The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 23, 2014

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week


The Daily Item

— The battle of an eating disorder can be compared to the famous ship, The Titanic. The Titanic was a glorified and secure ship; it was the best built ship of its time.

In their own way eating disorders can distort reality to the point that they become something that’s glorified, secure, and the best.

These distortions become glorified by the sufferer and security is found in these false realities. Having control is found by being consumed in these obsessive thoughts and acting compulsively due to these thoughts. One struggling with an eating disorder may feel that the need for control is fulfilled through these distorted obsessions and compulsions.

However, eating disorders ruin lives. Just as the Titanic was once a magnificent ship, it soon met its limit. The Titanic horrifically sunk after hitting an iceberg. Eating disorders are complex illnesses with potentially devastating affects on mental and physical health. Early detection and intervention is critical because eating disorders can lead to death.

Eating disorders arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, psychological, interpersonal, biological, genetic, and social conditions. People with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem over-whelming. Eating disorders may be a way to cope with painful emotions.

As for me, multiple factors put me at risk for an eating disorder. All within one month’s time, I hit puberty, my  grandma passed away, my family moved, and my boyfriend broke up with me. My life felt very out of control. As a very athletic little girl, it was a drastic change to suddenly have a woman’s body as well as such strong emotions and thoughts. My grandmother’s passing was very difficult because it was the first time I had experienced the death of a close family member. Moving to another town isolated me from all that had been familiar and safe such as friendships, school, sports. My heart ached as my boyfriend didn’t want to commit to me anymore. Given all these life changes happening at a young age and all within one month’s time, I was at risk for an eating disorder.

I became depressed, yet I kept going through the motions of life. However, I yearned so strongly for relief from the  pain I endured over the years from my past. I had gone through a few minor phases in attempt to “fit in,” but I  hadn’t tried dieting.

My eating disorder started, as some do, as an innocent attempt to try to eat healthier. I felt glorified and secure  having received praise and attention for becoming healthier through my lifestyle changes; however, despite eating healthier, exercising more, and reaching better health, I felt that I couldn’t stop. There were thoughts in my head that always craved to be more drastic in both my dieting and exercising. I felt guilty when I didn’t act on such extreme dietary restrictions and workouts. My life became a very narrow as I glorified my eating disorder.

It gave me a sense of security as I could control something in my life, being my food intake and exercise regimen.

However, I actually lost control as each day simply became just another battle of eating disorder thoughts and compulsions. I became incredibly distant from God, my family, friends, and myself! Reality was no longer reality. No matter the weight, I wasn’t thin enough. My eating disordered thoughts included that I was never good enough. Also, I remember one night hesitating to brush my teeth because I was fearful that toothpaste had calories in it.

Despite the chaos and loss of reality, one winter night, God reached out to me. I was in my bed underneath the covers and I remember wondering what would happen to me if I didn’t wake up. Would I go to heaven? Would I go to hell? Would anyone cry at my funeral? Did I touch any lives for the better? Overwhelmed with fear, shame, guilt, and emptiness, I cried out to God with tears pouring down my cheeks for forgiveness and for Him to deliver me. I couldn’t fight this eating disorder on my own.

Multiple people educated me on what I was struggling with and offered resources for help. Those struggling with eating disorders may not even know they have a problem. As mentioned before, those who suffer have a distorted reality.

As part of the National Eating Disorder’s Awareness Week, Feb. 23 through March 1, I wrote this article because I am lucky. I was helped. There are those who will suffer, are suffering, and who have suffered and might be vulnerable to relapse.

Eating disorders are serious health conditions with both emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for men and women of every age, race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Early detection and intervention is critical, so please save those Titanics out there.

Eating disorders are very complex and interventions vary, but the National Eating Disorders Association’s web site has an abundance of resources for you and/or your loved ones. I highly recommend visiting their web site: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

 Kelly Maze lives in Danville