His name is ED. He is an abuser. He draws you in by playing on your sense of insecurity, promising respect and power, but screams only messages of worthlessness and helplessness once he gets in your head. He pledges perfection to the perfectionist, but instead delivers destruction. To the hurting and lonely, he offers relief, but his lies bring only heart wrenching pain and suffering. His lies are bold and seductive. He is convincing. For those wanting control, he points the way, but his voice his critical, cutting, and cruel, as he methodically, deliberately, takes control of you. He will promise you the world, but take from you, your very life. His name is ED. He is an Eating Disorder.

This week, February 23-March 1 is the 27th annual National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, themed,”I Had No Idea.” I am extending a personal invitation to you to learn more about eating disorders. By educating yourself, you could help save someone’s life. Maybe even your own. 

Learn more by going to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org where you will find both information and further resources, including how to get involved in the fight against ED.

Looks can be deceiving. Chances are, someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, but you can’t tell by looking at them. As a therapist, I see clients every day whose eating disorders have gone undetected for years, sometimes even decades. Eating disorders are widely misunderstood. I have found that many of my clients feel misunderstood too.

Protection. Perfection. Survival. Control. Avoidance. Anger. Numbing. Shame. Fear. Unforgiveness. Acceptance. These are all things that an eating disorder is about, and so much more. What eating disorders are not about, is food. It’s never about the food. It’s about something much deeper than that. To understand what that is for the one struggling with ED, you have to shift the focus from the food to the soul. And listen. Really listen.

Hope whispers, I’m listening.

Millions of men and women every year are affected by eating disorders, and they can be life-threatening. Anorexia nervosa, just one type of eating disorder, has the highest mortality rate of all the psychiatric disorders. Sadly, as a result of cultural pressure to be thin and beautiful, current statistics show that even children as young as 6 years of age, especially girls, are starting to express concerns about their weight or shape. That could be your daughter, granddaughter, niece, or sister. Eating disorders do not discriminate; they cross socioeconomic, race, gender, age, and ethnic lines. They are complex disorders, and are a result of biological, psychological, and social factors.

People who struggle with eating disorders are generally very kind, bright, and sensitive. In my experience, many of them have been deeply wounded in relationship, have high self-expectations coupled with a low sense of self-acceptance, and feel not only misunderstood, but unheard. In honor of the clients I serve, as well as all those struggling with eating disorders, I have written a poem called “Just Listen”. My hope is that it captures the essence of their collective voices, and validates them, as well as strengthens the spirit of recovery. One final word: if you struggle with an eating disorder, or disordered eating, there is hope and healing for you. Stop listening to ED. Listen to the voice of truth. The truth is, you matter. You are loved. You are enough. Go to the NEDA website above, and you will find information to get the help you deserve, so you can enjoy the life you were meant to live. It’s never too late to be heard and to be healed. 

 Just Listen

I didn’t want to hear, you’re too skinny
I needed to hear, you are brave.
I didn’t want to hear, you’re too fat
I needed to hear, you are strong.
I didn’t want to hear, you’re too sensitive
I needed to hear, your compassion is your strength.
I didn’t want to hear, you just need to eat
I needed to hear, tell me what’s bothering you.
I didn’t want to hear, you shouldn’t eat that
I needed to hear, how can I support you right now?
I didn’t want to hear, you can do better
I needed to hear, I recognize you are doing the best you can.
I didn’t want to hear, you shouldn’t feel that way
I needed to hear, your feelings matter.
I didn’t want to hear, no one will want you as long as you look like that
I needed to hear, you are so much more than a body.
I didn’t want to hear, you’re not trying hard enough
I needed to hear, you are enough.
I didn’t want to hear, I wish you were different
I needed to hear, I love you as you are.

Or maybe I don’t really need to hear you say anything
Maybe just want to be heard.

Are you listening?

By Laura Sabin Cabanillas, MA, LMHC