CW: This article will be talking about eating disorders.
I have several eating disorders, for which I see a psychotherapist for. I am also currently studying psychology at university. It is an extremely deep and fascinating subject because while I study it, it is as if I am studying myself.
Above all, I am your average person who has just turned twenty.
The story of how I developed my eating disorders is a long one, so I will save that for
I decided to write this article because I have seen many people like me - with eating disorders - in the industries I am involved with. When I was younger I used to figure skate, and when I got older I became a dancer and worked as a model. In such areas where
physical appearance and performance are so highly valued, your relationship with food can
get very skewered. I want those people like me to be able to get help before it’s too late
and let them know that if they are struggling, they are not alone.
More than anything, I want to normalize conversations about mental health; mental health is just as important as physical health.
Before I jump into my main points, there is one thing I would like people to fully
Although eating disorders and mental illnesses may be diagnosed under the same name, symptoms and treatment will often differ from person to person.
Even if you do not have any mental illnesses, this is very important to remember.
Now to begin, I would like to introduce some common eating disorders;
Also known as anorexia. It is characterized by one severely restricting their food intake and overexercising in order to lose weight. This is a result of one having a distorted image of their body, fearing that their body is larger than it actually is, and feeling the need to lose extra weight as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for people with anorexia to starve themselves to achieve this.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is characterised by the rapid overconsumption of food. People with BED often find themselves losing control over their eating habits, constantly eating even when they are not hungry, and finding themselves eating in secret. Binge episodes often result in the person feeling guilty, self-loathing, and/or in a depressive state afterwards.
Bulimia Nervosa (purging)
Also known as bulimia. Symptoms of bulimia are similar to those of BED: overconsumption of food, lack of intake control, and eating in secrecy. However, the difference is that bulimia is also characterised by the need to get rid of the calories one has consumed after a binge episode. Actions taken may include self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives, over-exercising, or forcing oneself to not eat for long periods of time.
Other lesser-known, yet just as serious, eating disorders include:
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): also known as "extreme picky eating" in which nutritional requirements are not met
Pica: characterized by the craving and consumption of non-food items
Rumination syndrome: characterized by the regurgitation of meals after consumption to be re-chewed, re-swallowed, or spit out
Orthorexia nervosa: a damaging obsession with healthy eating and the quality of food in one’s diet
Also note that eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (a mental disorder characterized by the obsession over an imagined or perceived defect in one’s physical appearance) are closely related.
I would now like to move on from the technical lingo and speak about my personal experience.
I originally developed Binge Eating Disorder and then became bulimic. At the time, I moved back and forth between the two.
As I mentioned above, I am currently seeing a psychotherapist. However, below are some emotional roller coasters I experience on daily basis:
Feeling guilty and crying in my room if I eat more than one meal in a day
And yet, when I watch videos about other people’s Eating Disorder Recovery journeys, I feel proud that I managed to eat three meals
I appear relatively healthy, so people do not seem to realize that I have eating disorders. Even worse, I feel terrible when I hear people ask me, “Have you gained weight?” -- words I absolutely do not want to hear
I do not like the person who is reflected in the mirror, so I often cancel plans or avoid going outside so people do not see how ‘fat’ I am
...and many more. While it is rare, there are some days where I manage to get by without experiencing these at all.
I would like to stress again that these are my personal experiences. People who have the same eating disorders as I may have different experiences with them.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, I wish to tell you this:
People around you may not understand what you’re going through, however, I know exactly how you feel.
It is so hard, I know. But also know that I am so proud of you. You and manage to push through these days of worry and struggle.
You making mistakes again and again is nothing to be ashamed of. These “mistakes” you think you are making are, in fact, not “mistakes”: to move forward. If you find it hard to thank yourself for your efforts, I will say it to you, for you.
Thank you for persisting and for living.
If you are tired, just rest. If you fail, do not worry. These are all part of the process to move forward.
If you know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder, please refrain from commenting on their appearance, their weight, and the amount of food they eat.
You must also refrain from making any sort of jokes about their eating habits.
Before you offer any input, please take the time to understand their emotions and experiences.
You showing them that you are trying to understand what they are going through is the best support you can give them.
You may be worried about them, but please do not force them to do anything. Everyone moves at their own pace.
What you think is best for their circumstances may not be what is actually best for them.
And if you feel overwhelmed, it is perfectly fine to just watch over them from afar.
You do not need to sacrifice your mental health for them; it is just as important too.
“There’s no way you have an eating disorder, you’re not severely underweight.”
“There’s no way you have an eating disorder, you look healthy.”
Unfortunately, I hear these words often.
However, I hope by reading my article, you now understand that eating disorders do not have a single appearance. There are many people with eating disorders who are especially good at hiding them.
To close off, I would like you, a reader, to do something for me.
I would like you to praise something about yourself; even if it is just about one thing.
Because the fact that you are alive is a miracle in itself.
"Bulimia Nervosa" NEDA <https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia>
"Bulimia Nervosa" Mayo Clinic <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615>
"Binge Eating Disorder (BED)" Eating Disorder Hope <https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/binge-eating-disorder>
"Anorexia" NHS <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anorexia/>
Translated by Ariel Tjeuw
Graphic by Ayumi White
Edited by Emiru Okada