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Eating disorders are about so much more than food

Tabitha McCarl | Interrobang | Lifestyles | October 17th, 2011

It's 5:30 a.m. and I can't get back to sleep. My body aches all over, even though I take as much Tylenol as I am safely allowed (if not twice as much, most days) just to get by. I tiptoe down the stairs and into my basement, trying not to wake up my still-sleeping family, and start my two to three hour run on my treadmill. Inside I know that I should stop long before, especially since I'll be going for an hour (or longer) swim at the YMCA that evening, after my four-hour shift at work and my schoolwork has been completed. I have decided to treat myself and eat half a carton of strawberries for dinner ... that is all (besides water and the orange that my parents will monitor me eat after my morning shower) that enters my mouth this day. I cry three times, for various reasons, or no reason at all. My parents' eyes are full of worry every time I look into them, sometimes brimming with tears after our daily argument over what I eat.

This is what almost every single day of my life looked like three years ago. No, I wasn't trying to fit into a special dress, I was anorexic. Almost a year and a half of my life was devoted to making the number on my bathroom scale go down, and after a few months, the devotion was no longer my choice. Many people believe the misconception that people with eating disorders are taking vanity to new extremes, when in reality the eating disorder has pushed its victim to new extremes. People also believe the misconception that fad dieting is harmless, but if the circumstances are right, that twomonth summer boot camp can turn into something that will change your life forever.

While the main focus of those with disordered thinking is weightoriented, countless other issues are present as well. Depression, self injury, self hate, obsessive compulsivity, perfectionism, thoughts of suicide, strained relationships at work and in school life; they (and many others) can all come wrapped in the same package as the ED (eating disorder). Some researchers say that the malnutrition and stress are the cause of such problems, while others say the ED is formed partly because some of those issues were already present. Whichever is the case, the fact is that up to 80 per cent of those with eating disorders suffer from major depression1, 25 per cent self-injure and almost 40 per cent attempt suicide2.

There are many contributing factors that are thought to be related to the formation of an ED, but definite causes have never been established. Major life changes, like moving away from home for the first time, low self-esteem, a bad family life, personality disorders and cultural expectations are a few of the contributing factors for some people.

Most people suffering from EDs refuse treatment, not just because they fear weight gain, but that they will lose their newfound control over their lives. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, which is part of why recovery is so crucial. Oftentimes treatment and recovery aren't possible unless family and/or close loved ones are part of the treatment as well. Eating disorder support centres like Hope's Garden here in London offer an array of resources and supports for those who know someone with an ED. It can be nearly impossible to persuade someone with the illness to receive treatment without proper knowledge of what the disorder really entails.

For more information or support, you can contact Hope's Garden at 519-434-7721, or in person at 478 Waterloo St. in London.
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