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Why don't People Speak up About Eating Disorders?

by Revathi Raghavan

How do you talk about a negative addiction, without sounding like you’re in love with your illness? How can you bring yourself not to smile when someone asks, “have you eaten all day” and you say no? How do you look someone in the eye and tell them you only feel full, when you’re empty? How do you ask for help, for something you never want to heal?

Eating disorders receive the most eye rolls and scoffs than any other illness. If you told someone you had been diagnosed with depression, the look of concern on their face arrives in a heartbeat. But when you tell someone you have an eating disorder, they look you up and down, see if you match the mental image they have of a person with an eating disorder, presumably assessing whether your body is as thin as paper, your face pale and your eyes sunken , and then decide whether you’re telling the truth or not .

How do you tell someone that recovery isn’t about “just eating more?” I’m not good at math, but my calorie calculator never stops. As I take a bite of your birthday cake, and I stuff it down my throat, and you offer me more, how do I tell you, that the slice I ate will last me a week? I can’t tell you, knowing you’ll offer me more and more, until it feels like you’re the one forcing the slice down my throat.

But eating disorders don’t stop at anorexia. Binge eating disorders are just as frightening, and just as real. When it’s the middle of the night, and your Tupperware containers are empty of the batter you saved for the bake sale, and a spoon dangles from your fingers, how do you talk about it without feeling sheer disgust? How do you tell someone knowing they’ll feel the same way?

From bulimia to anorexia to binging, eating disorders are just like any other illness and deserve the same treatment. If people offered concern rather than compliments for loss of weight, maybe communicating would be more comfortable. Because then your eating disorder doesn’t become your shot of dopamine. If binge eating weren’t something to be scorned and disgusted by, maybe saying it out loud would be easier. Because then you’re not abnormal, you’re just sick.


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