Essay on Eating Disorders

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Food. The most fundamental source of energy. It is the source of our strength in daily living and the centerpiece in which we establish a sense of joy, communication, and celebration. It’s the way we socialize, we socialize around food. But then, what about those who might have a negative reaction to food?

My name is Eleena and today I want to give you an insight into eating disorders and the stigmas surrounding them.

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First, let’s take a deeper look at eating disorders:

According to Bartleby's research, ‘eating disorders are defined as any range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits.’

‘Everyone’s experience of an eating disorder is unique; they aren’t a lifestyle choice or a cry for attention.’ (Butterfly Foundation). Eating disorders don’t care about your age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. They do not discriminate.

When people think of the word ‘eating disorder’ they think of skinny girls and troubled teenagers who want to lose weight. That is not the case. (Insert image of different body types/diversity) Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life and it is unlikely that one single factor will cause an eating disorder. People assume that anorexics become anorexic by wanting to be significantly underweight when in reality, most anorexics gain their mental illness biologically. In fact, according to the Butterfly Foundation, ‘eating disorders are much more likely to be a combination of risk factors, including your genetics, emotional factors, and cultural influences.’

My best friend suffers from anorexia nervosa. I asked her: “Why do anorexics choose to make themselves sick by starving themselves and hurting the people around them?” She replied: “The answer is simple. It is not a choice. It is a compulsion.” She developed anorexia as a coping mechanism against the judgments and comments made by her family and loved ones. There was also a biological factor that came to play as both her dad’s sisters suffered from disordered eating too.

In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, ‘0.9% of women and 0.3% of men, will suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime.’ That’s more than 71 million women and nearly 24 million men who will face this disease for a period of time before seeking help, some who will adapt for the rest of their lives, and others who will lose their life.

Anorexia for those who suffer is their way of coping, it is a warm safety blanket and an identity. It is a real mental disorder and is the 8th most common mental illness having the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. It is not a diet that young, skinny girls give to themselves in order to stay skinny.

When life feels out of control, eating disorder sufferers use the rules they have created to gain back that control. It gives them the control they long to have. These rules govern their lives. It takes away the chance, decision, and risk, and when control slips through their fingers, they make more rules to gain back that control. We all want to be in control, but addictions can arise. An eating disorder is a constant battle with yourself, it causes you to lose friendships, weaken relationships and lose yourself, you may think you’re in control but you’re not, trust me I have seen my best friend suffer for the last 9 months fighting with herself. What makes it harder to recover is the stigma around them.

The stigma that is associated with eating disorders is known to strip an individual person’s quality of life and trigger low self-esteem leading to feeling even more disconnected from the rest of the world.

We can view the stigma around eating disorders as a wall between those who are suffering and the help and supportive resources that they need to get to.

This wall constructs a pattern of poor self-esteem and additional insecurities which can lead to feelings of isolation, preventing anyone from seeking adequate support and help. This wall, for someone suffering, brings about fear of negative reactions from family and loved ones as well as embarrassment about their eating habits. This wall causes people to believe that their struggles will be dismissed and misunderstood.

Stigma perceives the idea that eating disorders are self-inflicted and makes it easy to self-blame. I will say it again, eating disorders are not a choice.

I wish my best friend wanted to personally share her story here with you all today, but stigma makes it difficult for a struggling anorexic to reach recovery and accept the fact that it is okay to speak out. Unless we change our attitudes and perceptions of eating disorders fear will keep compelling those who suffer.

“Just eat.”

This common statement is often said out loud. It surrounds the stigma that eating disorders are self-inflicted and demonstrates the public’s lack of knowledge about the highest mortality rate of mental illness. Stigma constructs the idea of how it is always the patient who is at fault since they were the ones who chose this “lifestyle choice” and that recovery is a simple matter of just eating.

Poet and educator Blythe Baird said “If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin, to begin with, you go to the hospital. If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin, to begin with, you are a success story.” Eating disorders are so often reduced to the super thin body type which the uneducated belief equates to mental illness. Mental illness is difficult to detect simply by looking at others and it is so easy for someone to feel pressured to conform to this appearance ideal in order to justify their eating disorder.

Weight stigma around eating disorders poses a significant threat to both psychological and physical health which has a major likeliness for depression, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction. Problems that can drastically interrupt everyday life.

For all the teenagers struggling with mental health issues, you shouldn’t feel the need to hide for fear of being judged by society. Nobody should. Eating disorders are something you have no control over, and no one should ever be ashamed of speaking up about them. Eating disorders are not just about food and weight.

They are a compulsion. They are an addiction. They are self-harm.

Each one of us has the power to raise awareness about eating disorders and eliminate the stigma surrounding them. We need to broaden our mindset in order to help more people get the help they require. It is so critical that we work together to create a strong community that recognizes the importance of providing someone struggling with the proper support and treatment. We must tear down society’s ideal body-shape pressures and remind the uneducated that an eating disorder is not limited by anything. It does not have a fixed gender, age, ethnicity, or sexuality.

We need to reshape the idea of an eating disorder. Breaking down these negative stigmas can contribute to more positive conversations and a healthier community. Let’s break down the silent walls and allow those who have experienced eating disorders to share their stories in the hopes of inspiring those who fear to speak up. With your help, we can raise awareness of the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses and not a choice. By removing the stigma surrounding eating disorders, we can save lives.

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Essay on Eating Disorders. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
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