Eat to live, not live to eat
Body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders seem to be a pervasive ill within American society; in fact, they both have permeated American society so entirely that I bet each and every one of you is aware of at least one person who has an unhealthy relationship with food.
What do I mean by “unhealthy?” Well, any relationship that causes anxiety and emotional duress. The person who grapples with an eating disorder and/or body dysmorphic disorder deals with an inner monologue, a lamenting voice that intones: “Why did I eat that? I hate myself.” This voice speaks at every guilt-laden meal and it wields the weapon of some unaccountable shame. The question is: How can this voice be silenced?
Think about all of the classified eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa, among others. Now, the purpose of this column isn’t to describe each and every one of those disorders. Rather, it aims to raise the question of why incidences of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are still multiplying, even after the efforts of psychologists, researchers and eating disorder activists, as evidenced by the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. What is it about these illnesses that make them so completely tethered to the American consciousness?
Life is unpredictable and one hell of an emotional ride. To retain some semblance of composure and stability, people find various ways to cope with stress and ambiguities. Needless to say, there are both healthy and unhealthy ways of coping. People with eating disorders use food, or the lack thereof, to give themselves a false sense of control over their emotions. When used in this way, food can turn from friend to foe. Food is meant to feed the body, not the emotions.
It is no coincidence that eating disorders are running wild within this weight-hysterical society of ours. Regrettably, within the United States, there is an undercurrent of anxiety and intense preoccupation over physical appearances. Watch some television and you’ll most likely be subject to the torment of yet another fad diet commercial, replete with ridiculous testimonials of success stories and “before” and “after” photos.
Or, briefly glance (emphasis on ‘briefly’ because a prolonged look might waste brain cells) at the covers of the tabloids and note the bold declarations: “So and so gained weight!” “Did so and so lose too much weight? Get the inside scoop!” Forgive me when I say that I’m saddened whenever I notice evidence of this weight hysteria and its steadfast grip on our society. Unfortunately, this frenzy to look a certain way propagates the birth of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.
There are some people who actually embrace their unhealthy relationship with food. For example, some anorexics call themselves “pro-ana,” meaning that they wholeheartedly embrace their disorder and they want to lead a hungry lifestyle.
These people aspire to be “barely-there,” and they gloat whenever they manage in whittling their frames down. These people are disrespectful towards those with anorexia who long to have a healthier relationship with food. Anorexia is a serious eating disorder has and is nothing to be desired. The fact that some people place anorexia on a pedestal is a perfect example of the United States’ tribute to thinness.
Eating is meant to be a pleasurable activity, without the anxiety and worry about weight that too many people bring to the table. The process of eating is both instinctual and primal, and is meant to answer to the call of our body’s need for nourishment. However, too many people have removed themselves from the need of their bodies, choosing instead to answer the call of societal expectations of the ideal appearance.
These people are not in tune with their bodies and this lack of sync causes a friction between body and mind. Perhaps the cavemen had the right mentality when it came to eating. Whatever happened to eating for the purpose of satisfying the palate and physical health, nothing less, nothing more?
Weight-hysteria is deeply entrenched in American society. So, how do we tackle this problem? Well, it will take a lot of time and conscious effort before we can reverse the upward trend in eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The most important goal is to redefine the reasons why we eat. Rather than eat to appease our emotions or to meet some societal standards, we should eat for our health. Only then will our minds become more unified with our bodies.
Lauren Strohmeier is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.