You’re reading that right.
I have this distinct memory from the eighth or ninth grade, I am standing in the dressing room of some department store with my mom, trying on new jeans. I look down at my bare thighs, worrying at the new stretch mark that had appeared a few days ago.. not that it bothered me, it was just a that my skin was a little irritated. My mom looks at my thighs and exclaims that they Are looking a little flabby, I’m getting saddle bags, and that those stretch marks are just going to keep spreading. That was the first time I felt fat.
I wanted to start this post in that way, so that you, the audience, could get some honesty and insight into where this is starting from. Because, yes, I am a feminist, body positive, educated, knowledgeable about fat activism and the effects of stress and negative thought patterns.. I could go on, but I won’t. The point is that I am all of these things, but I am also a recovering from an eating disorder. I am living with the day to day battle of my brain rebelling against me and imploring me to starve.
Its a funny thing, you hear about eating disorders all the time now. They are extremely dangerous (try the highest mortality rate of any psychological condition). But what no one wants to talk about is the day to day.
No one talks about the nagging need to check the scale, the lightheadedness, the compulsive excuses for why you can’t go out. No one tells you about the depression (because yes, when you fuck with your bodies metabolic structure through starving, purging, or other eating disorder behaviors, this causes mood swings, depression, and a whole other host of comorbidities).
So I am here talking about it. I am a reasonable person. I am a feminist. I love and run and work. I am also recovering.
There is a distinct problem with how we talk about mental health in the western world, particularly the world of ED’s. Often-albeit a little less in recent history- eating disorders are spoken of as the white adolescent women’s disease. Thin, frail, pale women too occupied with themselves.
However, this isn’t the case.
Eating disorders are an issue of people: men, women, gender-queer, trans*… because they consist in behaviors. Many experts disagree of the why of eating disorders, and what cognitive processes drive them, but the issue for me is that they exist.
Personally, my story began with a little hormonal weight gain in my early teens, paired with a whole lot of fat shaming. I internalized those messages, and had an opportunity to lose weight. Since then, I have battled with myself, my weight, and my relationship with food.
I have read lots, educated myself a lot, and tried to commit to small acts of advocacy in the world of fat shaming and eating. But being an advocate for yourself AND others is hard. Why? Because there is this pervasive sense, in both media and in medicine, that thin is GOOD. Thin is HEALTHY. There is no longer good science behind this idea — In fact, science shows us that extremely lower weight and common chronic conditions tend to correlate with higher mortality (I am working on finding the link to this study, so check back later). Thin privilege is being called healthy, even when you are not.
I think the point of this is simply that empathy is key. Eating problems, ranging from poor self esteem to DSM criteria, are freaking pervasive. So be aware, telling your thin friend to eat a sandwich might not be very benign, or your fat (no this isn’t a dirty word, so don’t use it as an insult) friend to just “eat healthier and exercise” may not be as simple as it seems.
If you are struggling, reach out. There is help, and you can get through it. Check these resources