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Guest Post: Having an Eating Disorder is Never an Excuse for Cruelty

Posted Oct 28 2010 12:08pm
by Guest Blogger Jen P.

Anorexia nervosa is a disease, not an excuse for cruelty to an entire group of people. For five years, I suffered from an eating disorder, bouncing in and out of hospitals and residential treatment centers, counting every calorie that entered my mouth, furiously sweating out the pounds that I imagined were glomming onto my frame, agonizing over my size, the numbers on my clothing, and the number on the scale that taunted me every morning. Do you see the key word here? My. My mouth, my frame, my size. Anorexia nervosa is marked by a fierce, irrational obsession with one’s own appearance, a fear of gaining weight, and a distorted self-image. Nowhere in the clinical diagnosis of anorexia does it state that the disease makes an individual hate fat people. Nowhere in the definition does it state that anorexia makes it “aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room,” as Maura Kelly states in her Marie Claire article. This cruel, mean-spirited, and judgmental point of view can not be blamed on a disease, a disease that has afflicted some of the kindest, gentlest, most supportive women (and men) that I have ever encountered. Maura Kelly’s words come from within herself, from her individual issues, not from this often misunderstood disease.

In fact, most individuals suffering from eating disorders are so stuck in their own minds , so judgmental of themselves alone, that they don’t have the time or the mental energy to judge others. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I thought that the normal rules that govern reality didn’t apply to me. In my mind, a teaspoon of peanut butter could instantaneously make me gain ten pounds—yet in the mouths of other people, it was just fine. In my mind, I had to work out X hours every day—yet others didn’t. I existed in my own universe, my own fantasy land, with regulations and punishments that applied to only my body, my shape. I yearned for the normality of others’ lives, ached to be free of the torturous vice that gripped my mind. In the depths of my illness, I was jealous of everyone who wasn’t me—jealous of women with curves, jealous of women with flesh, jealous of women who were just plain happy with themselves, who lived their lives in the bodies they were born with. The paradox was that while I didn’t want fat on myself, I loved to see others who embraced it upon them. It gave me hope.

And that’s Mike and Molly. While I haven’t seen this show for myself, I love that television is starting (very slowly) to show a range of bodies on television. Because for both women suffering from eating disorders and for women of every shape and size, it is essential to see these images of happiness in the media. Of plus-size women living their lives, falling in love, feeling empowered and strong. That’s what our young girls need in order to escape the tyranny of eating disorders. That’s what all women need in order to love themselves.

Because it’s hard to be a woman today. No matter what size you are, no matter how much you weigh.

Throughout my recovery process, as I struggled with the weight that I so desperately need to gain, as I came to terms with the self-esteem issues that led me to restrict and over-exercise, as I watched my body finally become what it truly wanted to be, rather than the form that I forced it into, it was hard. I won’t say that it was harder than the struggles that many women go through everyday, facing the kind of prejudice and hatred that was evidenced in the Marie Claire article. But it was hard, nonetheless, as I watched myself change, as I challenged the internal standards that I had always held myself to, that society holds all women to today.

And today I am bigger, yes, but I am also myself. I am a recovered anorexic. The disease is part of my past, will always be a part of me. But I will never use it as an excuse for hatred. Instead, I use it as an excuse for love—toward myself, however I end up looking, and for others. Because happiness and self-acceptance is worth more than anything.
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