The Truth About Eating Disorders

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According to the UK’s Statistics for Eating Disorders, this year, at least 1.1 million people will be affected by an eating disorder. This is a shockingly large statistic, especially for such a small country. That is not all that is shocking, however. After conducting a couple of on-campus interviews, it seems that, sadly, many students don’t seem to understand

this year, at least 1.1 million people will be affected by an eating disorder

eating disorders. They view them as “attention seeking”, “overexaggerated, not proper diseases” and “only suffered by ugly girls with no lives”. I won’t embarrass the people behind these comments by naming them, but with  Eating Disorder Awareness Week taking place from the 20th-26th of Februrary, I felt that it was appropriate to set these stories straight. It’s time to reveal the truth about eating disorders.

I knew this girl once. She had an eating disorder, Anoerexia. She had it quite bad, in fact. You could see her ribs. She was pale and gaunt. She looked ill. She acted ill. I remember her once having a nervous breakdown on the bathroom floor, simply because someone tried to get her to eat a sandwhich.

It all began when someone called her fat. She wasn’t fat at all. In fact, she was perfectly normal – she probably wasn’t even curvy, to be honest. But she was having a rough time at home, and the comments really got to her. She started eating less. And less. And less. It got to the point that she started to become really quite afraid of food. She wouldn’t even touch anything she hadn’t prepared herself. Who knows how many calories were in it?

Over the months this poor girl deteriorated. Her periods stopped. She was in and out of hospital. Her bone density got freakishly low – so low that she developed Osteopaenia. She went to a theme park but couldn’t cope – each time a ride thrashed her about she got terrible bruises. There was no padding on her body. Soon even the chairs around the kitchen table started to bruise her back. She couldn’t take a bath any more. It was too painful.

So what happened to this girl? Well, lots of things could have happened. She could have carried on, been hospitalised. It may have helped, or she could have resisted, still. Her heart would have failed her, and she would have died, like many anoerexia sufferers, unfortunately, do.

Fortunately, this particular story has a happy ending. One day something clicked. The girl noticed how upset her mother was, her expression of horror when looking at what her daughter had turned into. This girl needed help. She got help. She attended support groups, went on medication, tried to free herself from her negative thoughts.

She ran away to University. This, of course, could have gone horribly wrong. Without any family to watch out for her, she could not eat to her heart’s content. But she didn’t. She changed. She found friends, she found love, she found herself. You wouldn’t recognise her if you saw her now. I’d know. That girl was me.

Image: Sarah Boxall.
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I have always wanted to write. It's more of a need than a want. I will not rest until I am a professional journalist, and I am going to start with the Wessex Scene...

Discussion4 Comments

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    I have an eating disorder and in my discussions about it with other people, I’ve found that the majority of them are tolerant and interested. If there’s anything they don’t know, they’re usually eager to find out. The stereotype that anorexia is attention seeking is not actually rife, and the people who think this are the minority. Drawing attention to people who say this rubbish just serves to reinforce the feeling of marginalisation that is so unhelpful to anorexics, who already feel isolated and don’t need to feel any more so.

    Anonymous
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    M, it seems that you are both on the same side – trying to cope with an eating disorder, and are looking to have discussions with others about eating disorders (with either the aim to raise awareness or just for interest’s sake). I am extremely glad that you have found that people are tolerant and interested; perhaps the original writer, who clearly does understand what those feelings of marginalisation are like, and who is one of the anorexics you mention, has not been so lucky. I would hope that as a fellow sufferer you would be supportive in showing the original writer that there is acceptance and understanding out there, rather than add to the negativity she has already dealt with.

    All I am trying to say is that clearly each of your experiences have been different, and seeing as you have had a more positive reception, you had the opportunity to be encouraging and reassuring, rather than implying that the original writer is wrong for expressing her story.

    Megan Sherman
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    If we can question the effect of media consumption on the development of an eating disorder, why can’t we question the effect of media on recovery?

    In hindsight, I could’ve framed my original comment in a more constructive light, but I’d still argue that writers should be conscious of the information that they’re putting in to the public domain and the effect that it may have on their intended audience.That isn’t really the same as thinking that a writer shouldn’t have expressed their story.

    I’d love to see more stories that draw from personal experience (i.e. ones like this.) But all the meaningful conversations that could come out of it will be stunted if we limit the response to exclude anything remotely critical.

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