NEW CASTLE —
Millions of Americans suffer from eating disorders.
Among them are Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified. An estimated 90 percent of those suffering are adolescent and young women, though men and adults suffer from eating disorders as well.
Eating disorders have serious mental and physical health consequences including death. In fact, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness — up to 20 percent. The number of those affected in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1960 and continues to climb.
This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association, this is a nationally recognized week of spreading awareness and increasing outreach, while aiming to break down the stigmas and stereotypes associated with eating disorders.
To get involved, some people host walks, others speak publically and many volunteer.
I decided to contribute by sharing a personal essay outlining my own battle with an eating disorder.
A FRIEND IN FOOD
On a warm Sunday morning, I sat cross legged at the kitchen table in my boyfriend’s tiny one bedroom apartment, the smell of sizzling bacon and fried eggs filled the room. As I watched the slices of bacon curl up like ribbons, the fat rolling off of them and into the skillet, I felt a knot well up in my throat. I suddenly wanted to run away, to flee to a place devoid of foods like bacon and butter-laden eggs — but the choice already had been made, and this time there was no turning back.
It was March 21, 2010, and I had just made the most difficult decision of my entire life. I had vowed to once and for all end my long-standing, obsessive, destructive and deadly relationship with food.
As the oldest child in a family of 7, I had always felt the need to be “perfect.” I believe that some of this desire to achieve the impossible was imprinted into my DNA. The other portion of this obsession with perfection probably derived my interest in and then later, obsession with, the seemingly perfect people I saw on television and in movies. Whatever the case, it was there.
As a child I was tall and chubby and often teased by my classmates. I spent many after-school hours in the clubhouse behind my parents’ home, drowning my sorrows in Little Debbie ‘Fudge Rounds’ and frozen orange juice concentrate (yes, I ate it with a spoon). Eating in secrecy became my favorite part of the day, and when I was getting tripped in the lunch room or finding notes from my peers referring to me as “the weird fat girl” I could take comfort in knowing that I was a mere two or three hours away from spending some quality time with what had become my best friend.
It’s not often that a person finds a friend that is always there, that never lets her down, a friend so perfect that the mere thought of him can turn a horrible day into the best day imaginable. I had found that friend in food and just as with any friendship, we changed and evolved with each passing year.