National Eating Disorders Association
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I Had No Idea -- It Truly Does Get Better.

Troy Roness, M.Ed. Cognitive Science

The complexity of eating disorders and disordered-eating appears to be ever-growing, and the fear of those suffering and their families is never far behind.

As a survivor of an eating disorder and member of the LGBT community, I am often asked what it takes, or has taken, to identify, unmask, confront, battle and eventually overcome this life-threatening illness.

To be honest, I wish I had the ‘perfect’ answer, prescription or remedy for every individual who may, unfortunately, find themselves fighting for their lives. However, I can express my sincere declaration that there IS hope, there IS help for the battle, and WE are becoming more educated than ever before.

For so very long, I hid everything I was afraid of: insecurities about my masculinity and body, my faith, questions concerning my purpose in life, difficulty expressing my opinions, and showing my authentic self. I hid these things deep down where my eating disorder had the opportunity to take those fears, and flourish. 

I took comfort in ‘going with the flow,’ simply agreeing with everyone and denying myself the opportunity to live. Sadly, I controlled what I ate, how much I exercised, and what I was or wasn’t honest about. Without realizing it, the eating disorder actually took away from my life – it did not add anything to it.

Many people look across the spectrum of eating disorders and wonder why they are so prevalent. The answer seems simple enough – we are all human, and we are all basically the same.

Sure, my skin color, sexuality or faith might differ from another person who is struggling with an eating disorder,. but here is the catch – all of us face relatively similar obstacles when it comes to the plethora of triggers of an eating disorder. Genetics, biological factors, the media, environmental agents, and more can all play a part in the development of an eating disorder, regardless of what color you are or who you love.

Identifying as LGBT didn’t prevent me from developing an eating disorder and neither did being male, living in North Dakota, or being 19 at the onset of my illness. However, reaching out for help, being honest with myself and with others, challenging societal norms and my own distorted self-image (something we all can do) were the keys to getting my life back on track.

You see, my voice, your voice, OUR voice, is what will change the tide in the battle against eating disorders. “I had no idea” is a phrase often echoed when that initial (and often scary) step is taken toward recovery. But we have to know that reaching out is the best thing we can do in our efforts to make ourselves healthier, happier and more in-tune with who we are.

I’ve come to know that eating disorders don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your gender, age, race or faith affiliation-- anyone can be at-risk.

Can 2014 be your year for recovery, hope or healing? Of course it can. Eating disorders and their behaviors are ultimately devastating for the individual and those who surround them. Hiding our fear, whatever that fear may be, deep within is incredibly difficult. Those fears hide your true self, someone who is beautiful and who no one will have the opportunity to see, unless you address the unknown.

Being comfortable with fear is often very uncomfortable, but letting go of control and allowing ourselves the opportunity for healing can help to overshadow any fears we may have.  Keep fighting because there IS hope, ask for HELP because it is available, keep pushing because there ARE many of us fighting with you, and know that WE are going to end the ravages of eating disorders together.