Tody's #SpeakUp post comes from the lovely Robyn. Robyn is going to be discussing an issue which is actually quite close to my heart. If you read my 'Body Confidence Journey' post you will know that my weight and relationship with food is something that I have personally struggled with for a number of years.
Unlike Robyn, I managed to get out of it without the help of medication or therapy. I was never diagnosed with anorexia, although I did display many of the symptoms. Robyn describes how anorexia feels absolutely perfectly- better than I could ever do. Anorexia is all encompassing, your whole life revolves around food, calories, exercise etc. It interferes with your normal daily routine and stops you leading a happy and healthy life.
Unfortunately, the media doesn't portray this side of anorexia. Like Robyn discusses in this post, painstakingly thin models are used in magazines and in fashion shows, which negatively influences young girls and boys into thinking this is the norm and in order to be accepted by society they must look like them. Robyn does a fantastic job in discussing what anorexia feels like, so I really hope you learn something or feel like you understand anorexia a little bit better from reading this post.
Hi, I'm Robyn from OhSoDaisy! In this post, I'll be talking about eating disorders (more specifically anorexia) and how social media portrays them.
I have anorexia. I'm sure everyone reading this has a mild understanding of what anorexia is, but in case you aren't aware, here is the definition from the NHS website:
"Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition. It's an eating disorder where a person keeps their body weight as low as possible. People with anorexia usually do this by restricting the amount of food they eat, making themselves vomit, and exercising excessively. The condition often develops out of an anxiety about body shape and weight that originates from a fear of being fat or a desire to be thin."
So what is it like to have one?
It's difficult to put into words, but the best way I can describe it is this:
It's like something has taken over your brain, and now you question everything you do, whether it's food-related or exercising. Ironically, all you think about is food, and your brain turns into a little human calculator, and you find yourself constantly adding, subtracting, and dividing calorie numbers in your head. A little voice seems to appear in your head and dominates exactly what you eat. That little voice is completely in control of you and soon becomes what feels like your only friend.
Anorexia takes over your life so much so that you no longer have time for a social life, so you isolate yourself. In terms of hunger, my eating disorder got so bad that I no longer felt hungry when I wasn't eating, I just felt constantly hollow, exhausted, and depressed.
The way you look at yourself suddenly changes too. It's like looking in the mirror at a funfair, where everything is warped and out of proportion, and you can't see past it.
I've had this since I was around 14, and I'm 16 now. Even now, eating something as simple as a McDonald's can send me into a panic and I start to stress about the amount of calories and fats and sugars that I'll be eating.
The way social media portrays eating disorders is awful. In the past few years, it seems as though it's become 'fashionable' and 'cool' to have some sort of mental health problem. Eating disorders are appearing to be some sort of strict diet, an extreme way to lose weight. Photos of painfully thin girls with sunken-in stomachs and their hipbones jutting out are almost idolised. I've seen these photos with people saying that they're 'body goals' and wished that they looked like them. Believe me, I've reached that stage and it is not fun. You're constantly tired, exhausted, but still don't believe you're thin and 'pretty' enough yet, so you continue on.
No matter how social media presents it, an eating disorder is not glamourous. It's not a case of "Yay! I've lost a few pounds!" and then be done with it. It gradually consumes you, and then you're suddenly in a tainted world where a little voice in your head dictates exactly what and when you eat.
I also think social media seems to also brush over anorexia as though it's not really a thing.
"All teenage girls (or boys) seem to go on diets nowadays, don't they? This sudden fear of food isn't real, as soon as they quit the diet, they'll be fine, right?"
Wrong. It's like smoking, once you start, you can't stop, and it becomes somewhat of a game or challenge: see how long you can go without food, or try and live off of 500 calories for a day.
You cannot just simply stop anorexia, for me it took months and months of counselling to beat this and repair my relationship with food, and I still go to these counselling sessions now.
Eating disorders don't disappear in an instant, I'll probably always carry it around with me, but right now, I'm much better and that little screaming voice in my head is becoming quieter and quieter.
Further information regarding anorexia and eating disorders (plus some charities/helplines you can go if you feel like you are struggling with anorexia or any other kind of eating disorder:
Beat- UK leading charity supporting those affected by eating disorders Helpline: 0345 634 1414
NHS- Eating Disorders
Thank you so much to Robyn for writing such a fantastic and informative piece on anorexia. If you would like to share your story about a topic or issue that affects young people's health and wellbeing than email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading, as always x