If thoughts about food and your waistline seem to be weighing too heavily on your life, you may be suffering from an eating disorder. Are you punishing yourself for eating certain foods by purging, exercising excessively, or limiting yourself to zero-calorie foods? Is your constant worrying about your weight taking over your life? Do you feel like the advice “Eat correctly and exercise moderately” is completely out of the question for you? Maybe it agitates you to hear that advice—you already know it, you just can’t seem to follow it.
Admitting you have an eating disorder is scary for a few reasons. Firstly, the stigma: nobody wants to be seen as depressed, anxious, or non-independent. And nobody wants to appear as though they cannot control themselves, that they cannot regulate their behavior—society tends to associate such problems with being “crazy” or “mentally unstable.” Secondly, admitting the problem means facing the reality of having to conquer and overcome it. It’s a long, hard, scary road to travel.
As our generation is becoming increasingly aware of the thin-obsessed nature of its society, it may seem like eating disorders have become a frequent topic of discussion and interest. The truth is that most people who suffer from this disease do not reveal themselves. The stigma is still real and exacerbated by all kinds of psychological and sociological factors and paradigms. Men are less likely than women to report symptoms of anorexia. Transgender individuals are more likely to develop an eating disorder and less likely to seek help than their cisgender peers. Some of this can be attributed to stereotypes and stereotype threat; some of it can be attributed to genetics, predisposition; and most of it is a combination. The reality is this: Eating disorders don’t discriminate; they affect all races, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
If you believe you are suffering from an eating disorder, follow these steps:
– See a doctor or nutritionist. They can tell exactly which nutrients are missing from your life, and how to work them into your diet. If your new diet pains you or makes you feel sluggish or strange, they’ll figure out how to remedy that, too. Don’t be ashamed to see a doctor. They don’t judge. They’re trained to help—and understand.
– Seek therapy. Research your insurance plan, find out what is and isn’t covered, and look for therapists who specialize in eating disorders. If don’t have health insurance, there are mental health programs that offer therapy services at little to no charge. Visit your local Department of Public Welfare to learn more.
– Join a support a group. Speaking face-to-face with eating disorder survivors can help you gain insight as well as hope; as can online support groups. (For some, the anonymity of the latter is a big source of comfort.) Support groups make us feel less alone and more inspired. We stop associating our struggle with weakness and begin to associate it with resilience.
– Consider medication. Antidepressants and mood-stabilizing drugs are heavily mythologized, in a very negative light. They’re often seen as “zombifying” drug meant to take away our creativity and motivation. In reality, antidepressants can, and often do, reduce anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and depression—several of the factors that lead to problem eating habits. The tricky part is finding the medication that works for you. Medications of this nature affect people differently. Your doctor will help you out with that.
– Establish – and educate – a support system. People aren’t going to support you if they don’t understand what you’re going through. Ignorance can be infuriating. But rather than becoming upset over someone’s lack of insight, offer it to them. Start a dialogue. Focus on family and friends so that they can focus on you. Show them that you know you need help. They’ve probably recognized that, regardless of whether they understand exactly what an eating disorder is.
– Forgive yourself and keep your eyes forward. You will have backslides. They’re normal, and they’re okay, so long as you have a contingency plan. That plan might include your support group, your doctor, or entering a treatment center.
For more information on how you can combat an eating disorder, contact the folks at Hired Power to learn about treatment options for food addiction and other eating disorders. Call us at 800-910-9299 today!
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