Food for thought

Anonymous students fight to recover from eating disorders

For confidentiality, the sources are referred to as Marie Major and Jane Doe.

She would see advertisements saying to call this number if a person needs help, making her feel as if she should tell someone what was going on. Embarrassment filled up inside her, so she decided to get help. Student Marie Major was lead to realize that there are other ways to cope with having an eating disorder, changing her life.

However, unlike Major, who has recovered, Jane Doe is currently still struggling with an eating disorder.

At the end of eighth grade, Doe was diagnosed with EDNOS, or ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.’

“It basically means that you have different [aspects] from different eating disorders. For me personally, I have the bingeing aspect of bulimia. I’ll eat a lot, but instead of puking, I’ll just not eat for days, so that’s a part of anorexia,” Doe said.

According to Doe, she has a negative view of her body, which gives her a false perception of herself.

“I know that I’m not a huge girl, but I see myself as this huge girl,” Doe said. “[EDNOS] messes up the image of yourself a lot. You see these bodies that you want to have, but you realize that you don’t have it. You compare extremes and it’s not good.”

As of now, Doe believes that her confidence is the best it has ever been, but it used to be very poor.

“I used to not want to go outside without full clothes on,” Doe said. “I used to wear baggy clothes because I was afraid of showing my body. I used to cover everything I could because I didn’t want to be seen.”

Having EDNOS can affect Doe’s behavior when doing activities.

“It sucks. I think for me, it always revolves around what I’m going to eat next or how many calories I’m burning. It’s ridiculous because [EDNOS] goes in everything I do,” Doe said.

Eating can be difficult at times for Doe, so when she eats, changing her perspective of eating food can help her at times.

“What helps me is that I think of [the food] as fuel to my body instead of calories,” Doe said. “I would say, ‘I need food for this test today, or I need this food so I could go to practice today and not pass out.’”

Doe takes medicine and goes to therapy to help her with EDNOS, but her close friends are also an important source of help.

“They’re very supportive, helpful and kind. They didn’t force me to do anything I didn’t want to do,” Doe said. “If someone has an eating disorder and they have friends that aren’t super close, then don’t tell them. They don’t need to know because if they’re not your real friends, they’ll judge you.”

At times, Doe finds it hard to talk about the hardships that come with her eating disorder to other people.

“You can’t talk about it because people would think that you’re asking for attention if you tell them, but I don’t want attention for it,” Doe said. “I just want to be better.”

Through her experience with EDNOS, Doe believes she has become a better person.

“I think I’m better to other people because I realized that they might be going through similar things, so I’m kinder to them,” Doe said.

For Marie Major, she had anorexia from the end of sixth grade to the beginning of eighth grade. Because of this, she suffered from undernutrition, which means she ate a little bit of food but not enough to get the daily calories she needed to be healthy.

“I would always feel tired. I got lazy and I felt like I couldn’t move because I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed,” Major said.

When eating, Major felt as if she was going to get fat, making it hard for her to continue eating.

“If I was at home, I would go on the scale before [I ate] and after. If I was out, I would go on the scale when I got home. Every morning I would wake up and weigh myself, and every night before I went to sleep, I would weigh myself,” Major said. “Just seeing the number, it was hard because I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt like no one else weighed that much.”

According to Major, anorexia negatively impacted her body image.

“I would look in the mirror and I would feel so fat. I would think, ‘Wow, how could I be that big. Everyone is so skinny, so what’s wrong with me?’ Then, as it went on and I became thinner, I said, ‘Okay, I’m finally here,’ but I didn’t feel well,” Major said.

When she had anorexia, Major felt as if it was necessary to have a thigh gap and a flat stomach.

“It just made me feel like if I wasn’t that way, then I wasn’t good enough,” Major said. “Then, I realized that’s not really what makes you, you, but it’s how you are as a person.”

Major first became concerned about her weight when she had surgery in fifth grade, leading her to be in a wheelchair for a while. Because she couldn’t exercise in the wheelchair, she gained “a lot of weight.”

“A lot of people bullied me for it, so I felt like an outcast,” Major said. “I felt like the only way I could lose the weight was to stop eating.”

Because of her difficulties with anorexia, Major separated herself from other people, stopping her from communicating much with those around her.

“I definitely was never in a good mood, and I was always very upset about stuff. I shut out people because I didn’t want them to realize what I was doing,” Major said. “I kind of lost friends because I was keeping it to myself more.”

Because of the small amount of food she ate, Major would feel ill and depressed.

“When I wasn’t eating, I would feel sick. I got into a really depressive state at that time,” Major said. “It really hurt that I couldn’t be a certain way that society accepted, so I felt like I wasn’t good enough.”

According to Major, the constant presence of models in magazines set an unrealistic expectation of what the perfect body is.

“You [have] to have the thigh gap and the flat stomach, and you [can’t] have any fat at all,” Major said. “The stereotypes say to be under a certain weight even if you’re shorter or taller, [which affects a person’s weight, your weight is] just this one number saying how you should be.”

During her time with anorexia, the number Major saw on the weight scale meant a lot to her.  

“At that time, I felt like I needed to be at that number because I said, ‘If everyone else is there, then I should also be there,’” Major said. “Now, the different numbers don’t really matter because everyone has things in their life that affects that number. Whatever you’re healthy and confident with is fine.”

Major’s mother noticed that she was not eating and she was isolating herself from other people, so her mother sent her to therapy.

“With therapy, I realized that I can be at a healthy weight, still eat and maintain a nice body. Once I started to eat more and be okay with eating, I started to feel better and not sick,” Major said. “That’s where I overcame it because I actually felt okay and happier. I started to reach out to people and make more friends because I wasn’t very enclosed anymore.”

Through the help and support Major received, she realized that there are better ways to deal with situations similar to hers.

“Being able to talk about it with my parents and my therapist, and also knowing that there are other ways to deal with it [helped me],” Major said. “It wasn’t uncommon for me to feel like [not eating] was the only way because it’s widely known now. I definitely thought I was handling it correctly and that it was helping, but it just made me feel sick.”

When Major had anorexia, she felt alone because she had a hard time going to other people for help.  

“I couldn’t go to anyone for it because I would feel like I was weird for doing this because everyone else has these thin bodies, but it took a while to realize that they don’t all have [thin bodies],” Major said. “I’m glad I overcame it. Now, I’m at a healthy weight where I can be happy and be fine with my body image and confidence.”

Major’s biggest source of help was noticing the mistake she was making, which was treating herself poorly.

“I shouldn’t be treating myself this way and I shouldn’t be not eating because it’s not healthy,” Major said. “I should be really focusing on working out more and eating better than just not eating at all.”

Also, this experience impacted Major positively in some ways.

“I feel it’s made me stronger and it has made me be more aware of how treating yourself and taking of your body can also affect your mental health,” Major said. “It affects friendships and relationships with [a person’s] family.”

To everyone else dealing with an eating disorder, Major wants them to know that they are not alone.

“You can overcome it; it’s not the end of the world. Weight doesn’t really matter because what the scale says isn’t actually accurate. There’s muscle and other things that affect a person’s weight,” Major said. “There are better ways to deal with a situation.”