To the 10-Year-Old Girl Showing Signs of an Eating Disorder
Dear 10-year-old girl,
I hear the way you speak and I see the way you act, and I worry. I worry because I see myself in you.
When you say, “See how big this sweater is becoming on me?”
When you say, “Everyone tells me I have long, thin legs.”
When you say, “I didn’t have time to pack my lunch,” I wish I could believe you.
“You weigh, like, nothing,” you tell me. And I cringe, as the body that has fought for my life morphs into something admirable in your mind. As my body, yet to be fully weight restored after a fight with anorexia, becomes the goal.
I see you comparing yourself to the other girls. I see you chatting through lunch instead of eating. I see you and wonder if you know what you’re doing. You don’t know, do you? I sure didn’t.
You might be looking for an answer to all the uncertainty plaguing you. I don’t know what that uncertainty looks like for you, but I know what a developing eating disorder looks like, and I wish I could save you from this.
I wish I could make you believe that nutrition and balance are important. I wish I could save you from what is to come in this world of food restriction. I wish I could pick you up and transplant you into a world where dieting doesn’t exist and thin is not still the “ideal.”
You’ve been told that you’re pretty. You’ve been told that you’re thin. You’ve probably heard both in the same sentence. So, since I can’t save you from developing an eating disorder, addiction or mental illness of any kind, I will at least stand up against using these words to compliment you.
Instead, I will tell you that you are strong. You are creative. You are intelligent and witty. You are fun to be around. You are a good friend. I can see all of these things.
You are holding this immaculate future in the palm of your hand and I pray that you are able to see that. There is so much potential in these next few years, as your mind and heart expand.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
Unlike your body, your mind and heart are endless. They cannot be contained within muscle or skin or bone. They can reach the stars. They can change the world.
You can change the world.
Someone who’s been there
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Thinkstock photo via Natnan Srisuwan