According to the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (www.NEDIC.ca), 1.5% of Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 24 has or has had an eating disorder.
That is a shocking number, especially considering that 10% of the population suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will die within ten years of the onset of the disease – the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disease. As parents, women and society as a whole, we’re now realizing that children are learning unhealthy, “mainstream” attitudes towards food and weight at a young age – no doubt thanks to the fashion industry’s stick thin models, photo-shopped images and the rapidly shrinking waistlines of actresses and singers . At 25, I am acutely aware of my body image, my weight, and healthy eating practices. I also count calories, mentally beat myself up, have “I’m so fat” thoughts and consider myself to be an accidental anorexic.
How do you become an accidental anorexic? you may be thinking.
It’s actually very easy, and you may have even done it before.
It may have begun with the best intentions, a diet or exercise regime to help you peel off that extra layer around your tummy before summer vacation, or it may have begun accidentally through illness or injury. If you’ve ever lost a lot of weight in a short time, you may have experienced the wave of “holy cow, you look so good!” comments that boost your ego and leave you feeling a type of high that comes only from a rush of excitement and pleasure, and the next thing you know it’s all you can think about.
I consider that feeling of “I’m so thin” to be my heroin and I experience it every time I try on an article of my clothing that is too big, or buy a size small shirt or size 0 pants. I hadn’t been either of those sizes since high school and I have totally lost myself into the obsession of staying tiny. It’s an addiction in every sense of the word.
My obsession began many years ago, as a pre-teen gymnast and swimming lessons pupil. Spandex onesies on the gymnastics mat and tankini-style bathing suits in the pool highlighted my pre-pubescent body’s rapid changes. By the time I was 13, I had mastered the art of skipping breakfast AND lunch and managed to survive. At 15, it escalated. My parents were either oblivious or thought ignoring it would be best – kind of like I try to ignore Finley’s occasional outbursts. I could control my food intake and I could control my own body.
Until I turned 16, skipped meals were the norm for me. No one noticed. No one worried.
I exercised because I could control the expenditure of energy and it occupied my time and my mind. I drank coffee, ate salads and counted calories like it was my job.