National Eating Disorders Association
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Anorexia

National Suicide Prevention Month is a time when we mourn the loss and celebrate the lives of those who have been taken from us by suicide, as well as raise awareness for the various precursors to suicide: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. 

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Just like every other human emotion and experience, eating disorders are full of color, chemicals, and different combinations. No two experiences are the same.

I am a self-described overachieving perfectionist, who has cared far too much about everything my entire life. The expectations of my generation are that you’ll be brilliant at everything and it’s terribly important to look wonderful. I have always tackled numerous projects and tasks that would prove me worthy of respect and admiration amongst my family, friends, acquaintances, and society. 

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Saturday evenings were gym evenings.

The wind of the air conditioner beat down on my bare shoulders like rays of sun, the fluorescent light glaring above. Most of the time, I struggled to eat three meals, but didn’t want to miss out on going to brunch in the East Village with friends. I worked out constantly to compensate. Still, a nagging voice in my head told me it’s not enough

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Dr. Lesley Williams is a certified eating disorder specialist, family medicine physician, and positive body image advocate. She co-owns Liberation Center, an eating disorder treatment facility, in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Williams is dedicated to ensuring that all women and men who struggle with eating and body image issues receive the help that they need to overcome and live happy, healthy lives.

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I was 30 years old when I started restricting. It wasn’t a choice or an attempt to lose weight. I had just found out my husband was having an affair. When I confronted him, he left to live 450 miles away and I became a single mum to our two girls, aged 2 and 4. All in the space of a day. My whole world changed and I felt out of control. I’d always lost my appetite due to stress and put my weight loss down to this. I figured it would return soon.  

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I grew up in a very athletic family. Every morning, the first thing we did was go for a run and lift weights. After that, we typically took walks and went water skiing. We were always busy working out and being active. 

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I was 11 years old when I started struggling with my first eating disorder. I did not know what anorexia was, nor did I know that the pinching of skin folds between my fingers, under my arms, and on my stomach, was symptomatic. I did not know that it wasn’t healthy to obsess over my reflection in car windows or to hunch over to keep my waist “tucked in.” I thought it was normal. But I wasn’t always this way. A once-expansive childhood had, somehow, collapsed into a labyrinth of dietary rituals and superstitions.

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There is a tendency for the media to portray eating disorders as superficial illnesses of female adolescence. The limited scope of these stories mitigates both the severe emotional and physical consequences inherent to eating disorders, as well as their prevalence across other genders and age groups. 

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia NervosaAnorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat.

Growing up with anorexia, I came close to losing my life. Several times. I remember the first time my eating disordered thoughts began. I was seven. 

I am blessed with an amazingly loving family. But even so, something in my brain told these me thoughts shouldn't be shared. That they were true, they were mine, and I needed to deal with them on my own. Little did I know that that is the nature of the disease: shame, secrecy, silence. 

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