It can happen to anyone. When you think of someone suffering from an eating disorder you picture a young female or a famous celebrity that you have seen in a magazine. You never think of a male. But I am here to say it does happen to men and I’m using my time now to write about it and explain what happens.
If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked what my 'background' is, I'd be rich.
Growing up as a racially ambiguous person with a white mother and a black father, I more
often than not got looks of confusion or even asked if they’re my real parents. During my
teenage years it was especially difficult figuring out my own self-identity as a mixed person
who ‘didn’t look mixed’ as well as accepting the changes happening to my body.
Whenever I felt sad, whether it was a bully at school, a fight with my sister or feeling unloved because I was a middle child – Mom would always make things better. My mother taught me patience and how to be the bigger person.
As someone who struggled with ED for about seven years, food was my enemy for quite some time. In my sickest days food was to be avoided at all costs. Social events were turned down because I didn’t know how to avoid eating. Family celebrations were no longer enjoyable because I might be forced to eat. I began running out of excuses for why I couldn’t eat. Day and day, the desire to remain thin filled my mind. Gaining weight and eating were simply not options. Was I happy? No, of course not, but I couldn’t tell anyone.
About a year ago I started thinking about my upcoming wedding. For months I had been thinking about the weight I felt I had to lose before I would be thin enough – and not because of my wedding, but because of my disorder. I felt disappointed in my body whenever I looked in the mirror, though I was thin and a part of me knew it.
Body image is something that we truly dread dealing with at one point or another in our lives. We call ourselves fat, we point out our flaws and sometimes look for validation from others that we are in fact “beautiful”. When I saw the Real Beauty campaign by Dove, it made me stop and truly think, if we all just focused on things that we liked about ourselves each day that could make a difference in how we view ourselves. One thing could lead to two or three or four and then maybe those flaws that we saw before won’t be so noticeable anymore.
It is my sincere hope that everyone spent the last holiday ensconced in a cozy cocoon of familial adoration and delicious, well-savored meals. If, however, you found yourself trapped in your childhood bedroom, shoving fistfuls of mashed potatoes into your mouth just to make the crying stop, then friend, come sit by me.
Growing up as a first generation immigrant is complex. Your parents are adults who are relearning things they learned in childhood while simultaneously trying to keep you alive and teach you life lessons. On TV you see these perfect, straw-haired, pale-skinned kids, speaking English and eating mashed potatoes for dinner and you look down at your plate of rice and squid, while your mom is yelling at you in your mother tongue and you wonder why your life is so different.
“No, I would never want her body. She’s in shape but she is way too muscly.”
Almost a year has passed since I delivered my talk to NEDIC on the link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and eating disorders. In that time more research has come out to support this surprising overlap between these seemingly distinct disorders. In August 2013, Simon Baron-Cohen and his team at the Autism Research Centre published a study that examined the cognitive profile of 66 teenage women with anorexia. Compared to their peers, women with anorexia had elevated autistic traits, reduced empathy and high levels of systemizing thinking.