What if we talked to others the way we talked to ourselves? Self-care, self-love, and awareness are essential to living a full and happy life. With over 30 million people suffering from some sort of eating disorder in America, it is time we detach from the taboos surrounding mental disorders and begin a dialogue. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week) is February 26 – March 4; the goal of the week is “to shine the spotlight on eating disorders and put life-saving resources into the hands of those in need.”
What is an eating disorder?
Put simply, an eating disorder is any of the types of mental disorders that results in abnormal eating patterns (extreme reduction of food/calorie intake, extreme overeating, self-induced purging, etc.)
Eating disorders involve more than just food; it involves a pattern of behaviors. Behaviors are the actions and reactions that are elicited by specific environments and stimuli. In the case of eating disorders, I am interested in understand the relationships that are had with eating and the relationships one has with his or herself.
Going deeper; food is not your enemy
In a world obsessed with image (how many times did we click back and forth between Instagram filters, after all?), it is easy to get caught up in the lie, “I AM MY BODY.” Yoga teaches us that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We have our bodies in order to fully experience what this life has for us; it is our job to love, nurture, and care for our vehicle of the soul.
Engage in acts of self-love and positive talk. Reconnect with a hobby or passion. Journal without expectation. Come to your mat to stretch, flow, or meditate. Make time for yourself without judgment or expectation. Go beyond the mirror. You are not the reflection from the mirror, you are not numbers on a scale. You are POWERFUL, you are STRONG, you are ENOUGH!
Every one of us is different; different bodies, different emotions, different experiences. That said, I can only speak for myself. After struggling with body image and anorexia for five and a half years, I knew, with the support of my incredible friends, family, and mentors (who stayed extraordinarily strong during my time of recovery and healing as well) that I had to dig deeper to understand the root of my disorder. No, I wasn’t scared of food. I wasn’t scared of how I looked or how I felt or even expressing how I felt; for me, I had to face my fear of rejection head on. Slowly, I took the steps necessary to empower myself and to find power and strength for me within me.
I stopped demonizing food. I cannot stress this point enough; food is not your enemy. I took the steps necessary to understand how food and a healthy lifestyle play into my attitude, disposition, and life. I learned how to fuel not only my body, but my life! Today, I am proud and blessed to say that I have found balance in my life and am fully recovered, living as confidently and as happily as ever. As I go through my life as a teacher, student, and human, I live in the hope that my story can touch others and encourage them to seek the recovery that is there for them.
An important disclaimer: These warning signs may or may not indicate that any particular individual is at risk of or is currently struggling with an eating disorder. This list may not cover all of the warning signs. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, seek immediate information and help.
Warning sign and symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- Withdrawal from social activities (especially those involving food)
- Changes in personality and disposition (e.g. moody behavior/mood swings, irritability, depression)
- Obsessive behaviors and comments regarding appearance (e.g. obsessively weighing oneself, obsessively checking in the mirror)
- Negative and/or distorted self-image and self-esteem
- Food rituals (e.g. chewing for a specific number of bites, cutting up food, noticeably slow eating)
- Eating in private/secret
- Unhealthy and/or excessive exercise habits
- Disappearing after eating/rushing to the bathroom after eating
- Dangerous dieting/obsessive dieting “rules”
- Large quantities of food disappearing
- Weight loss or gain
- Issues with digestion and the GI tract (e.g. constipation, acid reflux)
What can I do?
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, seek immediate help. Eating disorders are extremely serious conditions and can become fatal quickly. That said, early intervention can prove to be vital.
Tips for talking to/approaching a loved one:
- Take the time to educate yourself and think of a plan
- Set aside time so that you are able to fully communicate your concerns
- Avoid arguments/conflict; do not place shame or blame on the individual
- Stay supportive and listen; continue to express your support and love for the individual
- Explore options to seek help from a counselor, doctor, therapist, etc./options for treatment
- Remember to take care of yourself
- https://www.edreferral.com/easysearch — to search for eating disorder treatment
- 1 800 931 2237 – NEDA helpline
- Text “NEDA” to 741741 –crisis helpline
- 1 800 273 8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml — National Institute of Mental Health
Love yourself first
Write it on the mirror if you have to. Remove the batteries from your scale. YOU ARE SO VALUABLE AND POWERFUL. Tell yourself “I LOVE YOU.” Reclaim your body, your mind, and your soul. Extend outward from there.
By Nicole Rae Grannie, RYT-200, YACEP, B.A. in Psychology