A few weeks ago my family took me out to dinner for my birthday. Looking at the menu gave me a lot of anxiety and it wasn’t because I am a 28-year-old student on a student budget and the cheapest appetizer was almost $20. Though that contributed, I wish wish it was the main reason.
Beside each overly-priced menu item was an even heavier number- CALORIES. Unbeknownst to me, working in an environment where discussions about eating disorders and body image were both welcomed and encouraged had loosened my tongue and thinned my “in-public” filter.
“These calories on the menu are so problematic,” my mouth spewed the words before my brain knew it needed to hold my tongue. As usual, no one was really paying attention to me so I thought I could quickly grab the words and retreat behind the safety of the offending menu.
“Why?” I heard my brother’s voice and somehow I know it was directed at me.
“Because it could be triggering for people struggling with or recovering from eating disorders or their bodies,” I said hoping it would end the conversation.
I should have known better. My siblings and I have had many conversations like this before. We often talked about social issues; dissecting every topic till we could see each part and then coming up with theories on how best to tackle them. But in all our hours of conversation over the years, we had never discussed eating disorders or the fact that I had over a decade of lived experience.
And on that Monday evening, three weeks ago, we didn’t discuss it. I could not speak about it; I was too connected to it, too touched by it to sit down and dissect it with the seriousness it deserved. Under the watchful eyes of my family, I decided that I was already too tired to teach them about the severity and complexities of eating disorders.
“You should read more about eating disorders and then we’ll discuss it,” I said, although I knew there isn’t a lot of reading material out there.
As a nine-year-old, no one around me was talking about eating disorders when I started hiding to eat because people around me decided my body resembled a family-sized bottle of coke. And today, the conversation about how devastating eating disorders is seems muted.
As someone who is part of the community I oftentimes find myself hard pressed for good well rounded and balanced resources.
This is why events like the Celebrate EveryBODY fundraiser will always be important to me. For me, it is a chance to turn up the volume on the conversation. Shine some light on the severity of the issue and how many people are affected by it. In case you were wondering, about 50 per cent of Canadians, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre in 2014.
It is a chance for us to celebrate people like me who have struggled, survived and are thriving. For me, an event like this is a way to provide family, friends and caregivers to educational and coping resources. It is a way to help those who are in recovery stay focused on their journey instead of worrying about educating others.
For me, an event like Celebrate EveryBODY means that eventually, young girls like me won’t have to spend more time and energy hiding their struggles instead of getting the help they need. Because one day there will be no stigma around eating disorders and upto 20 per cent of those who struggle like I did won’t die because they are too ashamed to get treatment.