, Demi Lovato, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga amongst others have also suffered from an ED.

Having suffered from disordered eating for most of my life, I have come to realise that an important part of being on the path to recovery and healing, is honesty and connecting with others who understand. 

An ED is a cunning and progressive mental illness. For me, what started out as the desire to live a healthier lifestyle and feel more confident in my body, soon snowballed into my new eating habits and exercise rituals taking over my life. 

I was terrified of social situations where I would be around ‘bad’ food, and would often make up excuses to stay at home. I would decline social invitations if it meant that I wouldn’t be able to go to the gym.  The number that would reflect on the scale would affect my mood and how I would see and dress myself. I would constantly compare myself to others, and felt inferior and growingly insecure. I believed that the less there was of me, the more I was worth as a woman. I believed that in order to be loved, it mattered more for me to look beautiful than to be anything else. No matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough. 

ED’s are cunning and progressive. Almost overnight, my military like self-control around food and exercise was replaced with an insatiable desire to eat everything I had deprived myself of for so long. I would feel completely out of control around food. My every thought would be centered around eating and my self-image. I felt ashamed and terrified of how my new eating regime would affect my hard-earned weight loss. I would devour an entire bag of cookies instead of just a few, because I never knew when I would allow myself to eat those ‘bad’ foods again. I began to compare my worst moments and body image days to the ‘perfect’ women I saw on Instagram. 

My life had become completely unmanageable, and as a result, my body, studies and relationships suffered. I felt hopeless and ashamed. People with ED’s are meant to be thin and emaciated. No one would ever believe me if I told them that I was sick, because I didn’t look sick?

ED’s are a mental illness, not a physical one. Therefore, someone who is of a normal weight can be anorexic or even suffer from binge eating disorder. 

With cancer, you won’t wait until Stage Four to seek treatment, and the same principle should be applied with mental illnesses. To anyone who suffers from an ED or any other kind of addiction, know that you are not alone and that shame dies in exposure

*Can you relate? 

  • Do you feel guilty about eating? 
  • Do you often feel panicked about your eating, weight or body?
  • Do you feel like people watch you when you eat?
  • Do you obsess about food or body weight? 
  • Do you spend too much time thinking about what, when or where you will eat next?
  • Do you regularly feel useless, unworthy, disgusted or powerless over your eating?
  • Do you often eat so much or so little that it affects your plans for the day?

*Taken from ‘Could you be one of us’ from the Eating Disorder Anonymous Meetings homepage