February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month. It is not a topic that most people enjoy talking about however, its presence in our human race is significant. And the impact of eating disorders is devastating.
At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
In a large national study of college students, 3.5% sexual minority women and 2.1% of sexual minority men reported having an eating disorder.
16% of transgender college students reported having an eating disorder.
In a study following active duty military personnel over time, 5.5% of women and 4% of men had an eating disorder at the beginning of the study, and within just a few years of continued service, 3.3% more women and 2.6% more men developed an eating disorder.
When we think about being our best selves, exploiting our inner badass, it requires us to engage every facet of who we are. To look at our whole self. Our bodies and our energy are paramount to maximizing our potential. Based on the statistics above, many, many people are challenged with eating disorders, limiting them from living life to their full potential. One of our community members was courageous enough to share her story in hopes that it would bring awareness and trigger help for others.
Here's Heidi's story, in her words:
I was a dancer growing up, and I began developing faster than most of my friends, which made me quite embarrassed. I had to have been nine, maybe 10-years-old, when I remember sitting in the bathtub and actually hitting on my chest for my boobs to go away. (Ironically enough, many years later, it was my extreme dieting for my first fitness competition that caused me to lose my boobs, therefore, have a breast augmentation to get them back).
Back to the beginning… as a dancer, I began to watch myself in the mirror and compare my body to the other girls. I didn’t do anything extreme, but I did do some obnoxious things. For example, once at the Ice Cream Truck with friends, while everyone asked for Astro Pops and Pop Rocks, I ordered a Sno-cone without any flavoring. Seriously. And, after being at a barbeque with my family, as we were driving home I was in the back of our SUV doing sit-ups and crunches all the way home.
It was in high school when I took things to the extreme and began making myself throw up. At first, it was here and there after a big meal, but once I discovered how easy it was for me to do this, I actually began eating things with the intention to throw up. I also began working out more than ever. These habits were manageable until my boyfriend confronted my parents. While no “actions” were taken, I did put the brakes on my bulimia. Well, it slowed down immensely where I knew I could throw up if needed, but it wasn’t something I planned to do anymore.
During college and into my early 20s, I struggled with body image, but I didn’t go back to the extreme purging. Enter 2006—when I began training for my first fitness competition—that the eating disorder finally took control over me!
During my first fitness competition I dropped an extreme amount of weight, which by looking back at photos now seems incredibly unattractive. When the show was over, and I went back to my normal diet—which wasn’t unhealthy by the way—this is when I really developed a skewed image of myself. I had to do anything to stay lean and fit, so I did.
This sickens me because as a fitness trainer, I was encouraging my clients to be healthy and good to their bodies, while I was being so cruel to my own. This lasted for six years, until I began rolling out my yoga mat regularly. Things shifted.
What I failed to mention before was that when I lost my boobs after my extreme dieting, I also lost my menstrual cycle (for six years)! I came home from yoga one day and was bleeding. I believe my body was trying to get back into balance, and I didn’t want to fight it. It was that day that I decided I would not allow bulimia to be the boss.
While I do have the negative chatter here and there—mostly about my wrinkles—I can honestly say I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. Life is too short not to enjoy some sweet treats… And, to me, it’s also a gift that shouldn’t be thrown away by throwing up.
On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.
On top of this, in a YouGov survey conducted for EDAW, more than one in three adults (34%) in the UK, who gave an answer, could not name any signs or symptoms of eating disorders.
The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and fast recovery. If you notice someone struggling, speak up, you could be saving their life!
When asked what advice she would give someone struggling with an eating disorder, Heidi says: "To you, who may be searching for the light at the end of the tunnel...you are beautiful, strong, and brave—and not alone. I encourage you to find something that may help to give you peace. Because that’s what you deserve."
Thank you Heidi for sharing your story! You are a true badass on every account!