a letter to those struggling right now
To the girls (and boys) experiencing difficulties around eating right now,
Times are tough. You turn on the news to see people dying, even more sick, hospital workers overwhelmed, grocery workers scared, and fear in the eyes of our leaders. But even more, you see endless lines of cars waiting at food banks, each filled with innocent people starving and not knowing when the next meal will come. This is hard to take in. It is hard to watch someone else starve against their will, knowing all too well that your pantry may be filled to the brim. Not only this, but it is hard to watch someone else starve against their will, while you are struggling to put food in your mouth and are throwing away uneaten food. You inevitably are feeling insecure – whether that is caused by looking in the mirror, negative comments from a loved family member, or looking at the seemingly-perfect bodies on social media. And then comes the guilt – “why can I not eat this perfectly good food when I know others would kill to be in my position?” Maybe frustration or anger follows. The bottom line is that eating disorders are vicious cycles that are all too common. I know this because many of you have reached out to me to specifically write this week’s article. So my first suggestion is to find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. While you may feel isolated due to social distancing, know that others both near and far are going through the same cycle of emotions.
I am not an eating disorder psychologist, nutritionist, nor a doctor. But I have come up with a few pieces of humble advice on how you might work towards combatting your struggles.
Number one – do some reflecting and realize what is causing your struggles with eating. A lot of eating disorders are caused by a feeling of lack of control. So with the current COVID-19 situation and the extreme levels of unknown, many feel like they have lost their normal control over their lives. And as a result, it is much easier for people to resort to regulating their food intake or some other aspect of their lives. As Toni Apadula mentioned in last week’s article, often times obsessing over eating is caused by another emotion – loneliness, boredom, insecurities.. the list goes on. Do your best to find what is causing this reoccurring eating disorder at home and address it head-on.
Second – Try your very best to get your mind off of food. This is difficult, especially when we are constantly in such close corridors with the kitchen. Maybe this will be taking a walk, reading a book, or doing some other mindful activity. Another idea might be to spend more time facetiming friends or just interacting with family members. If you feel more connected, then you might not feel such a strong need to rigidly control and obsess over your diet.
Third – realize that you are not perfect, nor is anyone else. When you look at social media and see people’s edited pictures of themselves posing at just the right angle, keep in mind that this is not reality. When we regularly interact with our community, it is much easier to realize that social media is not a reality. But during social isolation, we have to actively work to remind ourselves this. Be realistic with yourselves and others – if a family member is making negative comments around eating, put up your shield and don’t let this negative energy affect you. This is a clear sign that whoever is making these comments is struggling themselves, and if you believe in their comments, then you are letting them influence you too.
And finally – When it comes to eating, do not tell yourself to eat, try to inspire yourself. In other words, instead of thinking about all the calories you are putting in your body, turn that energy into focusing on the nutritional value behind your food. That is the purpose of this whole blog in the first place – if we do not get the nutrients we need on a regular basis, we are only putting ourselves at serious risks for much worse conditions. Remind yourself that you do not want this, and that your weapon is the food on your plate.
After all the feedback, people reaching out, and stories shared, I decided this would be a necessary blog post for this week. Please feel free to share with your communities – you never know who might need it. As I said before, I am far from an expert on this topic, so I recommend reaching out to a nutritionist to get help, a counselor to talk to, or even just a friend. This article is the first step, and the purpose of this blog is to help us all realize the value behind our food!! Wishing comfort and health to all those reading this and in need.