Monday, July 26, 2010

Eating Disorders...very personal

<-- Me at my lowest weight...

I have been very skeptical about writing about this next topic as it hits very near to my heart. But it is something you can’t deny. Here are the facts:
1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating. Eating disorders affect up to 24 million Americans and 70 million individuals worldwide. At least 50,000 individuals die each year as a direct result of an eating disorder. Read that again…50,000 people, lives, sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, brothers, friends. How about this…according to a recent study, over half of females between the ages of 18 and 25 would prefer to be run over by a truck then be fat. This is a serious illness that affects MANY individuals. Although there are many different types of eating disorders, the two most common types are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulemia Nervosa.
Anorexia is characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight due to a distorted self image. Signs of anorexia include obvious, dramatic weight loss; soft, fine hair growing on the body; food rituals; temperature intolerance; depression; baggy clothing; swollen joints; and abdonimal distention. The main difference between Anorexia and Bulemia is that a person suffering from anorexia restricts and diets, while a person with bulimia often binges and purges, or sometimes just purges.

Personal Connection:
Ever since I was young, weight has been a big issue in my house. I have always been underweight and seemed to grow up to find my identity in being “the small one” or “little Brooke”. When I grew up and went through the awkward middle school phase, I hit a growth spurt and grew taller. I was now average height, yet still on the skinny side. I longed to be “little Brooke” again, and having control wasn’t half bad either. So I began dieting. Secretly, of course. I started running every night after dance practice and eating more salads and less protein and fat. By the time I was in high school, I was skipping meals and losing weight. My mom assumed it was from stress and anxiety and continued to encourage me to join the cross country and track teams. I loved the feeling of having control over my diet and the results I saw. Things were bad, but I hit my low during my sophomore year of college. During the span of a few months my friend killed herself, 3 of my grandparents died, one of my friends died of cancer, and I was forced to medically withdraw from school after finding out about a hole in my heart. Needless to say, the stress was more then I could handle and I began a dangerous habit of skipping meals and purging. I dropped weight, lost friends, was constantly exhausted, and was basically in and out of conciousness for a year. I distinctly remember a week where I went 8 days in a row with only drinking water and eating a single cough drop. Throughout the whole thing (12 hospital trips included), my parents somehow stayed in denial about my problem, making it hard to get treatment. However, with the help of some wonderful friends, I eventually got to a doctor and nutritionist a few times a week. While I gained some weight back and got a much healthier mind set, I really do believe an eating disorder is something I will continue to struggle with for the rest of my life. Somedays are harder than others, but I really do see the importance of healthy body image and eating habits.

-Eating disorders do not only affect women. Men can be affected by these disorders too!
-You cannot just tell someone with an eating disorder to “just eat”. Most of the time it is not even about eating, as much as it is about control.
-People with eating disorders are not stupid and attention seeking. It is a real medical problem that needs to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing yourself with green hair. And then imagine everyone trying to tell you that your hair is a beautiful blonde, brown, or red color. Yet, every time you look in the mirror, you see the green hair.

Eating Disorders are VERY real, VERY dangerous, and often recognizable and preventable. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder or any disordered eating patterns, don’t be afraid to seek help. If there is one thing I have learned it is that eating disorders are not as glamorous as they are made out to be by magazines or Hollywood.

I have never been very vocal about my past with this condition, but if it can help just one other person, then it was worth it.
And remember: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing it's best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.”


1 comment:

  1. Wow Brooke,thanks for having the courage to share your struggles. you're right there are so many myths about eating disorders and we need to keep showing people the truth about these disorders. So glad to hear you are in a better place now. :)