What Not To Say To Those Struggling With Anorexia On Thanksgiving

What Not To Say To Those Struggling With Anorexia On Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is already hard enough when consumed by an eating disorder.
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As an individual who struggled with anorexia for three years, then a combination of anorexia and bulimia as I tried to recover near the end of those three years, I missed out on three Thanksgiving feasts that I used to indulge in before my eating disorder kicked in.

I still remember the anxiety I had in the weeks prior to, and mostly on the day of, Thanksgiving. I remember being afraid of the food that I knew would be offered there, afraid the things my family would say, afraid that I'd be forced to eat--especially eat a lot--, I was afraid that I may not be able to control myself and give in to the feast around me.

I remember one year I brought a pot of soup to Thanksgiving; we never ever had soup before. I made sure to make it myself. I put in the lowest calorie vegetables, used no oil, and used water for my base instead of vegetable broth to save some calories. That was basically the only thing I ate that Thanksgiving.

Last year, when I was trying to finally recover from my anorexia, and when I started to have severe bulimic tendencies, I binged heavily on the Thanksgiving foods and desserts and vomitted several times in my grandparents' bathroom. I know all my family suspected it, but no one said a thing.

This year, after recovering (I'm not saying that all of my anorexic and bulimic tendencies are over, though), it will hopefully be my first Thanksgiving in three years that I can indulge and handle it.

Over the years, though, I've been told many things regarding my eating disorder on Thanksgiving that make me uncomfortable, upset, and ashamed (or proud sometimes when I was able to control myself during my first two Thanksgivings as severely anorexic) that I wish my families had never said to me.

So, I want to inform those who are not struggling with an eating disorder about things and actions to be cautious over this Thanksgiving when you are with someone who has an eating disorder, particularly anorexia in this case. Please be respectful to those struggling, otherwise certain comments and actions could only make things worse for that individual or everyone at the feast.

"You need to put some meat on those bones."

This one really hurts. I didn't want to gain weight, I wanted to see and feel my bones. It would make me defensive because I was proud of my thin state, and I didn't want someone to tell me otherwise.

"You're SO thin, aren't you going to eat something?"

This was a compliment to me. When I'd say "I know, but no, I won't really eat anything" in a cheery manner, I'd get backlash on more about my frame and weight and the fact I was eating very little, which of course caused me to defend myself and retaliate.

"I think you should get seconds."

No, I didn't think I should. I didn't even want to eat in the first place, but it's Thanksgiving, so I know I'd eat as little as I could get away with. Seconds was not an option, even when everyone else is getting seconds and thirds. I didn't want people to push me to get seconds.

"Why aren't you eating as much as everyone else?"

They knew why, they were just trying to subtly push me to hopefully change my find and indulge like everyone else. I didn't want my family to point out the obvious. "I'm full. I'm not that hungry. I just don't feel like eating too much this year," were my excuses that my family might sometimes let slide by.

"It's just food, and it's Thanksgiving, stop being so worrisome over it."

I knew it was Thanksgiving, which why I was so anxious for weeks and the day of. I was afraid of all the food, and it's not that easy to just "get over it" and eat. I didn't care if it was a feasting holiday. I knew I had to be strong and not cave into the plethora of foods around me. Maybe my family could eat guiltlessly, but no matter what they'd say, I could not.

*When someone puts more food on your plate without asking*

My dad has a really bad habit of doing this, all my life in fact. It would always call me great stress when he'd do that, especially on Thanksgiving. I'd hate that people would expect you to finish it too, but you'd just throw it away without a bite, not caring what they thought about it.

"You need to eat more; have dessert or put more on your plate."

I knew I needed to eat more because most of my family wouldn't shut up about it, just in general and on Thanksgiving. But did I want to eat more, did I want more on my plate, did I want to have dessert? No. Not at all. And I don't want my family trying to get me to do so, especially on such a stressful holiday.

