Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

More to eating disorders than being skinny

I have an eating disorder. I have for eight years. I will probably struggle with it for the rest of my life. I could list dozens of reasons for what I’ve done to my body. A desire for thinness is not one of them.

Again, just to reiterate – I am bulimic, but I do not think I am fat.

I have spent years in silent combat with the idea that eating disorders are a vain and misguided attempt at weight loss that happen to coincide with mental illness. The mentality is everywhere, not only in the casual conversations we have and the jokes we make, but in the way we’re educated about eating disorders. We are taught that these problems happen when people tie eating to their body image, and that the only thing keeping them from normalcy is that they don’t love their bodies enough.

Bulimia gets the brunt of these assumptions, because honestly, it’s logical. The common misconception uniformly attributed to bulimia is that the people who have it binge on all the food they want and compensate by purging so they can avoid the guilt of overeating, or by extension, the shame of gaining weight. It makes sense, really – eat, then throw up so you can eat and throw up more, all while never incurring consequences.

No one ever thinks of bulimia itself as a consequence, as a punishment.

Bulimia was my punishment. It was the easiest and most effective way for me to inflict my own self-loathing. I didn’t throw up to avoid shame and guilt, but because of it. Purging was a means of debasing myself, making my body feel as disgusting as my mind told me I was.

But bulimia carries consequences of its own. At my worst, I was constantly bloated and nauseous. I wasn’t getting nearly enough of the nutrients I needed. My throat was consistently raw and I had sores in my mouth. My gums bled. My hair was falling out in clumps. I even reached the point where I no longer had to stimulate my gag reflex – my body just knew.

I knew I was sick. But that was the point. I allowed myself to suffer in silence, because that’s what I believed I deserved.

And guess what? I still wasn’t skinny. Lord knows if I had kept on the way I had, I could’ve been. But at no point was “skinny” ever my concern.

My concern was whether or not my hands still smelled like vomit after three hand-washings, hand sanitizer and lotion. My concern was making sure the restaurant I was at had a single stall bathroom so no one could hear me. My concern was isolating myself with lies and making sure no one knew how damaged I was except for me.

I only truly began to heal when I stopped viewing bulimia as a one-dimensional problem, as a definition that didn’t apply to me. It wasn’t a matter of accepting my body. It was a matter of accepting my whole self, all of my failures and inadequacies. I didn’t need to hear the high school health class mantra of being beautiful just the way I am. I needed to hear that I deserved better.

It’s time that we stop looking at eating disorders as a relationship with carbs, calories or scales, but instead as a relationship with ourselves. Because while there are people who do struggle with the idea of the perfect body, it’s not the only reason we do what we do.

It certainly isn’t my reason.

Peyton Shepard is a junior majoring in journalism. She is the Print Managing Editor of The Crimson White.

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