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Common Application: Eating Disorders

By , Vinalhaven, ME
Eating disorders are becoming more and more common in teenagers and even adults these days, on account of societys idea of the perfect body. The spread of this devastating mental disease has reached every corner of the world and affects millions of young men and women. The point of this essay is to explain the types of eating disorders there are, the effects of these eating disorders, the harsh effect that the media has on a young persons mind, and my personal battle with this disease that came, destroyed a lot of things, and never really left.

There are many types of eating disorders, the most common eating disorders though are Anorexia-Nervosa and Bulimia-Nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is when a person is overwhelmed by the irrational fear of gaining weight, distorted body self-perception and they tend to restrict their diet to very small portions of food, if at all. This eating disorder is more commonly found in women but can also be found in men. Anorexia effects your mind in so many ways that many people claim to not know who they are anymore, they feel as if they’ve lost themselves in the disease and become obsessed with it. Anorexia is thought of as the “incurable disorder” because many people never completely recover from this disorder, they only learn how to manage it well, after many many years of rehabilitation and therapy. The obsession that comes with this disorder completely over takes the persons life, a scale becomes their worst enemy and food becomes a monster they are constantly fighting. Mentally, this disorder wears a person down, until they start developing other mental disorders such as depression or even schizophrenia. The mental effects that this disorder has is only the half of it, the effects it physically leaves are awful as well. Typically, a person who develops this disorder and lives with it for a long period of time with eventually become very weak and frail, their hair becomes thin and tends to fall out, they stop menstruating and because of this their bones will lose their density and be very easy to break. It’s also common for someone to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. There is nothing beautiful about this disease, there is nothing good about this obsession and in the end, the person is never happy with their “progress” anyway. Eventually they will wither away to nothing simply because they never think they’re thin enough. (nimh.nih.gov)

The other common eating disorder that people suffer from is Bulimia-Nervosa, this disorder is the act of binging and purging, or eating large sums of food in a short period of time, and then ridding the body of the food, often by throwing up or with laxatives. This disease, while is similar to Anorexia, has its own physical effects and mental effects that are just as deadly. A person who suffers from this disease will often lock themselves in a room by themselves, to binge in private. The differences between the two disorders are the way the food is consumed, how much, and how the diseases differ in terms of being noticeable. The food consumed when the person is diagnosed with Anorexia tends to cut their food up into very small pieces, and very very small portions of food, while a person with Bulimia tends to consume large bites of food, and in large quantities. People with bulimia tend to also be able to hide their disease better, because even in the most desperate attempts of ridding their body of the food, they’re still taking some calories in. This doesn’t mean the bulimia is a safer eating disorder or that it’s better. Both of these disease can ruin a persons life in a very short period of time, and it also can ruin the lives of people around them. Eating disorders don’t only effect the person who has it, it also effects the ones that love them, constantly putting them in fear that you could die or severely hurt yourself. These diseases are like hurricanes or tornados. They come through and cause so much destruction. When they pass, there is still so much damage and there is lots of work that needs to be done to fix things, but they’ll never be the exact way they were before. (nimh.nih.gov)

There is an overwhelming idea that the media has loads to do with the growing epidemic that is eating disorders. The media uses sex and the idea of the perfect body in the media to get their point across, even in car commercials you never see a heavier person driving, or the average sized 40 year old man. There is always that constant reminder that one has the perfect body and the perfect smile and the viewer doesn’t. Women in the media are often shown in skimpy clothing, and they’re very fit. Clothing models and runway models are never plus sized. Even fictional characters are thin and beautiful. The idea of the perfect body is constantly flashed in front of our faces, all the time. There is never an add on the TV for being happy with yourself, but there is plenty of exercise equipment and diet pills for sale.

A survey was done at Yale, and 4,000 students said they would rather give up a year of their life than be fat, and a large percent of them stated that they would try diet pills, if they felt like they should. 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting. 22% dieted “often” or “always.” Market data estimates that the total U.S. weight loss market was worth $55.4 billion in 2006 and is constantly growing at a very rapid rate. Think about that, all that money is going into paying a person who is fit and beautiful, to tell you that a little pill can make you thin and happy. There’s something very suspicious about that, and I find it very hard to believe that the people in the ads got their 6 pack from swallowing a pill. The media is harder on our minds than we realize, and with it being such a large part of our culture and our lifestyle here in America, we don’t even register that the media is making such a big impact on the younger minds of today. In a survey of girls 9 and 10 years old, 40% have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Right there is a reason that we should be more concerned with trying to prevent eating disorders, and distorted ideas of body image in the younger generations. By the time girls reach the age of 17, 78% of them are unhappy with the way their bodies look and want to change it. 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. These statistics are the sad reality behind the growing danger of eating disorders, and how they even effect the younger children as well. The media will probably never stop portraying women as thin beautiful people, all the time, but that doesn’t mean people can’t try to help younger people grow up to understand the truth behind the media, the magical effects of photoshop and make up, and the truth behind the “perfect women.” There isn’t one. (anad.org & healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu)

My personal experience isn’t well known. Very few people know about my eating disorder, other have their own suspicions. This will be the first time telling my story so openly, but hopefully not my last. I would love for my story to help someone with their own disorder, but I know in my heart that an unfinished story can’t help someone, only influence them to at least make it as far as I have. I haven’t recovered from my eating disorder, I still struggle on a daily basis with food and my self confidence. Thankfully though, I think I’ve escaped my darkest days. I remember this moment very distinctly, because it was the first time I ever really thought I was fat. I was in 6th grade, and I was on a dance team. The night that we were supposed to perform, I wore a crop top type costume, I remember looking down at my body and not liking what I saw. Things progressed slowly from there and then eventually exploded into a full blown obsession. I suffered from Anorexia-Nervosa and reached my lowest weight, in 8th grade of 78 Lbs. Being only 5’2’’ at the time, people automatically assumed that I would be very petite. On a daily basis I was consuming so few calories that I tended to become light headed and tired all the time. Physically, I just looked worn out, mentally I was worn out, and I was tired of the stress that I was facing. I decided to chose between the things that were most important in my life, and decided that I would have to stop giving at least one thing less attention.

Of course, I wasn’t going to give up my eating disorder, it was impossible, so I decided that school was the last thing on my list of things to care about, and I began to fail all my classes. History and English were my two favorite subjects, and I completely stopped trying in everything I did. The assignments we got were never that challenging for me, I just didn’t care enough to try and complete them. I put papers in my locker so they could sit there until I got sick of looking at them, rubrics for projects were thrown in the trash and my projects were mediocre quality. I knew I could do a lot better, but I wasn’t applying myself at all.

What changed my life at this point was my fathers divorce, he was going through his own hard time, and left decision making up to me, I chose to move. I was desperate for something to change, and I was also desperate to “fix myself” before I started at a new school. I became obsessed with self help books and websites, equally as obsessed with helping myself, as I was with destroying myself. Eventually I did talk to someone. I tried at home treatment, because I refused to go to a center, I started to overcome my eating disorder and things seemed to get a little better. The time came to move, and obviously I wasn’t going to be able to take my therapist with me, so I stopped treatment, and I moved on with my life. To this day I still see signs of my disorder, haunting the back of my mind. I have my bad days when I won’t eat anything, or days when I feel ashamed of myself because of the things that I did eat, but there are always struggles that come with making progress. I hope to eventually be able to say that I did beat my demons, and that I’m happy with the direction my life is going. Until then, I’ll be fighting my demons and hopefully helping people understand these deadly mental diseases and the effects that the world has on young men and women.




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