At this year’s Emmys, one of host Jimmy Kimmel’s big jokes was to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the audience. Sounds great, right? Except that it was accompanied with a quick quip, "I know these award shows are long and you haven't eaten since Labor Day." The joke being that it is common knowledge that celebrities do not eat. Even if we look past the dangerous misconception of how eating disorders operate (i.e. the idea that re-feeding along will solve what is a complex psychological, physical, and emotional disorder), even if we forgive Kimmel’s delivery, jokes like this are cheap and unoriginal.
Navigating the road to recovery from an eating disorder is no easy path, never mind taking into account the world around us. Daily we are exposed to images that could be potentially triggering to someone who has experience within the realm of eating disorders, and no other industry is quite as rampant as the fitness and diet world.
Question: My girlfriend is struggling with Anorexia and I just don’t know how to support her. Can you offer some advice for loved ones?
Answer: Having a loved one struggle with an eating disorder is an incredible challenge – not only do you feel like you have to witness their struggle but you too can end up feeling helpless to the disorder that is running your loved ones life (and therefore sometimes your own life as well).
Question: Our child’s eating disorder affects our whole family. How do I ensure that it doesn’t take too much attention away from our other children?
Answer: Eating disorders are all consuming disorders and have an impact on everyone who is connected to the person suffering.
In the depths of my eating disorder, I couldn’t imagine life without it. It was my lifeline, my constant companion. The first program I entered was on outpatient one at the request of my doctor and I reluctantly attended to make the people in my life happy. I said what I had to, to get through appointments and then I went home to my behaviours. My interest in recovering didn’t exist. 10 years later, with a deep desire to recover, I was still playing the same game. Attending appointments, crying about why nothing ever changed, and going home to my behaviours. My passive approach to recovery left me stuck, unable to move forward but too afraid to face the unknown.
For the past ten months, I’ve been a counsellor-intern at a college counselling center. To say it was an “education” would be an understatement. Although I’d been attending the same institution as a postgrad student for a number of years, I wasn’t really engaged in student life. It was only once I started hearing the stories and struggles of my on-campus undergraduate clients that I gained terrific (sometimes terrifying) insight into what life outside of my office looked like.
Question: I have been hiding my eating disorder from my friends and family. How do I tell them that I am struggling?
Answer: Before I dive into this I do want to encourage you to acknowledge your own strength and courage. Telling people you love that you are struggling is a really important step towards recovery and I know it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and let people in.
One of the most terrifying aspects of eating disorders lies in their ability to convince those struggling that there is nothing wrong with continuing to hold on to the illness. No matter how many stories circulate of heart failure, organ damage, bone loss, and fertility problems – among a myriad of other medical complications – that terrible voice weaves its lies, promising us our case will be different.
June 2nd was the first ever World Eating Disorders Action Day. On one hand, I want to be excited that such an important issue now has its own day, but on the other hand, I cannot bring myself to celebrate quite yet. Although this day will hopefully mean more activism, the fact that eating disorders have become a big enough problem to warrant their own day also means that we are not where we need to be.
A young girl places herself strategically in front of the mirror, sideways, so that the incoming light accentuates the hollow crevices between her ribs. Her frail figure barely stays upright as she sucks deep into her diaphragm, and each protruding segment of her rib cage reminds you of the human skeletal model that hung in front of your biology classroom — limp and lifeless.
I can tell you this right now. My eating disorder never looked like this.