With the holidays quickly approaching the subject of eating disorders has been weighing heavily on my heart. The table is generally a place for happiness and laughter, but for some it is a battleground – a place of stress and anxiety. If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, be cautious with them this holiday season. And if you yourself are struggling with an eating disorder, reach out.
Keep in mind that eating disorders have close to nothing to do with food itself. It’s more than starving yourself, throwing up, and/or over eating. It’s a serious mental illness that fixates on fear, power, and control. Eating disorders are dark and twisted and crippling. They go hand in hand with anxiety and depression, and can make each day feel like hell. Eating disorders are often misunderstood and can leave the person suffering feeling lonely and worthless, I know this first hand.
With that being said, please please please remember that eating disorders are not always visible. You don’t have to be extremely skinny or overweight to have an eating disorder. You do not have to look like you have an eating disorder to have one. This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders. And this is so dangerous because there are many eating disorder sufferers in need of help, but not seeking treatment because they don’t think they look like someone with an eating disorder. They don’t think they’re sick enough. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder but remained at a “normal” body weight, I know how scary it can be to reach out because you feel like you won’t be taken seriously. But if you think your ideas and behaviors around eating are disordered, please reach out to someone. Eating disorders thrive in the dark. They love secrecy, it makes them stronger.
So this holiday season, please be so gentle with those around you. Don’t comment on your family members’ weight loss/gain. Don’t mention how much or how little food they have on their plate. I personally know how hard the holidays are when you feel like you are trapped inside your own mind. Your loved one more than likely feels guilty for not being able to enjoy the holidays like everyone else, sending them spiraling into a depressive state. Their anxiety is skyrocketing. Their eating disorder becomes all-consuming. Their world feels out of control because of what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. Support them, love them, and let them know you’re there for them.
And to my friends struggling remember this: You are worth more than this. You deserve freedom from your disorder. You deserve a fighting chance. You’re allowed to feel the things you are feeling. You are loved. You are allowed to get help, not matter what. You don’t have to suffer in silence.