Ten of every 100 college women have an eating disorder. Many of them probably don’t believe they are part of that 10%. In fact, I bet a majority of them think they are simply weight conscious or diligent about “being healthy”. The line between being highly diligent and dedicated to physical fitness and having a pathological mental condition can be blurry to many people. I don’t profess to have the answer. I usually have more questions after pondering topics like this. What are the causes? Why is it so difficult for people to choose different options? Why can’t they see what everyone else sees? It’s futile, really, to spend time on questions like these.
Is it good to be mentally preoccupied with health goals? Is it normal to feel consumed by the fire of inspiration or is that sense of being fully charged to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal part of being pathological? What’s the difference between having an eating disorder and having a strong mind and set of intentions around fitness at any cost? Possibly the difference is the end result. Or, maybe it’s the way we talk to ourselves in our minds about the daily decisions we each make about food and exercise. Perhaps the difference can be measured by the value of what a person gives up in exchange for what she gains. Still, it may just be a blurry line that some people ride like a radical Hawaiian pipeline…right on the edge most the time.
There is someone in my life who suffers from a severe eating disorder. She insists otherwise. But, the facts exist: Her bones are as visible as the skeleton at the natural science museum display on the human body, the glands around her throat are swollen, she routinely binges and then excuses herself from the table, she eats candy like it’s life support, and she suffers of depression and euphoric highs at random intervals. She weighs about 90 lbs soaking wet. I’m convinced what she sees in the mirror is not what I see when I look at her. I’m absolutely certain of this.
So, I wonder, if she can be convinced that she’s healthy and strong, what is the difference between her opinion of herself and my opinion of myself? I believe my slow burning inspiration to be strong and fit is healthy. I’m absolutely certain that my ability to say no to cheesecake is evidence of my commitment to long term goals and a testament to my focus on the end-game. I don’t binge and purge, but eating disorders aren’t always about the actual behavior, they are rooted in a mental state that manifests into physical behaviors and results.
I truly believe that I’m healthy, normal, and well. I am not trying to confess an eating disorder. What I am saying is that we should offer compassion for others on this topic. Some people are plagued with obsessive tendencies toward behaviors that result in emaciation, others toward obesity. Some people’s minds spin so wildly in an obsessive quest to achieve perfection that destruction of the potential for a wonderful human experience seems eminent. Others are simply so high on life that they appear euphoric all the time, and that it couldn’t possibly be normal, could it? I think deep joy is possible. I also think it’s one of the key differences between the healthy and the chronically ill.
There are experts out there who likely have the answers and I wish one of those people could make a difference for the person in my life who is the picture of bulimia (and on some days, the image of anorexia). It’s frightening, in fact, to see someone whose mental disposition is the very thing that prevents the person from realizing that her mental state is killing her body. All I can offer is an attempt at empathy and the coinciding cessation of all-too-easy judgments.
In the meantime, I wake up every morning and check my own thought patterns. Typically, my thoughts go something like this: “God, thank you so much for my healthy liver and my strong lungs!” “Wow, that workout yesterday is still with me. Feels great to be a little sore.” “Hey there, happy little kidneys, want some water?” “I’m so excited for today! Where’s my iPhone? I wonder what’s happening on Facebook.”
Everyone has a blind spot.
I care about the person I mention above and it’s my prayer that someone, something reaches her before her physical condition is irreparable. If you have someone in your life such as I do, please remember, we all have things we can improve upon. They just aren’t always as visible as someone else’s.
If you think you may have an eating disorder, please reach out for help. Someone loves you more than you can imagine and wants only for you to be healthy, strong, joyful, and peaceful in your soul. It is possible…