Proud2Bme | Here’s Why We Can’t “Just Eat”

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Here’s Why We Can’t “Just Eat”

By Angela Hui--From an outside perspective, eating disorder recovery might seem like it should be easy. You get to feast on decadent and beautiful Instagram-worthy food all day long, so what could possibly be hard about that? A lot, actually.

A first-world problem. A trend. A phase. Don’t you know that there are kids dying of famine? These are just a few of the things I have heard about eating disorders over the years. Before I developed an eating disorder myself – and perhaps even in the early stages of my illness, when the disease had just begun to stew in my mind – eating disorders didn’t make sense to me. How stupid do you have to be, I thought, to do such damage to your body, maybe even kill yourself, when you can just control your weight through healthy dieting and exercise?

Little did I know that eating disorders can sneak up on you. What starts out as a diet turns into your life’s purpose. Instead of laughing and crying and eating and fighting with your friends, you’re alone all the time, in your room, at the gym, on the track, stepping on the scale again and again. What used to make you happy scares you now. And the only thing that makes you feel strong and powerful and in control is avoiding food.

Doesn’t recovery seem like the obvious solution? Just eat, just eat. How hard can it be? But the fact is that those with restrictive eating disorders often fight to keep a death grip on their illnesses as though they are soft, buoyant life savers in a hurricane of chaos. Not only can prolonged starvation trigger a neurological response similar to signs of physically addiction (Scientific American), but restrictive eating disorders are also considered to be ego-syntonic (Psychiatric Times), meaning that the afflicted believe that their disordered behaviors are in line with the ideals and goals of their identities.

This is why recovery victories like finishing your meals or conquering fear foods can sometimes feel like failures. It can take forever to finally accept that emaciation, starvation, and asceticism are the wrong ways to go about finding contentment, that you can’t be too happy when there’s not enough blood flowing to your brain and your cardiac muscle is catabolized to the point where your heart struggles to beat. Just eat, just eat, and after spending so much time and effort training yourself not to fill with fear and repulsion at the sight of a cupcake, what then?

How, exactly, are we supposed to eat? Whose eating habits can we learn from if 75% of American women engage in disordered eating (UNC) and diet culture is rampant across all genders? Does anyone know what “normal eating” and “healthy body image” even are, especially when staff members at residential treatment centers whisper to each other about their new fad diets and your mother nudges you and points out your younger sister’s weight gain? How can we “just eat” when everything – our brains, our selves, our society – is demanding the opposite?

Yes, recovery is worth it. When you stop letting your eating disorder hold you prisoner, when you stop waiting and waiting for your life to begin, when your stop turning down your friends’ invitations to come over and have a slice of pizza, that’s when you’ll know you’re winning. Despite all of the hurdles you’ve had to overcome, you’re experiencing life again – and although it seems like you’re finally going to be alright from now on, you’ll never forget how hopeless it all felt at one point. You’ll never forget how impossible it once felt to just eat.

About the blogger: Angela Hui is a rising senior at San Francisco University High School. She previously attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In her spare time, she enjoys helping others recover from their eating disorders and promoting positive body image as a moderator at EDRecoveryProbs.com

For more on eating disorder recovery and body positivity, check out:

Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

Tips for Fostering Body Positivity in Our Communities

Tinder Body-Shamers: Just Don't

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