I’ve spent years struggling with my eating disorder, and even now when I eat well, the mindset creeps in. My partner will suggest ordering pizza, and I’ll try to consider how much I ate today or whether I exercised. Even though I am far healthier than I was, I still play those mind games about food, calculating what I deserve and don’t. Because of this, I aim to fill my social media feeds with body positive content. Time after time, amongst the trolls, I see people commenting things like “Thank you, now I can eat today” or “This is what I needed to be able to eat today”. This saddens me, as even in the wholesome sphere of body positivity, we still search for the approval to eat. We don’t see food as a biological need or a happy occasion, but rather a stressful decision, a luxury we can’t afford in our fatter bodies.
And so I decided to clarify all the times when you deserve food, even if it feels like you don’t.
We need to stop treating eating as something we earn and recognise it for what it is, a primary human function required for life. You always deserve food; you deserve to feel full and nourished. Food isn’t related to your worth, just like your body shouldn’t be either. The only reason you should be skipping a meal is if you have a blood test or operation you can’t eat before. There is no other reason. Any diet that requires you to eat below an average amount of calories per day is not worth it, any diet that you earn the weight back after is not a healthy way forward.
Over 9% of the population suffer from an eating disorder, that’s almost one-tenth of everyone you know. If you have ten friends, it is likely that one of them has struggled with body dysmorphia or disordered eating. Yet we don't talk about it like that, we don’t share our struggle as we consider it as a weakness. It’s a weakness to struggle with eating and it’s also a weakness to just eat. Too skinny is bad but don’t you dare be fat. For this may surprise you, but less than 6% of people with eating disorders are categorised as medically underweight. Even if you’re a ‘healthy’ weight but telling yourself you shouldn’t eat, you may still be struggling with an eating disorder. Even if it isn’t what you’d consider being an eating disorder, you never should have to contemplate if you deserve to eat.
Food is not something you earn, and this belief comes from associating your self-worth to our weight. Whether you are fat, thin or the hundreds of shades in between, you are not defined by that. To define yourself by your size is to define your worth by your desirability to potential partners. It feeds the aged patriarchal ideal that a woman exists to please a man, or all men, with her appearance. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. Your weight and your food intake are not what defines you, nor should you want them to be. Instead define yourself by your kindness, ambition, intelligence, humour or whatever else drives you. You get to choose who you are and what you’re remembered for, and I doubt you would ever want to leave the world known merely as a person with a thigh gap.
You deserve to eat. If you were waiting for some kind of a sign that you can eat today:
1. This is it
2. You don’t need any more signs.
When in doubt, consider what you would say to a friend in the same position if they claimed they didn’t deserve to eat dinner because they had pizza yesterday, or that they can’t have breakfast even though they’re hungry, as they slept in instead of going for a run. Would you ever advise someone else to starve themselves? No. So why don’t you receive this kindness that you offer to others?
When in doubt, please just eat.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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