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Walking a Thin Line MAG
“God, why am I so FAT?” “I have no self-control.” “Help me NOT EAT DINNER. It’s always so hard not to – my mom makes these yummy meals and while they’re sometimes healthy, sometimes not … I still can’t eat tonight. I’ve had WAY too much food today.” “I don’t think I have enough will power. Any thinspo* would be great right now.”
These are real quotes I found on a blog for girls with anorexia or bulimia. There they compare what they do and how they feel with people who understand. As I read their comments, I realized that they have their own state of mind that’s so different from mine that it is incomprehensible to me. What is really going on inside an anorexic’s head? What causes people to starve themselves?
“Molly” is at the top of her class, she’s popular, she gets all the guys, and she’s head cheerleader. She works so hard to be the perfect child. But there are some girls at school who are thinner than she is. Determined to be best at that too, Molly tries every diet she can find, and nothing seems to work. She has no idea what to do next.
“Alice” seems to have the ideal life. But at home, everything is wrong. The second that Alice walks through the door, she hears her mother screaming as her dad confronts her yet again about her drug addiction. Alice tries so hard to get her parents to notice her and show that they care. She has to do something drastic.
Last year, “Erin’s” sister was diagnosed with anorexia. Erin used to idolize her sister; she was perfect. Everything that Erin did was because of her sister. But all of a sudden, she’s not so perfect anymore. Erin can’t even begin to grasp that fact. Maybe she’ll try to be anorexic too.
Girls who suffer from eating disorders may come from very different lives, but they have a similar problem. They believe they’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not noticed enough, not skinny enough, or are unable to accept a change. And just one little push can send any of them over the edge.
In one study, three out of four women said they were overweight, even though only one of them actually was. Four out of five women in the U.S. are unhappy with the way they look. Eighty-one percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. More than half of average-weight white teen girls think they’re fat.
Women feel so much pressure to be thin that the healthy idea of thin is no longer appealing. A study showed that approximately 40 percent of women wanted to look like a person who is 10 percent to 20 percent underweight. This is not healthy. Adolescent girls are more scared of gaining weight than of being diagnosed with cancer, a nuclear war, or losing their parents. Since when is being skinny more important than family?
But being anorexic or bulimic isn’t all about being thin. For some, it’s a way to stop growing up. They are getting older, and their bodies are changing. They are developing hips, thighs, and breasts, and no longer look like they did when they were happy youngsters. In order to maintain their youth, some girls get rid of their womanly shape by not eating. All of the things that scare us about growing up, from leaving our homes to relationships, terrify these people. By starving themselves they seek to stop time.
Anorexia often happens to people with emotional issues like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, body image distortions, poor impulse control, and substance abuse. If you have any of these, you are at an increased risk for anorexia.
If you know someone who is dealing with an eating disorder, first contact their parents or another adult you trust. Then try to talk to them about it. Perhaps start the conversation with “I care about you a lot and I’m starting to see that …” or “You seem to have a lot of things going on. Do you want to talk about it?” If they don’t want to talk, that’s okay. Remember, a few words can go a long way.
Some believe that anorexics and bulimics are freaks. They’re not. They’re just normal people who go through tough times. Whether due to peer pressure or the desire to be noticed, they feel the need to be skinny and don’t eat. Some even find satisfaction in being hungry.
Through my research I attempted to understand the mentality of those who suffer from eating disorders. But a familiar quote comes to mind: “It takes one to know one.” And if that’s the case, I never want to understand it fully.
* A thinspo is a picture of a bone-thin celebrity that helps inspire someone with an eating disorder to stick with it.