Over the last year or so, it has become apparent to me that more and more people are developing a bad relationship with food. Having suffered from anorexia for three years during my late teens, I am well aware of the toxic habits that can very quickly lead to an eating disorder, and am gutted to say that I am seeing them on a regular basis in the media, in schools and the workplace, and among my own friends and family. More often people tell me about their drastic methods to avoid putting on weight, not seeing how they are being unhealthy, or damaging their body.
It’s a Saturday night and my group of friends and I are preparing for a night out. We all get ready together, swapping make-up and sharing clothes, helping each other look as best we can. Everyone is in high spirits, except for the one friend who can’t seem to pick her outfit. She has tried on multiple different combinations and is now sat crying because she believes they all make her look and feel fat. Eventually, after a lot of circular conversations, she picks something that she feels remotely comfortable in, but spends the rest of the night seeking reassurance from the rest of the group that she doesn’t look fat, or that her belly isn’t sticking out. Throughout the night she orders only diet drinks and claims she’s not that hungry when the rest of us are getting drunk food. In the morning she continues to tell us she feels fat and diets for the rest of the week until the next Saturday, where the process is repeated.
Its mid week at work and I’m sat having lunch with friends. Whilst the rest of us are eating our lunch and chatting, one friend is focusing intently on her phone, entering exactly what she is eating into a fitness tracker. Later that afternoon she jumps up from her seat, commanded to walk around the room by the small device on her wrist, telling her she hasn’t done enough steps that hour. Later, when she goes home, she does the same thing with dinner. She complains that she is starving in the evening but refuses to eat anything else because she is already over her calorie limit for the day.
It’s a Thursday afternoon and I’m at the gym with my friend. She says she wants to do cardio that day because she went out for a meal last night and stuffed her face. She stays on the treadmill for an extensive amount of time, punishing herself for having fun and indulging the night before, despite the fact that she’s only eat a banana all day. A few weeks later and I’m having lunch with the same friend. She’s only eating rice cakes and a low fat cream cheese. She claims she’s not that hungry and doesn’t need anything else because she can’t make it to the gym that day due to another commitment. She says if she’s not exercising then she doesn’t need the food.
It’s the weekend, and I’m food shopping with a friend. As we walk up and down the isles looking for the things on our shopping lists, instead of throwing her items in when she finds them, she checks the nutritional information. Before the item qualifies for a place in her trolley, she has analysed the nutritional information and compared products to find the one that will make the cut; the one with the lowest calories. She gets frustrated if the numbers on the packaging are hard to find and will even search it on her phone if it’s not there.
It’s a Friday night and I’m talking to a family member before going out for a family meal. I tell her I’m looking forward to the meal and am getting quite hungry. She tells me she too can’t wait for the food and is absolutely starving. She hasn’t eat all day because she knew that she was going out for this meal tonight. Instead, she has had a few coffees and a smoothie to suppress her hunger slightly. She’s absolutely starving and gets frustrated easily at the time the food takes to arrive.
All of these friends have one thing in common, they are partaking in disordered eating. In different ways they are letting food control part of their life. They are engaging in controlling behavior with food in order to control their weight. Furthermore, they are doing it without even realising there is a problem. Although they all have good intentions, there habits are detrimental to their health, rather than helping them and can lead to eating disorders or burn out.
Although the advances in health knowledge and technology, there is an abuse of this knowledge, creating a huge problem. People are now have more control over their calorific intake than before. Despite the huge support for mental health awareness and eating disorders, little know the warning signs that they are developing an unhealthy relationship with food. By sharing these stories I hope to help open a few eyes, and encourage people to seek help and support to avoid things spiraling out of control.
(The stories I have written about are all focused around females simply because that’s who I was writing about. Eating disorders do not discriminate and boys can be affected just as easily as girls).