National Eating Disorders Association

“Let’s go out to eat.” The words immediately used to trigger a thousand thoughts. Which excuse do I use this time? Do I have homework? Am I busy? Maybe I don’t feel well? Or maybe this time I should just go so no one gets suspicious? 

Those were only a very few of the thoughts that went through my head when someone would ask me to go out to eat when I was in the darkest place of my eating disorder.

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. 

My adolescence and teenage years were rocky, to say the least. 

On the surface, I fought to project an image of a person in control, a person who strived for perfection: I was the valedictorian of my high school class, I studied at Brown University, and I maintained plenty of friendships. 

Each year, it is reported that one person in the UK completes suicide every 120 minutes. Most of those people are men. And suicide and eating disorders often intersect; for example, those suffering with anorexia are 31 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population. 

Yes, eating disorder treatment involves all the wonderful things that are delicately spelled out in pastel pamphlets. Yes, there can be yoga mats and Rumi and more gentle nodding than the normal neck could take. 

My best friend and I have always been candid about our eating disorders. We've known each other for 20 years, and when we met, we were in the midst of anorexia. Our eating disorders were similar: there was no magic moment when either of us announced we were in recovery, not even when I went to in-patient treatment. 

Having both an eating disorder and codependent traits, I am a professional at people-pleasing. From the time I was little, I never really got a fully-informed education in setting boundaries. I have been conditioned to accept what was happening, given excuses, told to “respect my elders,” and assume that they knew what was best for me, even when what they were doing was harmful. 

The current movement for self-love has already changed lives. Posts featuring unedited photos and empowering messages or the efforts made by large companies to break beauty standards have installed confidence and validation in many, but is it possible that the positive reception is not the case for everyone? 

My mom and I carpool to the train station every morning. I often request that we listen to music or her favorite goofy morning talk show, opposed to the morning news because more often than not, there is nothing positive to be said. While I want to be informed about what is happening in the world, there comes a certain point when the news becomes overbearing and even scary.

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