Pressure! Pressure! Pressure!
Pressure to slim
Pressure to be thin
They don’t know my pain
All my dieting is in vain
I look in the mirror
Holding my stomach in
If only it was flat
I’d be really happy with that
All I want is to be loved
I want to be accepted
Be happy like everyone else
Then I’ll be perfected
I recently picked up a copy of my favourite women’s magazine, and the words on the front page – ‘love your body, your soul, your life’ – jumped, danced and did back flips in front of my eyes. I was instantly excited, knowing I would be told how to be happy in my own skin.
This is new for me, because I have never been happy with my body shape or size. If I could have survived my younger years without food, I probably wouldn’t have eaten, especially in public. I just hated eating in front of others in enclosed places; it made me feel restricted, and I felt I had to finish what was on my plate before I could leave the table.
I didn’t see myself as having an eating disorder – certainly not one that could be categorised. All I knew was that food was the enemy and we did not have a healthy relationship. As I reached adulthood, I realised there were deeper issues and I would need to address them.
An extraordinary number of people suffer from eating disorders – these people come in all shapes and sizes, from all races and social backgrounds. Statistics show that young girls are most at risk, but it can affect anyone at any age.
Celebrities are often easy to blame, with their wiry frames touted as the reason for so many choosing to starve themselves, or binge and purge. The images of what magazines claim to be ‘body-perfect celebrities’, ‘fantastic new diets’ that will supposedly change your life and ‘extraordinary exercise regimes’ that will instantly make us drop a dress size or two are all too often slapping us in the face and making us feel guilty.
However, I think it is unfair to put all the blame and responsibility on to the media, as there are a multitude of reasons why people develop eating disorders, most of which are deep-rooted. These can range from disruption and grief to abuse experienced in childhood; trauma at any age can trigger negative food issues.
How we view ourselves starts with our thought process. What do you think about yourself? When I was in the depths of my struggle, I couldn’t accept positive comments from those that loved me. I thought they were lying, yet I would hold and rehearse in my mind all the unpleasant and negative words that were said to me. I had to start liking myself.
So what did I do to start liking myself?
- One of the things I did was surround myself with people that did not always focus on whether I was losing or gaining weight.
- Another key step that allowed me to accept myself was reading positive literature, such as poems and articles by those who have come through difficult times. Stop buying magazines that made you feel inadequate!
- Eat healthily. Have a little of what you enjoy. Exercise to keep a fit mind and body, and don’t focus too heavily on losing weight.
- Get involved in helping someone else who may need support themselves. This takes the focus off of yourself and adds value to someone else’s life.
- Tell yourself good things and repeat them often. It’s not being big-headed, it’s about encouraging yourself.
- Don’t accept all the awful derogatory things people say; counteract it with something positive.
- Let’s all learn to be a lot kinder to ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are.
There are those who have been diagnosed with a specific eating disorder, which will be treated as a mental health issue that requires medical intervention. There are also support groups and websites, such as Beat, that are helpful for someone that wants help and support.
I’m sorry to say there is no quick, easy or magical cure for any eating disorder, but with time and helpful intervention, you can manage it rather than feel it’s managing you.
Words by Rachel K Brown
Images by Madison Lewis