Shine and Marie have had a wonderful idea. They have called for women such as me, to write, today, about an issue that affects women. This was all inspired by the fact that the Criminal Homicide and Abortion Amendments bill was passed a few weeks ago in Utah, which I could write a whole post about, but I’ll spare you.
This is something that I’ve addressed briefly in the past, but feel needs to be addressed again is fact that there are still so many women dealing with body image issues and eating disorders.
A while back I wrote a post about my personal struggle with weight-loss. Although I didn’t go into the details about my eating disorder, I was floored at the number of responses via comments and emails from people who have gone through similar situations. I didn’t realize that there were so many women, (and men) who have struggled with eating disorders. I’ve rarely spoken about my eating disorder to the people in my life-much less the people on the internet, but my brief mention of it on this blog took a huge weight off my chest. It made me realize that if I had spoken up about it years ago or had been more educated on the subject- my own situation wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand.
Personally, this is something that I’ve battled since I was about 8. I don’t blame anyone in my life and I don’t blame magazine covers or actresses. I’m not sure how or why it happened to me, but even at such a young age I was constantly thinking about the way my body looked and what I ate.
I started dancing at an early age, and I was always comparing my body to others. I know that it wasn’t intentional, but I did have a little pressure to be thin put on me by members of my family. I remember being offered a new bathing suit if I would lose 10 lbs and being coughed at at the dinner table if I reached for an extra roll. I also looked up to a cousin who was heavily involved in pageants. Everyone was always gushing at her beauty, and I thought that being thin had everything to do with it. I wanted to be able to borrow her cute clothes and for people to view me as “beautiful” too. I wanted to be a size 2 like my friends, and not a size 7.
It didn’t help that I developed fairly early. Most of the girls that I danced with were rail thin and had no chest. I was curvy and chesty- and I didn’t have a grasp on the concept that everyone was different. I always thought I was doing something wrong… whether it was eating too much or not exercising enough. People were always talking about dieting, but no one ever told me that I was normal. Back then, I didn’t have an understanding of a “healthy” lifestyle… the way I saw it -you were either dieting or you were fat.
By the time I was in Jr. High, it was already an obsession. At the age of 12, I was waking up before class to exercise on top of my dance rehearsals. I would spend my lunches meticulously picking off the grains of salt from pretzels, and eating about 8 before I decided I was “full”… and I felt proud that I had eaten so little.
When I started throwing up, I knew very little about bulimia or the various health effects it could cause. I’m sure we touched base on it in health class, but at the time, nothing mattered except for being thin. I was praised for my weight loss- and that was all the encouragement I needed to continue throwing up. It went on for nearly 5 years before anyone found out about it. It probably would have gone on forever if I hadn’t been caught.
When my parent’s found out about my eating disorder, I know that they felt guilty for not recognizing that I had a problem and for praising my weight-loss, but it wasn’t their fault. If they had known about it earlier, they would have done anything they could to prevent it. If they had known that there was a possibility that I had a problem, they would have done their best to educate themselves on the disorder, and had a conversation with me about it- just as they did when they found out. But the truth is, there is no way that they could have known.
It was only through the support of my friends and family that I was able to finally seek help and put a stop to that particular problem. It’s been a long journey, but in the years to follow I gained over 100 lbs, and then more recently, lost over a hundred lbs by learning to eat right and exercise. Though I still have body image issues, I have finally gotten to the point where I have stopped obsessing about my weight.
I finally realize that there is no perfect, but I am perfectly content with that. I just wish that I had realized it earlier.
The shocking statistics: Approximately 8 million people in the United States are affected by eating disorders, 7 million of those are women. 4 out of every 100 women suffer from bulimia. 33% of these eating disorders present themselves between the ages of 11 and 14.
Eating disorders are rarely talked about because like myself, most people are embarrassed or don’t realize the extent of their problem.This has to change.
There may not be an easy solution for this, but the fact is- it should be talked about more. I can’t say for sure that being better educated on eating disorders would have prevented my disorder, but I can guarantee that it wouldn’t have gone on so long had it been discussed. There are always going to be societal pressures to be thin, but we need to do more to educate our youth about what it means to be healthy. Eating disorders need to be more than a paragraph in a health book. Children need to be talked to about the dangers of these disorders and how harmful they can be.
Talk to your children. Talk to your friends. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.