TW: eating disorder (anorexia), depression, mental health
DISCLAIMER I’m not a professional health adviser, thus the posts should not be used for a diagnosis. Every person that has been interviewed for this project shares their own personal stories. If you have any worries concerning your own health, you should consult with a doctor
The issue is quite literally on the table. Eating disorders are severe and should not be a topic of debate. This is the story about Mara’s bitterpill.
Growing up in a world of expectations has always pressured young people’s minds—every Barbie or princess movie – toy commercial – a trend on social media. The perfect body image sticks and shapes our society.
Beauty standards seem to be set, although beauty hasn’t been defined. Body acceptance decreases and the individual value plays a less critical role. Many have experienced this first hand, just like Mara.
“I was 13, I was in Paris with my mother, and I looked in
the mirror one morning, and I thought to myself: ‘Hmm I could lose a bit of the fat that I have on my legs’. Before that, I was obsessed with googling the height and weight of girls I saw on Disney channel. I was both shorter and heavier than them. As soon as I got home, I started to starve myself and to try hundreds of different diets.”
There are several types of eating disorders – the most commonly known are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Life of the people affected revolves around constant worries about what and how much they eat. It also has a significant impact on the emotional state.
“I still know how many calories are in a slice of bread. Or in an apple. Or in exactly 45 grams of porridge. Or in half a biscuit. I starved myself for a week to the point where I texted my best friend that I am close to passing out. She told me to eat which I did.“
Weight measuring, avoiding interaction with other people, dizziness, uncontrollable cravings – are just a few of many consequences.
How has your everyday life changed from that point onwards?
“I remember getting to school early and taking photos of my legs, searching for a thigh gap to appear somewhere- and to have proof that my legs seem bigger at night not because I suddenly got fat, just because the body gets bloated. I also remember not getting my period for two months which to me was very scary, given that I had quite regular periods. I was always hungry, always thinking about what I want to eat next.”
The imagination of a child’s life full of love, success and happiness often overshadows reality and it is harder for parents to notice if something is wrong.
” ‘But you always eat when you are eating with us’- would my family say, because, indeed, those were what I considered ‘cheat days’. Only I would hate myself with such burning passion that once I was done eating, I would get home and run on the spot for an hour to “make up” for the food. I tried to go vegan to get rid of all the calorie dense foods I was eating. I would binge-watch “what I eat in a day to lose weight” videos; I would watch anorexia recovery videos, I would watch raw vegan recipe videos. Anything that would ensure I would end up as thin as the girls on my phone. The worst part is that I was being encouraged because come on, who does not want to look like a supermodel?”
Photoshop, as well as face – and body -enhancing filters on social media act as motivation to continue to follow the socially constructed standards. The most challenging part is to find a way to accept yourself. It is easier said than done, especially since media continues to flood our minds with images of people that appear to look perfect.
How have you found a way to moved forward?
“Gaining weight was my biggest fear. And it happened. And frankly, nobody ever seemed put off by it. And if they did well… they can f*ck off. I did put on weight. And it seemed like it would not stop, and I was still so hungry all the time. And it is important to keep going because I can promise you that one day you will wake up and you will no longer feel the need to demolish the fridge. Because your body will finally feel safe. But it won’t happen in a week, a month or even a year. The longer you have hurt it for, the longer it will need time to recover. And so do you.”
2020 has changed our way of thinking dramatically. More people raise awareness about this issue and support body positivity on social media. Nowadays, uniqueness is more recognised and praised. However…
“I believe that while this statement starts to appear more and more online and offline, it has not been internalised. I find myself being rude to my body a lot still, and even though I do believe that everyone should be at least accepting of the exact way they look, I still have a hard time finding that acceptance for myself. And I think most of us do. And that does not make me or you or anyone else a “fraud”. We have heard for so long that we are not good enough which is much easier to believe than to believe this new trend of ‘actually, you are good enough’.