Eat, Hate Yourself, Repeat

The Vicious Cycle of Eating Disorders associated with Body Image


Image via WLR

Thanksgiving has passed, but for most people the overindulgence of good food and drinks was sure to bring the classic New Year’s resolution in mind: lose weight.

Turkey-and-mashed-potato-time is over and back to the routine it is.  Now imagine that feeling of guilt after every good meal you had. Imagine judging yourself harshly every time you look in the mirror the next day because you had a little more pumpkin pie than you should have.

Trying to explain that you just “couldn’t stop eating” even though you felt like you were going to puke often receives harsh feedback.”

For some of us, this is common.  For a few more of us, it’s a constant issue: this isn’t just a Thanksgiving problem, it doesn’t just pop up during the holidays, but occurs all year round. This struggle is real and it is a problem that is far too common for nobody to be talking about.

Body image issues and eating disorders are rarely a well-known subject among individuals and their peers because it is so hard to receive acceptance about. This is partly due to a lack of education on the topic; part of it is due to the culture of criticism we have created.

Trying to explain that you just “couldn’t stop eating” even though you felt like you were going to puke can receive harsh feedback.  Often this statement is met with comments like “just put the food down” or “do you seriously have that little self-control?” Unfortunately, it is fathoms deeper than that.

For myself, the question of “Why can’t I stop eating even though it feels like my stomach is about to tear apart on my rib cage?” has been asked more than once. Okay, that may be a little extreme, but nevertheless, eating disorders like binge eating disorder, anorexia, and orthorexia are real issues that have such a negative stigma and shame surrounding them that people cannot seek help for fear of persecution. Fact is that eating disorders are responsible for the most deaths among mental illnesses.

Supermodel teenagers and cyber bullying have made it possible for preschoolers to show signs of fearing obesity. If that doesn’t tell you the value our culture places on body image, wake up.

In fact, around 51% of female children under the age of 10 have admitted to either trying or currently engaging in some form of diet.

Image via BabyCenter
Image via BabyCenter

Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.) is a battle that is closely tied with body image issues. When someone suffers from a binge eating episode, they report experiencing a loss of control and can overindulge at the drop of a dime to the point of sickness. Bouts with an eating disorder of this nature often place people in tailspins featuring excessive judgement of themselves and attempting to contradict the perceived damage one does to themselves.

According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), B.E.D. is the most common of all eating disorders, affecting approximately 2.8% of the U.S. population, and is often paired with a mood disorder, like anxiety or depression. If someone you know suffers from this, remember it is not a lack of caring that they suffer from: that person will experience pain, regret, guilt and even anger before anyone else has the chance to throw any more judgement and shame at them.  I’m sorry, but shaming someone for something they have little-to-no control over doesn’t help.  At all.

Image via
Image via

Orthorexia is a disorder that is an obsession over eating only healthy foods. Although this seems like it is not a problem, it can have people feeling superior to others and becoming fixated on their food.  It is common for orthorexia sufferers to have comorbid (co-occuring) anxiety disorders or other eating disorders.  There is no goal in sight, just obsession.  Again, the issue that concerns me the most with these disorders is one of the factors that seems to float across all of them: body image.

Image via TheBalancedBlonde

Anorexia Nervosa is more talked about, but again, the underlying issue of people hating their bodies is disturbing. Today’s society has the physique of supermodel and athletic body-types beat into children at such a young age, thanks to television and ads, that it would be ignorant to think weight and image don’t deeply affect some people, even at an earlier age.  It affects a whole lot more people than we collectively can imagine.

Image via pjadallah.wordpress

The cringe-worthy aspect I see is: as a whole, we do nothing to empower these individuals. Rather than shower them with strength and support, we chastise them for lacking self-control.  Instead of understanding and aid, we offer condemnation and insult.

A lot of times, people with eating disorders have a “mirror moment,” where they are so unhappy with what they see that they make a life change.”

Going into the new year, do yourself a favor: change your resolution from losing weight to loving yourself.

Love yourself for the turkey dinner you put extra gravy on. Love yourself for having to go up a pant size. Love yourself for your stretch marks.  Love yourself for whatever you think your flaw is.

A lot of times, people with eating disorders have a “mirror moment,” where they are so unhappy with what they see that they make a life change. Do whatever you can to make that mirror moment positive. You love that person looking back, because that person showed you what you want to change.

Remind yourself that the person in the mirror can never change the way you want them to unless you accept them first.

Be positive going forward and show that same energy and acceptance to the person beside you who suffers from these kinds of disorders.

For more information on eating disorders and how to help yourself or a loved one who is suffering, visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.

When a person hates the body they wake up with every morning and go to bed with every night, when they hate it so deeply that they hurt themselves over it,  nobody feels it more than they do.