What is an Eating Disorder?
Interview with Imma, ED survivor and founder of How to Satisfy Bulimia
Imma is definitely the person who brought major contribution to this project. Not only she has shared most of her life with eating disorders but since a couple of years she has started a project called “How to satisfy bulimia” with the aim to help people with the same problems. In this part of her interview she will explain what EDs are and what she has learned about them during her experience.
Q: What is an eating disorder?
A: There are two definitions of what an eating disorder is. The first one is a definition that everyone can find on Google : an eating disorder is a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations. Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape. The second one is my personal definition of an eating disorder and for me it is like a parasite that takes4 your soul, it makes you see everything dark, every little thing is exaggerated. I’m reliving it all in my mind as I talk to you. I have suffered from bulimia for 30 years. It is important to talk, spread and eliminate cultural preconceptions.
Q: How is it possible to tell if someone close to us is affected by EDs?
A: Obsession for dieting is for sure an alarming behaviour. When I see people weighting their food, avoid some types of food like sweets, chocolate or carbs or avoid social events where there is food, well at that point it is evident that I am dealing with a person affected by EDs. Moreover, asking repeatedly where the bathroom is when being in a new environment is also a sign that EDs might be around the corner; it means that the person who is asking it wants to be reassured there is a place where they can vomit or get rid of the extra food. Touching their belly constantly might also mean they have an eating disorder, because they don’t feel comfortable with their body shape.
If I can give an advice to parents I would also add that sometimes recognising a problem is easier than we think. If your child doesn’t eat much at home and they say they have been eating before/after school or they had lunch out with friends, or if big amounts of food disappear from the kitchen without explanation and this episodes occur many times; that is definitely an alarm bell.
Sometimes it’s not even necessary to be in an environment with food to notice that something is wrong, some of the many consequences of eating disorders are depression and anxiety. If someone that we know starts saying negative affirmations, have a negative view of life, talks about problems only or avoids going out, it means it’s time to ask for help.
Q: Which support is currently available for eating disorders?
A: There are many ways to ask for support. The most efficient one is to get hospitalised in centers for eating disorders, this is recommendable especially for severe cases. I have been hospitalised in one of those structures for one year in Rome because of bulimia and I could have never won my battle without their help. The support they offered to me consisted in a psychotherapeutic path where they used a multidisciplinary approach and thanks to that I took complete awareness of my disorder; up to that point I thought I wasn’t ill enough, or skinny enough to need help. I started talking with people with my same issue and I understood I wasn’t alone and that if I wanted to heal I had to trust those who wanted to help me and open up with them. Team work is fundamental.
Q: Given your experience with EDs, which advice would you like to give to people afraid of taking awareness of their disorder?
A: I know how scary this monster can be, I know how hard it is to get rid off it but it will be even harder to spend the rest of your life with this disorder just because you are too scary to face it. What you should ask yourself everyday is why am I doing this to myself? Why do I keep stay in this loop that only makes me struggle? Self-love is the key. You can’t choose to develop an eating disorder but you can choose to do something to feel better. When I was at the beginning of my recovery process I thought nobody was able to help and understand me, I was feeling isolated by the rest of the world and I wouldn’t understand why it happened to me until I realised that wasn’t a punishment but a challenge and if I had received that challenge it’s because I could win it. This is the message I would like to pass to people; you are way stronger than your limits.
If you would like to have more information about reasons why EDs might happen, click on the link below for the second part of this interview.