"Stop being this way. You need to stop thinking about food, just eat. It's easy."

I couldn't just "stop being that way". It's who I was, under the control of my eating disorder. Hearing people tell me it was "easy" to just stop my eating disorder, to stop counting calories and thinking about food, and to just magically overcome what I was dealing with wasn't realistic. Especially on Thanksgiving.

*When your family stares at you as you slowly and cautiously eat just a little food, knowing they want to say something but instead they just look at you disappointed and irritated.*

This always would make me more anxious. I'd stare at my plate trying to ignore the looks and judgment that my family was surrounding me with. I would try my best to not let the stares and glares make me feel worse than I was already feeling. It would make me ashamed that I was anorexic, that I couldn't be normal like everyone else.

*Judging you for having little to nothing to eat and choosing the "healthiest" options only to eat.*

Overall, that's what all of these phrases and actions are doing, which isn't fair to those struggling or the right way to approach things. Judging and trying to force someone with an eating disorder to eat and indulge on Thanksgiving will only make things worse for the person and for those gathering for Thanksgiving.

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So, what are some better ways to approach concerns on Thanksgiving?

"Have you been doing any better recently?"

"Would you like to try this dish? It's okay if you don't want to."

"I made your favorite dish/dessert, but if you wouldn't like it today, that's okay. There's plenty to go around."

"How are you feeling today? Does your stomach feel alright?"

"Would you like anymore of anything? It's okay if not."

"Is there anything you'd like differently this year to eat? We can make a separate dish."

Basically, this Thanksgiving, approach someone who is anorexic with care and love as they struggle to get through the holiday. Let them know it's okay, reassure them that they don't have to indulge like is expected. Remind them of their worth, not just in a physical sense. Don't openly judge or look down on them, don't try to force them to eat more, especially threatening to make them. Don't be rude, be patient. Let them do their best that day, it may surprise you what they may do in a positive sense that day, and it may even surprise them.

Thanksgiving is a time to come together and be cheery, to offer love and compassion, to be thankful for the things that matter in our lives. When a family member is struggling with something so severe and life-threatening as an eating disorder, be thankful they are there, surrounded by loved ones, be thankful that they are still alive, not judgmental and invasive about what they're going through.

Cover Image Credit: Ashlyn Ren Bishop

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An Open Letter From The Plus-Size Girl

It's OK not to be perfect. Life is more fun that way.

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To whoever is reading this,

My entire life has been a juggling match between my weight and the world. Since I was a young girl every single doctor my family took me to, told me I needed to lose weight. The searing pain of those words still stabs me in the side to this day. I have walked past stores like Hollister and American Eagle since I was 13.

Being plus-size means watching girls the same age as you or older walk into a store that sells the cutest, in style clothing and you having to walk into a store that sells clothes that are very out of style for a young girl. Being plus-size means being picked last in gym class, even if you love sports.

Being plus-size means feeling like you have to suck it in in pictures so you don't look as big next to your friends. Being plus-size means constantly thinking people are staring at you, even if they aren't.

The number on the scale haunts me. Every single time I think about the number I cringe.

Can I just say how going shopping is an absolute nightmare? If you haven't noticed, in almost every store (that even has plus sizes to begin with) plus-size clothing is closed off and secluded from the rest of the store. For example, Forever 21, There are walls around every side of the plus "department."

Macy's plus department is in the basement, all the way in the back corner. We get it that we are not what society wants us to look like but throwing us in a corner isn't going to change the statistics in America today. That being that 67% of American women are plus-size.

My life is a double-digit number being carved into my jiggly arms and thunder thighs. It is me constantly wanting to dress cute but turning to running shorts and a gigantic sweatshirt instead so that people don't judge me on my size.

It is time that the American society stops making plus size look like a curse. It will never be a curse. If every person was the same size, what would be the point of uniqueness? I will never despise who I am because while I was growing up multiple people told me that I needed to be a size 6 in order for a guy to fall in love with me. I will never hate myself for getting dressed up and being confident.

