The summer brings many reasons to rejoice — warmer weather, vacations, road trips, barbecuing, and usually a little extra time with loved ones. Yet for some of us, no other season brings such apprehension, especially at the mention of “bathing suit.”
Often, it feels like every time we turn around, there’s a new diet fad, exercise craze, or best-selling book proclaiming itself to be the key to health.
Unfortunately, as Western society increasingly prioritizes clean eating, physical exercise, and other forms of “healthy living,” clinicians have seen another trend: orthorexia.
A relatively new term, orthorexia is still taking shape as a concept, and is not yet mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The original definition by doctor Steven Bratman and writer David Knight described orthorexia as an obsession with proper nutrition, dietary restrictions, and specific food preparation methods.
Before high school, I rarely felt insecure about my appearance. Other than the typical adolescent female itch to look more like a Barbie doll (smoother skin, whiter teeth, blonder hair, a smaller nose), I was, surprisingly, at peace with my body. I was much taller than most of my classmates (5’9” since age 11), but my parents and their friends reassured me that soon, I would be thankful for my height, and that my friends might even be jealous.
Expectedly, I soon became a lanky 13-year-old with an insatiable appetite for pizza, and had no qualms about eating half a pepperoni pie every day after school as a snack. My friends complained about their “flabby” stomachs while they did crunches together on playdates. I hate exercise, I told them. Continue reading What Body Dysmorphia Actually Feels Like
The spread is incredible — juicy dark meat turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, those brussel sprouts my brother prepares that make them actually taste delicious, candied sweet potatoes — and we haven’t even gotten to dessert, my favorite part of every meal, especially when seasonal pies are involved.
My eyes feast on the meal, but inside my anxiety starts to edge its way into my mind. How much can I put on my plate this Thanksgiving and still feel like I won’t be judged for how much or what I am eating? Can I afford to eat two slices of pie, or do I need to stick with just one to keep up appearances? Am I making enough of a show of restraint in comparison to my BMI for the extended family members at the table so I won’t feel judged? Continue reading My Holiday Anxiety Around Eating and Body Issues
Imagine what life would be like if we stood in front of the mirror and focused on what we love about ourselves instead of what we wish we could change?
It seems instead that a majority of us veer toward thinking negatively, giving attention to our so-called flaws. We are bombarded with images of beautiful celebrities and models on television, in magazines, and on billboards. Even our own cell phones — Instagram, I’m looking at you — can be culprits, inundating us with photographs of people who have likely slapped on a filter and Facetuned themselves to “perfection.” What’s the result? A never ending supply of edited images and a load of viewers feeling inadequate and uncomfortable in their own skin.
All of this leads to unrealistic expectations of what we should look like, dress like, and act like. As technology advances and we’re more connected than ever, it seems that self esteem — especially of millennials — declines. Recent studies show a definite link between social media usage and low self esteem. It’s way too easy to fall down a rabbit hole on Facebook or Instagram. You can be on your feed and next thing you know you’re on your ex-boyfriend’s sister’s best friend’s page wishing you had abs as great as hers. Continue reading 5 Ways To Improve Your Body Image, Confidence, and Mental Health
This piece is part of our Darkest Day series, a collection of stories from people who’ve made it through the worst of their illness and now light the way for others.
It’s 7am and I’ve already burned 1,000 calories on the elliptical. I’m packing up my food for the day. Breakfast is 113 calories for 3 egg whites and 1 cup of grapes. Lunch will be 131 calories for turkey, mustard, lettuce, and baby carrots. I’ve also packed 1 pack of Parliament Lights, 4 Diet Cokes, 1 gallon of water, and 1 brand new pack of bubblemint gum. I’ll have dance class in the afternoon, which takes care of another 300 or so calories. Dinner is always a wild card –– it depends on who’s around and how carefully I’m being watched. I have food saved in my room for later just in case. I am 16 years old and 70 pounds; I am a human calorie counter and numbers genius who, ironically, is also struggling in Pre-Calculus.
Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint a clear start for all of this. Unlike an alcoholic who can often describe their first drink, there was no concrete “first.” My eating disorder was a physical manifestation of a longtime underlying condition. It was some combination of perfectionism, extreme sensitivity, fear, and ironically enough a hunger –– a hunger for love, acceptance, validation. A hunger for everything. That hunger felt unmanageable so instead of learning how to experience it, I taught myself how to stop it, to cut it off, to starve it out. If you don’t want anything, you can never get hurt, right? Continue reading Hunger: My Battle With Anorexia
As a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and body image issues, I have worked with clients who begin therapy and — as they make progress — show signs of having an eating disorder. This doesn’t happen in an obvious way, though. To make the diagnosis, I analyze what they’re saying and look for subtle signs.
To illustrate this point, I am going to share two different client scenarios below. Each of them may seem like a typical case of anxiety, mild depression and struggles with self-confidence and lack of happiness. With a closer look through the lens of an eating disorder therapist, these two stories take on different meanings. Continue reading How Therapy Subtly Reveals Whether You Have an Eating Disorder
– by Katie Colton
I had the opportunity to work at a clinical research lab with a young woman who suffered from bulimia nervosa. She said no one close to her knew she had an eating disorder because she had an average body weight and only binged or purged when she was alone.
She was happy no one knew about her disorder but simultaneously hoped someone would notice what she was going through and try to help. She felt both proud and ashamed of what she was doing to her body and had trouble admitting she had a problem. Continue reading Eating Disorders: A Story of Awareness