A student sits in their room alone with their phone lighting their face. They see all these very thin people looking stunning. The student automatically feels very insecure about themself. They don’t realize how fake social media is and how Photoshopped these bodies are, or how sick the people in the photos are. The student decides to harm their body by not eating and following eating disorder behaviors.
This is a sad reality for many teenagers growing up in the digital age. With social media being even more present in people’s lives due to the pandemic, it can be hard to step away from it and realize that the goal is good health, not sickness. Eating disorders can affect any gender and any age.
During the pandemic, it is also easier to isolate yourself, and is even forced upon people in many cases in order to stay safe. There are many studies that show that isolation is horrible for your mental health and well-being, and can make people fall into a deep hole of self-hatred. This causes them to view their bodies and weight as the only thing that matters about them, when in reality, it is their actions and character that makes a person who they truly are and is what makes you valuable, not what you look like.
Struggling with an eating disorder is hard. There are many things not talked about, and it is easy to be fascinated with the before and after pictures. In reality, eating disorders kill and the side effects of having one are not pretty. That is why it is so important to get help when these thoughts and feelings start to become present in their life.
Bulimia, which has some of the most awful side effects of this disease, causes hair loss, tooth decay and internal bleeding. All you see on social media is that some girl threw up a couple meals and lost so much weight, but in reality, puking is extremely painful. Burps turn to vomiting, gassiness turns to relieving yourself in your pants without control, and simply brushing your teeth can trigger your gag reflex and cause you to vomit.
Eating disorders can affect every second of everyday in people’s lives, and not just mentally. Many people struggling with an eating disorder have extremely unrealistic expectations of what they want their body to look like. Many want to be child-sized. There are many accounts of people coming out and saying that they looked at young children and wished their bodies were that small and fragile. Wanting to achieve that shape can result in people becoming very sick and that goal and many of an eating disorder are not achievable. It may seem obvious, but you cannot look like a seven year old girl and weigh the same after development. The goal becomes thinner and thinner and that is how so many are tragically lost to these diseases.
Another important part of this story is binging. Binge eating disorder is another valid disorder that affects many people. Many people think a binge is eating a little more than usual but it’s a routine people follow for the euphoria from eating too much. It is a serious addiction. When we are in a place right now where there is little comfort from friends from being so isolated. There are much less outside comforts in life right now and that will cause many to turn to their food addiction for the few seconds of euphoria after eating. Many with eating disorders end up eating thrown away food or spoiled food because they feel they need something to make them feel okay for a little bit.
These details are absolutely not to bring disgust towards people with eating disorders. It is simply a warning about how sick you can become, and that it’s not a glamorous thing. People who have these symptoms need to recieve help, not disgust and hate. People need support and kindness to recover. Being non-judgmental is most important in understanding and helping someone with an eating disorder. We should all want to help and support others around us, even if their habits are different to ours. Stay strong, fight for yourself and get a support group that can also fight for you, even if it seems impossible.
And please, please know you are not alone. If you have just started having these thoughts of hurting yourself in this way, or if you have had an eating disorder for a very long time. It is never too late, please take care of yourselves by talking to an adult, a doctor, or a social worker. It is difficult to get help for yourself, but it will be worth it to get better. Reach out for help and even though it is very hard for everyone during this time, there is always a chance to recover.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or know someone who is, please contact the helpline at National Eating Disorders Association for support and resources.