Describing eating disorders to someone who has never heard of them can be challenging. Especially in Indian households, it is taboo to speak about it. I’m not going to say what it is or how it affects your body. I’m simply saying how well one can hide it and how far is too far when you’re trying to avoid the issue.
Let’s take an instance. When I’m going to a family event, I’ll get this immense anxiety about everything. Why? Because my family and relatives make snarky comments and suggestions about my appearance, like I got more weight or my face looks chubbier, and then force me to eat more. I can’t say no because when I do, I’m an “ungrateful little brat while children are dying of hunger.” From childhood, we are bombarded with comments about beauty, weight, hair, and even the little pimples on our faces. Hearing that consistently makes us hate ourselves and many will develop eating disorders.
Let me tell you my story of having ED and hiding it from everyone. I was always the thinnest girl in my family. Everyone would say I need some meat in my bones. So I ate more and more on every family occasion. Even my aunts and uncles were impressed and praised me for it. They told their kids to look up to me for eating a ton of food and not gaining any weight. So I started binge eating. I didn’t know when to stop. I ate what I found. I would sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night to eat something. I even ate dog biscuits one day. In my teenage years, I started to gain weight, and the comments shifted from you need to eat to you need to watch what you eat. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), and the doctor said I couldn’t eat most of the foods I loved, like junk food, and it was bad for my health. But still, I couldn’t stop it. I ate at night when everyone was asleep. I took a small amount of money from my dad’s pocket and bought potato chips and things like that. I felt so guilty, but I couldn’t help doing it. My body would shut off if I continued, but I didn’t care.
When I got to 20 years old, the whole thing took a turn for the worse. I couldn’t eat without self-loathing and constant criticism of my food choices. I stopped eating breakfast. If my family pushes me to eat, I hide it and later give it to my dog. I reduced the quantity of rice I ate. I skipped dinner most of the time by saying I ate something. I force myself to vomit after eating at family events. I just couldn’t look myself in the mirror. Sometimes I can’t help but binge-eat junk food. I hide everything really well because no one, not even a single soul, notices my issues. I compromised both my mental and physical health.
Now coming back to my previous thoughts: How well can you hide your eating disorder?
How far is too far when you’re trying to avoid the issue?
Is it when I’m dead, or is it when I’m feeling sick, or is it from the beginning?
So when your child says they don’t want anything to eat, are you going to get mad or are you asking why?
I know it’s not an Indian household type of thing. This is a worldwide issue. My story is one of many around the world. I’m not an influencer, a high-status person, or anything, but the one thing I’m proud of is that I’m a good listener, and people tell me about their struggles with eating disorders. I’m now brave enough to tell you my story because I heard too many and something had to change. I can’t do it alone.
How can I help?