Being out of treatment has opened up the world to many different experiences. Hanging out with peers, doing extra-curricular activities, studying for school, eating away from my mother, facing my long-held fears such as driving – many great things are happening.
However, there are difficult experiences as well. One of the hardest things for me about being back in school is watching how other people interact with food. Triggers follow me around all day and nearly drive me crazy. I have come to believe that college campuses are one of the most difficult places in the world for someone with an eating disorder.
Girls often discuss their body with disgust and disapproval. Meanwhile, guys seem fully focused on the looks of women instead of personality or inner beauty. These traits can be found everywhere but are heightened with young adults.
Then there is all of the talk about food. People grip about not having enough to eat or proudly proclaim how little they consumed. Some students refuse to eat anything that they deem “unhealthy” while others consume anything possible. Staying up late, my classmates drink bottles of pop to nourish themselves instead of eating a meal.
And I sit confused, watching everyone eat and talk in ways that I have been told are dangerous and unhealthy. Sometimes I feel like eating disorders are just normal. After all, am I really eating less than that girl who blotted all of the oil off of her pizza right in front of me? Does my hatred of my body need to change or does every girl think like that? Will guys ridicule me if I am at a healthy weight and eat my full meal plan? Perhaps my care team has been wrong all along. After all, I am in the real world now and no one seems to be eating intuitively or “normally.” What is normal eating?
Now, I am not trying to judge anyone. All of my classmates are amazing, wonderful people. I need to learn how to deal with triggers. People will not tiptoe around me forever.
However, a change needs to be made in how our culture views food, weight, beauty, nourishment, and health. Most people would agree with that statement to a certain level. Yet, how would they respond if I told them that they need to look at their own words, thoughts, and actions? How do you view your body and food? Could there be something disordered in your perception?
Because here is the honest truth; many people who do not have eating disorders have disordered eating.
Once again, I am not trying to be judgmental. However, this has become apparent to me at school and other places. Even I once fell into this category of people. My fullness cues have always been difficult to read, perhaps because of Aspergers. Thus, I used to not eat for long periods of time unless someone reminded me. This was disordered even if I did not yet have an eating disorder.
Someone who is always on a diet but keeps failing might not have an eating disorder, but their actions are disordered. Likewise a boy who obsesses over having noticeable muscles, a woman who is terrified of grains, a child who must eat everything on a plate regardless of hunger, and so on. And dabbing oil off of a piece of pizza is certainly disordered.
Part of me did not want to write this post. However, this subject has bugged me so much at school. No one is perfect, and I do not expected everyone at school to understand eating disorders. Knowing if your eating is disordered though is an important thing. That does not make you a bad person. It just gives you something to think about and consider.