I do not know you. I have never met you personally. However, I know that you exist because you know some of my friends. Having common friends with you is not pleasant at all. I just want to make one thing clear from the start on – I do not want to be friends with you. I do not appreciate your existence. I dislike you for being persuasive and dominant. You are able to control the lives of others. You are able to influence the lives of others – the lives of my friends.
I wondered several times what you look like. I bet, you must have a very appealing appearance. Not only you figure is desirable for my friends but also, your character has to hold something special in it. Something which attracts so many people to you. This something has to be extraordinarily special because you are able to cast a spell over so many different people who are actually not alike. They only have you in common. You charm people at the age of ten, thirty or even fifty and above. You befriend people no matter what gender they are. You captivate thin, fat, healthy, unfit and athletic people. I wonder what you do in order to tantalise all these people. What is so special about you? I guess if I would know the reason I would just belong to all your friends. I then would be captivated by your appearance like all the others. And I definitely do not want that to happen. When you become very close with my friends, you take them away from me. You tear them away. I am not able to reach out to them anymore. They get isolated just because of you. Ana, you literally engulf them.
Writing this letter was very emotional for me as I really wished I could have sent this to Ana. Maybe you’ve already guessed which “person” is hidden behind this name Ana. It’s not a persona or a character. It’s a mental disorder. Ana stands for anorexia, the short term of anorexia nervosa. This not just a silly diet it is a real and damaging disorder. Ana is a very common term in the anorexic community. It’s actually often used to idolise and beautify this dreadful disorder. With the Internet, the popularity of glorifying anorexia nervosa or bulimia (binge eating followed by purging) has grown terrifying rapidly. There are several sites which glamorise being underweight by showing so-called Thinspo, which stands for Thinspiration – photographs which inspire you to be thin. What many people are not aware of is that those pictures are often photoshopped. However, this pro-ana and pro-mia (stands for a promotional behaviour to bulimia) movement seems not be stopping. It’s terrifying how fast these communities grow. And although sites which promote such eating disorders are not permitted, the Internet-Police (which, to be honest, is actually none existing, because the users fulfil in some way this task of controlling the activities online) is simply unable to cope with shutting all these sites down. And if they manage to block a site effectively, there’s just going to pop up a next one.
Shockingly, websites where they promote anorexia nervosa or bulimia is not enough. There are also WhatsApp groups where you can join in. There you’ll get humiliated if you’ve not lost enough weight in one week. I don’t want to go more into depth with this WhatsApp groups because it’s a very touchy topic. However, I believe that this social environment can lead you to a severe eating disorder. Not everyone is sensitive to this subject the same way and everyone will be reacting different but I’m of the opinion that this surrounding – glamorising eating disorders – will push you more into this direction and maybe you’ll be crossing the point of no return and then it’s too late. Then you’re trapped in the disorder.
Within time, I established a really good sense for people who either have suffered and still are battling with the thoughts of the disorder or are in the middle of it. Sadly, I’ve never been wrong with my assumptions. There’s not an actual checklist you can run in order to find out if a friend of yours suffers from anorexia or bulimia. However, there are some points which you can look out for. Just keep in mind, everyone is different and this disorder has numerous faces.
If the weight fluctuates a lot this can be a sign. Especially if they lost a huge amount of weight within a short time. Weight can also be a topic they like to talk about. It doesn’t necessarily have to occur, but often they make inconsiderable remarks like: “Oh I feel so bloated.”
Most of the people suffering from anorexia are very involved with food and eating. You’ll be impressed how much they know about cooking and nutrition’s. They often spend a lot of time looking at photographs of food or dishes. They also know the calories of the most common meals by heart.
However, there’s one aspect of food which is very characteristic of anorexic people. They have food rituals. For example, by cutting their food into tiny pieces, therefore, it appears as a much bigger portion and then they would only eat a little bit as for them it looks like a massive meal. Another ritual is to make the food unappetizing by cutting, frazzling and mixing it with all the ingredients that you’ll finally end up with a plate full of ugly looking food. I mean, who wants to eat that unappealing stuff?
