Posts tagged Eating Disorder
Living with an Eating Disorder

Lyzz, a 19 year old college student, has struggled with issues of weight, and ultimately with self-love, since childhood. Growing up, she watched her mother struggle with anorexia and endure multiple hospitalizations, feeding tubes, and seemingly endless suffering. She didn’t want to end up this way, and promised herself she would never have an eating disorder. Despite her best intention, she developed Bulimia by the time she was a teenager. With her mother as a role model, she had no idea how to have a healthy relationships with food and her body. She didn’t know how to love herself.

But most of us struggle with issues of weight, even when we have had healthy role models. The pressure to be thin in our culture is enormous, especially for girls. Thin is considered better, and eating disorders are pervasive. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 10 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder, and 90% of these are women. Approximately 4.5% of all American high school students reported in a recent survey that they’d vomited or used laxatives as a means to lose weight in the past 30 days, and approximately 4% of college-aged females have bulimia. According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 35% of adolescent girls believed they were overweight, 60% were trying to lose weight. The vast majority of eating disorders go untreated.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story. To truly understand, we have to listen to those who have been directly effected. In Lyzz’s words, “To fully grasp that terror of an eating disorder would take much more than an hour long interview. The struggle for perfection is destructive and unbearable. Not only is this goal an impossible one, but the process is crippling and fatal. An eating disorder needs you to feel imperfect, unworthy, ugly, fat, disgusting, wrong, horrible. It strips you of your health, your self worth, your life, your soul. It blames you for everything that goes wrong and berates you if you can’t fix it. You do not need to fix everything. It is not your fault. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be the best you can be and not be afraid of who you are. That is true beauty.”

Story first appeared on WBUR’s CommonHealth blog on February 3, 2011: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2011/02/eating-disorder-bulimia-takes-over-life

Resources:

To learn more about eating disorders, visit

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eating-disorders/DS00294

For support as well as information about treatment options, go to

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/treatment

630-577-1330 is the ANAD Eating Disorder Helpline in the United States that is open Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm and provides information about symptoms and contacts for further support and treatment. The email anadhelp@anad.org is also available for these resources.

http://www.anad.org/eating-disorders-get-help/eating-disorders-helpline-email/

To listen to more stories about personal struggles with eating disorders, visit

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/10/14/health/healthguide/TE_EATINGDISORDERS_CLIPS.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephaniepapa/eatingdisorders_b_4265845.html?utm_hp_ref=mental-health


 

On the Road to Recovered: Jenks's Story

At the age of 17 at an all-male boarding school in Virginia, Jenks developed what would grow into a life-threatening eating disorder. It began with over-exercising, and quickly spiraled into bulimia, stimulant abuse, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Over the following ten years, the eating disorder ruled Jenks’s life and took uncountable things away from him. He hid his disorder for years, ashamed to tell friends and family that he was struggling with what was considered by many to be a “women’s disease.” It did not help that he did not know any males with eating issues to whom he could turn for advice.

Eventually, Jenks opened up to his family about his co-occurring issues with alcohol, drugs, and food. Hospitalizations and treatment programs helped him address his substance addiction first, but in the absence of those behaviors the eating disorder surged. He realized his pattern of trying to fill the void he felt inside with whatever was at hand: drugs, alcohol, relationships, exercise, or food.

Now 31 and in solid recovery, Jenks discusses the mixed feelings he had for years about letting go of his eating disorder: part of him wanted freedom, but another part was unwilling to give up the rituals. When Jenks began his journey towards recovery in earnest, at a treatment center called A New Journey in Santa Monica, California, it was not without stumbles.

From these experiences, Jenks realized his passion for service. He describes how his recovery is based in giving back to others who are themselves recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and eating disorders. One of Jenks’s primary missions is to encourage men to engage in open conversations about their struggles with food, which he believes is the essential first step to healing.

Originally from Rock Hill, South Carolina, Jenks currently resides in Venice, California where he works as a House Manager in a sober living house for men.

Love Your Body Week at Boston College: Embodied Stories

Each fall at Boston College, the Women’s Center hosts Love Your Body Week (LYBW), “a week of programming dedicated to promoting healthy body image on campus.” The Women’s Center, in collaboration with other organizations, aims to give students space to reflect on their relationships with their bodies. Inclusivity is a key feature of this week, as many of the events of consider how body image intersects with race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. This year events ranged from lectures on body image and the media and panel discussions on colorism, to a performance of Eve Ensler’s Good Body andEmbodied Expression, a therapeutic painting session.

The week kicked off on Monday, November 9 with the opening reception for Embodied Stories, a photography exhibit by Ben Flythe, a student photographer. Flythe photographed students and their bodily identifiers—tattoos, scars, burns, skin color, and birthmarks, for example. Accompanying the portraits were quotations from interviews with the students, who discussed what their bodies mean to them. Although the portraits highlight the specificities of each body, the students never become just bodies: their identities shine through; the photographs celebrate the dynamic and complex ways identities align with body image. In his gallery talk, Flythe emphasized the diversity of the stories he captured. These individual stories, he noted, speak to our own stories of embodiment. We each have an embodied story, and putting our own stories into dialogue with the stories of others—those portraits, for instance—is to understand that we are all connected.

This year I was fortunate enough to have a small hand in LYBW, as I helped to bring two student speakers to the opening reception. Leading up to the event, Marwa Eltahir—a Women’s Center staffer and co-coordinator of LYBW—and I sat down with Erin Sutton and Justin Kresevic and heard their stories; we were struck by how their stories spoke to the goals of LYBW and the complexity of body image. My work with Health Story Collaborative prepared me well for this task, and I adapted the Healing Story Session guidelines and questions for the purposes of the event. What’s more important, however, is that Health Story Collaborative taught me how to listen, to be present as someone shares their story, to accompany them. What mattered most was letting them tell their stories that needed to be told.

At the reception to Embodied Stories, Erin told her story of living with bulimia and her difficult, continuing journey to recovery. She spoke to the difficulty of coming to love her body at Boston College, where body image and appearance issues so often go unnoticed, unsaid. She expressed her gratitude to the people who have supported her, and spoke to the daily challenges she faces in coming to love her own body. Justin spoke to the difficulty of being short, when masculinity is associated with being tall and muscular. This dissonance has affected his personal relationships, and he works everyday to accept his own body. Justin emphasized the need to work against the problematic ideals of men’s body images: masculinity is as individual as each of our bodies.

Erin and Justin challenged all of us in attendance to understand truly what Love Your Body Week means. Loving one’s body isn’t something to be taken for granted, to be considered easy. When so many images and ideals of bodily perfection and worth hold up problematic and impossible standards, coming to love one’s body is a challenging and harrowing experience. By sharing their own stories of embodiment and acknowledging their continuing journey towards loving their bodies, Erin and Justin asked us all to consider our own stories.

I am so grateful to have been a small part of LYBW and to have heard these stories. Erin’s and Justin’s stories, along with the stories of students photographed by Ben, speak to how important it is to talk about these issues and how valuable it is to enter into meaningful conversation with others. These stories have stayed with me, in my own process of coming to terms with my own body. Sharing stories, at the end of the day, is about building community, starting conversations, and realizing that none of us are alone, that our stories all matter. I look forward to hearing more stories, perhaps telling my own, and continuing the worthwhile conversations around body image happening both at Boston College and beyond campus.

Erin ended her talk with a powerful statement about our selves, our bodies, and our stories: We are all worth it.