Yesterday, CNN posted an interesting article about a lady named Diane Butrym. Diane, like many women, suffers from an eating disorder. Her story, however, is actually quite unique.
You see, she hasn’t been struggling with this since she was a child or teenager, like most of us do. She went half of her life eating-disorder free. She actually fell victim to the disease in her forties.
According to the article, the disorder was triggered by a series of health diagnoses and injuries, forcing her to back off from her once very active lifestyle. And so, presumably terrified of the ramifications of her body changing, she became consumed with ED.
I suppose the reason the article exists is because of the story’s novelty. Even though I’m someone whom I’d venture to say is pretty educated on the subject, this is the first I’ve heard of someone going through this at a stage in her life when she’s supposed to “have it all figured out”.
So. This begs the question: did she always have these tendencies? Or were they born simply out of the loss of “control” over her body?
The answer to that question doesn’t matter. The reality is that the eating disorder epidemic is way bigger than I think any of us could have imagined and, something (perhaps lots of somethings) is perpetuating it. To walk around complacent, going about our business as if nothing is wrong, is just as detrimental as the oppressive beauty standards in this country, if not more so.
Honestly, I feel like I can kind of relate with Diane. This week, I am entering my ninth month of pregnancy. Pregnancy, you could argue, is a “diagnosis” of sorts. (Granted, there’s been nothing bad or complicated about this pregnancy, praise God, but you know what I mean. It is a “change” that will leave my body in a much different state than it was pre-”diagnosis”.)
The other day, I looked at my husband, whose weight is currently only eight pounds heavier than mine. With terror in my eyes I admitted, “I might weigh the same as you soon. Please don’t judge me.”
“Why would I ever judge you for gaining weight while pregnant with my son?”
“Because. It’s such a big number.”
“When have I ever cared about how much you weigh?”
He’s never cared. But as as I near my due date, I’ve subconsciously started panicking over ways I can shed the baby weight as fast and as effectively as possible after I give birth. Images of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson and Mariah Carey flash across my brain and I’m wracked with the reality that I’ll never look the way I did before I got pregnant, let alone as amazing as these celebrities do mere weeks after leaving the delivery room. I find myself thinking astronomical things, unattainable things, things I might never think if I lived on an island, completely devoid of any Photoshopped images of supermodels or celebrities in bikinis.
Maybe if I try X diet. Or eat Y way. Or be sure to exercise Z times a day. Maybe then I can shed the baby weight before I go back to work. Or in two weeks. Let’s shoot for two weeks.
Because I know I’m prone to disordered eating and the thoughts that come along with it, I’ve been disciplined in asking for prayer and support from close friends during that transition time. But my heart goes out to Diane, and other people (not just women) who may find themselves in that situation. Older, supposedly wiser, yet still waking up to the dark sound of an eating disorder within their heads, trapping them in webs of self-loathing and lies.
What if Diane was on that island, devoid of pop culture and beauty standards? Would she still be suffering from this disorder? I’d bet no.
No one, especially Diane, will benefit from this unless we speak up and out about it. If we keep drawing attention to this problem, hopefully we can eventually stop it. It may seem futile, like trying to derail a mile-long freight train, but I believe it’s worth it.
Never stop telling those around you how precious and beautiful they are just as God made them. Scars and all. Diagnoses and all. Flaws and all. And, even more importantly, never stop telling yourself that.
As for me, I’m going to start by telling my big, round belly how wonderful and life-giving it is and how the number on the scale has no power over me, or my worth, or my happiness. My body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. My son is healthy and strong and I can’t wait for my body’s grand finale — miraculously giving him to the world.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Suddenly thinking unhealthy thoughts or committing unhealthy actions that you’ve never experienced before, triggered by a huge change in life?