By Emily, age 19, Newfoundland
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
Ever since I can remember, my mom has had an eating disorder. She would fast for a couple of days, and then she would binge for a day. Then the cycle would start all over again.
Two years ago, after hearing about "pro-ana" sites, I became curious about their disorders, how they handled them, and what their lives were like. I didn't understand how teenage girls, and even guys, could find it appealing.
I created an online blog and began reading firsthand the experiences of girls who either had eating disorders or "disordered eating", slowly learning the difference between the two.* Little by little, I began to appreciate them, as they were fighting a war every day with the mirror, losing most battles, winning few. They recorded everything that they ate, disgusted by even 500 calories a day, which is what some of us would eat in one sitting.
Then I began to notice changes in my own behavior. I began looking at everything I ate in a different perspective. Soon I started counting calories, and recording everything I ate in a small journal. To me 800 calories a day was a massive amount. So I tried to cut down on my portions and my snacking. I'd skip breakfast and lunch, only eating dinner because my family and I had dinner together at the table.
I began drinking massive amounts of Diet Coke to fill the void and to give me the needed energy to get through the day, needing 5 to 6 cans a day to keep me awake during classes. And even though my grades started slipping because I simply didn't have the energy to study, encouragement from my sisters in the pro-ana community made it all worthwhile. They were so supportive.
Then I started slipping. I began to lose control and to binge. I did this for weeks. I felt disgusted. Soon I sought the help of a psychologist. She diagnosed me with disordered eating and helped me work through it. I slowly became okay with my body again. And I realized that now that I was okay with my body, my eating habits were okay too.
But unfortunately nothing lasts forever. My eating habits depend on my mood. If I'm upset, I'll try to fast, end up binging, and then be okay with my body the next day. It's cyclical and hard to deal with sometimes, but I accept it as who I am. I hope that someday I'll truly be okay with my body and won't have to resort to fasting and binging anymore. But in the meantime I'd like to bring awareness to the issue, and help teenagers who suffer from the same disorder to find a happy medium.
Notes* Disordered eating (DE) vs. an eating disorder ... It's a little hard to explain, as they are a lot alike. But basically, DE is when people start dieting and starve themselves. They usually end up failing and then end up binging shortly after. They really don't have the same mind frame as ana/mia sufferers. People who suffer from anorexia, for example, are very, very hesitant to eat very much of anything. All they can think about is calories. Another difference is that an eating disorder is pretty much long-term, requiring continuing treatment, while DE can be stopped with enough sense to do so. DE can lead to a more serious eating disorder.
Wikipedia can probably sum it up better:
Disordered eating is a term that is used by some people to describe a wide variety of irregularities in eating behavior that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
An eating disorder is a compulsion to eat, or avoid eating, that negatively affects one's physical and mental health.