The Paradox of Beauty and Death

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and we should not label them as anything else

“I’m so hungry.”

“Can’t you just stop eating?”

“It is alright, you will just end up throwing it all up later anyway.”

It is phrases like this that circulate through the minds of 985,666 people.

985,666- the number of people in Australia who currently suffer from an eating disorder. Almost one MILLION people and that is just in our country, just imagine that number but multiplied on a global scale. Eating disorders do not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status meaning that anyone can fall victim to the detrimental dangers of eating disorders.

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Despite what the media, your friends, your teachers or anyone tells you; eating disorders are not a cry for attention. Nor are they a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, so much so that they have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness and yet society has attached a variety of labels to eating disorders.

Weak.

Attention seeking.

Fake.

Hypocritical.

Pathetic.

Delusional.

Sickly.

“Just eat something already.”

“Why don’t you just stop eating?”

“If you hate feeling sick and tired all the time then just stop making yourself vomit.”

These are some of the labels and ideas that society has associated and placed upon those suffering from an eating disorder. Shows what they know…

There are three main categories or forms of eating disorders;

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa

Every day more and more men and women, young and old, thick and thin fall victim to anorexia nervosa. Talk about dying to be thin… The diagnostic criterion of anorexia includes the restriction of food intake, intense fear of gaining weight and the disturbance in the way one’s body shape is experienced. Anorexia is an extremely serious psychological illness that reaches exceedingly high levels of out-of-control dieting. Additionally, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness with 10% of individuals suffering from the illness dying within the first 10 years of onset.

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Throughout all forms of media there is one message that is constantly portrayed, reinforced and repeated… Over and over and over again. And that is message is “thin is beautiful.” Think about it. We are constantly bombarded with images of ridiculously thin people through TV, magazines, Internet and advertising. These images have been fabricated and manipulated; promoting unrealistic, unobtainable and stylised appearance ideals that cannot be achieved in real life. However they are seen as beautiful by society and so we try to condition and mould ourselves to these images so that we too can be seen as beautiful.

There are various videos and ad campaigns showing how photos of models have been tampered with to achieve this beauty. https://youtu.be/17j5QzF3kqE The provided link shows an example of this.

Yes, I agree that thin is beautiful. But so is fat on your stomach, stretch marks, and a lack of a thigh gap… Thin IS beautiful, but not when we encourage others to starve themselves in order to attain this beauty. Anorexia is not beautiful.

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It’s interesting really. When we hear the words or phrase ‘eating disorder’ we instinctively think of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Either completely forgetting or not recognising that binge eating is just as much an eating disorder as the other two. Binge eating disorder is the consumption of large amounts of food in a short time period. People suffering from this disorder often feel as though they lose control when eating and use eating as a distraction to avoid thinking about the real cause of their problems. Following this period of binge eating the sufferer can feel a range of emotions.

Guilt.

Disgust.

Depression.

And quite frankly, it is a big deal.

As humans we can often be quick to judge others; almost without thinking we find ourselves attaching labels to others. Even those that we don’t know personally or have never met. We hear people say that they cannot stop eating and we think, “wow.”

“What a load of crap.”

“Worst excuse ever.”

“How pathetic.”

However, what we do not realise is that these people suffer from a recognised mental illness and that they truly believe that they have no control when it comes to the consumption of food. We should strive to shed ourselves of these thoughts and ideas that we have copied from society and recognise that we should be helping these people instead of judging them and worsening their burden.

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You know the feeling. We have all had the ‘delightful’ experience of vomiting before. The warm, putrid feeling of the vomit rising in your throat, followed by the acidic, bitter taste that fills your mouth and finally the burning sensation that is left in your throat afterwards. I know. It is disgusting, and we hate it. Yet there are people among us who throw up their food BY CHOICE. Bulimia is a serious and life-threatening disease. People suffering from bulimia nervosa alternate between stages of bingeing and purging. Methods of purging include vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, or extreme periods of prolonged exercise. Similarly to binge eating, individuals with bulimia will often eat an exceptionally large portion of food in a small amount of time. However unlike those who binge eat, people with bulimia then proceed to vomit up or use laxatives to get rid of the food.

Reasons for bingeing and purging differ from person to person however genetic predisposition; environmental, social and cultural factors are some known causes. People with bulimia place extreme importance on body image and/or weight however the act of bingeing and purging often does not result in weight loss and the process of bingeing and purging can become additive. Out of the three eating disorders, bulimia nervosa has the highest number of people suffering from it.

One of the main problems regarding bulimia is the opinions and statements made by others who are uninformed on the disorder. Comments such as, “that is such a waste of food.” “What is the point if you are just going to throw it up anyway.” “Why don’t you just stop?” These comments are unnecessary, not helpful and can be considered as offensive or rude. Bulimia is a major problem and we should be focusing on helping those who are suffering rather then making uninformed comments and criticisms.

Unfortunately we cannot undo or obliterate the ideas and labels that society has attached the eating disorders but we can choose not to engage in them. People suffering from eating disorders are still people and they should not be treated or made to feel like they are not equal to the rest of us because of their disorder. Instead of following the pack you can choose to stand out and help those who are suffering. Eating disorders can affect anyone so let’s not just talk about these issues but act upon them and work together to make a difference.

#StopLabellingEatingDisorders

 

 

by B.W.

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