To all the girls reading this who may be plus-size,

It's OK! You're beautiful and lovable. If you want to buy that crop top, buy it. Life is too short to hide behind a baggy T-shirt. We are just as gorgeous as the girls that we envy. Be the one to change the opinion of the world. Fat rolls don't need to be embarrassing. Your stretch marks are beautiful. Don't ever let the world tell you not to eat that cheeseburger either.

In the end, this earthly life is temporary. We are on this earth for a blink of an eye. Don't let anything stand in your way. Wear the bikini, the crop top, and the short shorts. Post the sassy selfie you've had on your phone for 6 months and you won't post because you have a double chin or your head looks "too big." Who cares. BE YOU and love yourself while you're at it.

I'll start.

Cover Image Credit: Victoria Hockmeyer

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Eating Disorders Are Not Exclusive To One Body Type

Body image and eating disorders can affect people that are skinny.

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With the start of summer vacation, the issue of eating disorders often flares up. Because more people begin worrying about their size due to fitting into bathing suits or going to public pools during the summer, there is an overall increase in eating disorders. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, there are at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all genders and ages that suffer from an eating disorder, and every 62 minutes, someone dies from the direct result of an eating disorder.

In addition, body image has been known to have a connection with eating disorders. According to Eating Disorder Hope, body image has been shown to be a protective factor, and having a good body image can reduce the vulnerability for someone to develop an eating disorder. There are some people who think that the only people who worry about their body image or who develop eating disorders tend to be people who are overweight. But as they've forgotten, cases with anorexia and other eating disorders are often focused on people who are skinny.

You're probably thinking, how does someone who is skinny have issues with their body image? Especially since the overall media portrayal of the perfect body size is someone who is skinny? However, what most people don't realize is that people who are skinny are constantly worrying about gaining weight or not being fit. Being skinny is often associated with someone who is fit and healthy. Therefore, you constantly have to worry about maintaining these traits.

In addition, just because you may be skinny does not mean that you are fit or healthy. People who have a fast metabolism, like me, for example, are not always fit. With my fast metabolism, I'm always around the same size no matter what I eat. However, when you have a fast metabolism, it doesn't mean you'll have abs or have toned muscles. And when you have a fast metabolism, it's harder to build up muscle since your body metabolizes quickly.

You also find yourself comparing how fit you are with other women who are skinny, such as models and judging how you look based on others. For example, if you go to the beach wearing a bikini that you felt confident about and then you see someone else who is wearing the same one but appears to have a flatter stomach or more toned muscles then you, you suddenly lose whatever confidence you had built about your body image. Because of this, there are many women who are skinny and can develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

On top of that, in society, there's an overall fear of being overweight. Even when you're already skinny, this fear can still affect you by making you worry about one day losing the status of being skinny. And if you are thin because you lost weight, the fear of gaining the weight back isn't simply going to go away.

And believe it or not, society's perception of the perfect body image is changing. According to The Self Improvement Blog, in recent years curvy hourglass figures are becoming a more popular body image to have rather than being slender. So instead women who are slender will likely encounter issues with their body image due to trying to match the body image that the media portrays as perfect.

The worst part is that there are a lot of people who believe that problems with body image only center around people who are overweight. Some people tell skinny women to "get over it." This, in turn, causes women to feel that they have no one to confide to about their problems with their body image because the media tells them that they don't have a problem. The women may decide to ignore their problem instead of seeking help, which then causes it to worsen and may go from a lack of confidence in their self-image to an eating disorder.

Most people who are dieting to become skinny think that once they reach a certain size, they no longer will worry about their body image. But as discussed earlier, every woman, regardless of what size they are, faces issues with feeling confident about their body image. And the sooner we come to terms with this as a society, the better we will be able to understand the issues with body image and eating disorders.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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