February 24 - March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. One is every 20 people is dealing with an eating disorder. Additionally even more struggle with chaotic and negative relationships with food and body. Over half of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self induced vomiting and diet pills. Eating disorders have severe physical and emotional consequences, affecting productivity, relationships and valued living.
Full recovery is possible. Read on to hear about one young person's and her mother's story.
EK: Recovery from an eating disorder was the hardest thing I have ever done. Period. I disliked myself and I though starving my body and losing weight were the answer. II began treatment with a nutritionist and therapist and at the time, did not know how sick I was. I definitely did not know what an eating disorder was - but I had one. My nutritionist set up a very strict meal plan that I was mandated to follow. I hated the meal plan with every bone inside of me. I was terrified of food and gaining weight. For months, my meals were spent sobbing and screaming Fear, anguish and anger lived inside me. After a long time I finally realized that I was never going to recover unless I began to trust my mom and my team. They constantly reassured me, "food is scary, but not eating is NOT an option. Food is GOOD for you. You will not get fat after one meal. Food is energy. The scary thoughts that your mind is obsessed with will go away." I had to trust that these words were true. My team told me that one day I would believe the words were true and that day has finally come. Finally, I do believe those words and I repeat them to myself daily. Recovering from an eating disorder is a battle and most of the time it is a battle for your life. Many times I felt like quitting because the journey ahead was so overwhelming. I never thought recovery was possible. I thought the darkness that encumbered me would never end, but it did! You must never stop fighting. Put one foot in front of the next and one day you will reach the finish line.
MOM: Anorexia was the LAST thing I ever expected to face as a mother of 5 healthy, happy and well-adjusted children. I was totally blindsighted. It's a good thing my girl and I were close, because I would have never noticed the early, subtle signs of this monster. I watched it rob my teen of her joy, her confidence, her rationality, her inner peace, her outward beauty, her poise, her relationships, and sadder still...her innocence. It took over, and IT WAS WAR. Nothing was going to seek, kill, and destroy what God had blessed me with; a precious daughter, loved and cherished.
Treatment was swift, certain and rigorous. Appointments took over our days and tears and yelling took over our family meals But quitting, or even acquiescing to her eating disorder was never an option. She was going to win, not IT! Days turned into grueling weeks, into tedious months...and months.
Slowly, the fog cleared. Reason and rational thinking returned and my precious, beautiful daughter began to emerge, and the chains fell off. What was so shocking was watching who she became following the storm and chaos of recovery. Sure, much was lost, but so much more gained. She learned hard lessons about life and herself. Today, she stands tall, strong, confident and HEALTHY. She has been poured out and filled with truth and wisdom to lead her into young adulthood, poised for success that she defines..;not the world. My daughter is an inspiration to me and a miracle. She is a warrior and an overcomer. It is my hope that her story will inspire other stories of victory and recovery.
If you have concerns about yourself of someone else, please go to: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care. It’s Time to Talk About It!
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.