And of course, there’s the obvious sign when it comes to food. The restriction of it. They limit themselves on only some meals and eat often the same. Another sign, which may contradict with the restriction, is not sharing certain foods with others. A friend of mine would share all the cupcakes her mother baked for her with the classmates. But when she had dried fruits she would never have given even one little piece away. Because they realise that they need to eat something little during the day. And then they tend to stick to their absolute favourite foods and wouldn’t be sharing them with others.
Signals you can often find in their behaviour after having eaten something. Just observe what they do after swallowing the last bite. Do they urgently need to go to the toilet to pee? Probably they will release something more than urine… I guess you know what I’m angling for.
Another thing is if they are in general not comfortable eating with other people. Because there they could get confronted with questions about their eating habits. So if they prefer to eat alone then it’s probably a sign that they may have an eating disorder.
This is a possible sign which can occur. Some like to exercise extensively. If that’s the case one can maybe even talk about anorexia athletica. This is an eating disorder which athletes can suffer from. The main difference between anorexia athletica and anorexia nervosa is that with the athletica you want to lose weight in order to obtain better results in your sport. Anorexia nervosa deals more with the deranged sense of self. So, one could state that the motives behind this two disorders differ a lot. However, exercising frequently can be a sign especially if its endurance sports because they burn more calories and fat than lifting weights.
Consequences Of Anorexia Nervosa
I don’t want to shock you but maybe by making a list of some possible causes will leave a greater impact and you’ll be more aware of the danger.
- brittle hair and nails
- low blood pressure
- abdominal pain
- tooth decay
- kidney failure
This is just a very short extract of possible effects. And I don’t want to shock you at all. There are lots of other mental disorders which have similar consequences. I just want to raise the awareness and highlight that it’s a very dangerous disorder, like all other diseases. These are just some few physical effects, I mentioned above. There are also social effects like isolation, aggression, depression, suicidal thoughts and the list goes on.
How To Address It
When you think that a friend of you suffers from an eating disorder you obviously want to address it and help her/him. First of all, I want to tell you something. Don’t set your hopes too high because you’re going to be disappointed. It’s like if you tell a drug addict to stop using heroin, or tell an alcoholic to minimise the drinking or tell a person who suffers from a depression to be happy and content.
When you try to address it, show empathy, show that you care about them. Tell them for example that you’ve recently noticed that they skipped lunch. Or that they’ve lost weight. After stating this you should offer them help by saying that you’re always there to listen. And don’t forget to express your worries. Not only the concerns about their health but also about the relationship you have with them. Because if a person suffers from an eating disorder they can say and do things which are very hurtful, although they don’t mean to. It’s comparable to a person with a depression. A depressed person will isolate themselves from their friends, will be reserved and will probably be saying harmful things. A month ago I met a good old friend (she’s not old, it’s just a long time since we are friends 🙂 ) and she confessed to me that when I had my depression I was so reserved that she thought that I have something against her personally. The problem was that she was not aware of my mental state and she had no clue that not me but my depression was texting her that I’m too busy to meet.
So, there’s not an actual advice I can give you. Just listen to your heart, be genuine and don’t get your hopes up too high because:
the only person who can change it is the person suffering from the disorder
And if you don’t feel very comfortable to address it personally, just write a letter. Like this, you have on the one hand enough time to think about the content and what you would like to tell them and, on the other hand, the receiver can read it in private and maybe will even be able to understand some of your points.
Just don’t be afraid to address it. The worst what could happen is that they get temporarily mad at you. And when you address it, confront them as soon as possible. Because with every day, week and month the disorder will be spreading more and more until it’s really hard to get through and you’re hardly able to reach out to them.
I hope I was able to raise some awareness.
Take care of yourself and others,