The cultural imperative to align ourselves with a certain body type and shape deeply affects us by as early as six years old. Many of us develop eating disorders in an attempt to attain that ideal, though disordered eating habits can develop for complex emotional reasons that have little to do with weight, such as a desire for control. While eating disorders are frequently discussed as a “women’s issue,” they affect all genders (in fact, subclinical disordered eating habits, such as binge eating and purging, are nearly as common among men as women). Eating disorders are often a hidden illness; it’s impossible to tell if someone has one just by appearance or physical fitness, and since they frequently carry great burdens of shame, sufferers usually hide their behaviors and carefully mask their symptoms. Even when we’re aware that someone around us has an eating disorder, we’re often unsure about how to support their needs without enabling their disordered behavior. Eating disorders can have serious physical consequences and typically require medical and psychological treatment.
If you or someone you know is in immediate need of support, please seek professional help. If you are in crisis, here are some immediate free resources.