by Albert Breton
Note: This post originally appeared on Illuminable Darkness and has been cross-posted with permission.
For someone who suffers from an eating disorder, the world we live in is an unhealthy environment. So many things can instantly trigger eating disorder symptoms, such as the words we use to describe our relationship with food.
Society is constantly exposing us to ads, commercials, and every other form of media that tells us that in order to be happy, we need to be skinny, thin, but lean at the same time. It’s a contradiction, the ideal image society tells us to strive for is one that is not possible for us.
For someone suffering from an eating disorder, the waters can turn toxic really fast.
The language we use around food now is very black and white. Food is either good or bad. It tastes delicious or tastes gross. Its appropriate to eat at this meal or that meal. These simple phrases such as “that tastes gross” “Oh I hate that food” “You’re eating that this early?” all puts judgment on food. It makes food something that needs to be avoided, restricted, earned. For me, those phrases were the only thing I needed to hear to trigger a restriction period. I no longer ate that food or this food. I put food into a strict schedule where the amount of food depended on the meal. It turned from intuitive eating, to disordered eating.
What I learned in the hospital to counter all this “food talk” was to look and embrace the concept of food neutrality. Food no longer was seen as good and bad, it was seen as fuel for our body. Our body needs the basic components of food, and getting each of those helped our body keep us alive. Instead of saying “gross” or “I don’t like that food” we said “its not a taste preference.” It kept a neutral stance on the food. This helped me control how even I can trigger myself by using judgmental words and associating food to them.
When I moved back home after my time in the hospital, I began to teach my family the power that words can have on associations we make with food. My sister is only nine years old and I want her to grow up in a family where food is neutral so that she can have a positive relationship with food. My family now watches the words they use, they make sure to use neutral words rather than assignment good or bad to them.
This morning as I drove to school, I heard on the radio a commercial for weight loss. It instantly caught my attention and I knew that it triggered something in me. What bothered me the most about the commercial is that when it talked about losing weight, it said “love your body.”
As if losing weight was the ONLY way to love your body.
Weight talk is another constant thing we hear in our society that it has turned to casual talk. This is the worst form of talk for me, because it triggers so many disordered thoughts and urges to use eating disorder symptoms. Comments on weight seen through media and marketing. The media uses its power to tell us that in order for us to be happy and get what we want, we need to lose something. We need to lose ourselves.
Society says how we need to become preoccupied with how we look because if we don’t look “the part” we will not find happiness, we will not find joy, we will not find love or wealth.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I attempted to reach this “perfect” image, and I nearly killed myself in the process.
By trying to gain societies acceptance in your looks, you lose the love and acceptance of yourself.
Every day is a constant struggle for me and the constant triggers that are around me always make me want to restrict, and avoid food. Or to go on an exercise binge.
If there is one piece of advice that I want to give to others who don’t suffer from an eating disorder its this:
You never know who around you is struggling from an eating disorder. The words you use, could be all the ammo they need to fire all their energy into another destructive episode.