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A Speech About Eating Disorders Every High School Student Should Hear

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After being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa back in June 2016, we were asked to make speeches in English about something that was important to us. So here’s mine: A plea for education on the deadliness of eating disorders in secondary schools.

Eating disorders are not “glamorous.” They’re deadly. You can thank today’s society for that. In today’s society, you don’t fit in unless you’re pretty, and in order to be pretty, we believe we need to be skinny. That’s the common stereotype anyway.

This scares the younger audience, as a generation that is more focused on fitting in with social groups and being popular. Words that promote messages of skinniness that come from celebrities and public figures are more threatening, and sometimes, the pressure of being desirable can push people to eating disorders.

You see, if we had more education concerning the rise of eating disorders here in school, then that stereotype wouldn’t exist.

Now, eating disorders may not seem like a big deal to any of you, but let me tell you a little more:

Many people believe it’s a choice, a phase, an act for attention or something people can just drop when they’re skinny enough, but it’s not. When you have an eating disorder, you’re never skinny enough. Skinny enough doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist until it kills you.

That’s what an eating disorder is. It’s an illness, a poison, a murderer. It isn’t a choice. It’s a pressure forced upon you when you look in the mirror, in a magazine, on the TV and think you’re not good enough, not pretty enough or not skinny enough. It’s a secret you can’t bear to share, but wish someone would find out about.

An eating disorder is when your mind tells you you’re a pig when you’re brave enough to eat a sandwich. It tells you you’re not getting enough exercise when you’re on the ground and unable to continue. It tells you to go and throw up what you’ve just eaten before it ruins all the hard work you’ve done.

An eating disorder is a curse, and it’s out to kill you.

Without introducing education on this topic into school curriculum, the rising epidemic of eating disorders is only going to get worse. If all students at secondary schools knew about the warning signs, if they knew about the danger and how to change the stigma surrounding mental health and their own thoughts about themselves, then maybe the horror of an eating disorder could be curbed in some cases.

There are too many supposed stereotypes that come latched to the term “eating disorder.” I mean, only first world, white, teenage girls get eating disorders, right? Boys can’t get an eating disorder can they?

No! Eating disorders don’t discriminate. Eating disorders are for anyone, black, white, gay, straight, boy, girl. Eating disorders are for anyone. This is something we need to be aware of.

As I said, it’s a secret you can’t bear to share but wish someone would find out about. You can’t tell anyone because you’ll ruin all your hard work. You’ll ruin your relationships with people. You’ll get sectioned. All the consequences scare you.

So you keep quiet. You don’t say a word. You struggle silently as no one notice. You fade away. No one notices until one day you don’t exist at all anymore.

The biggest risk you run by telling someone are the stereotypes. The other day I heard someone talking about someone else with a mental health issue. They said, “They’re a freak.” If we had access to education on the topic of mental health, then stuff like that wouldn’t get said. It’s things like this that cause people to keep quiet when they have mental health problems.

Maybe if people were taught not to make assumptions about people with mental illness, then the people who struggle with those mental illnesses would come forward and not have to be afraid to hear comments such as:

“But you’re not skinny.”

“But you eat all the time.”

“But you don’t look anorexic.”

“But you don’t puke your food up.”

“But you don’t… ”

There’s always a, “but you don’t…” when it comes to mental health.

What people fail to see is that it is an invisible illness. It’s mental. There’s no physical look to eating disorders until it begins to take a physical toll on a person, such as when they’re underweight or when they lose a lot of weight.

This brings me onto another point actually: expectations. Let me give you a few examples: Whispering something behind someone’s back about their weight or even their appearance, telling someone to their face how you feel about them or even calling someone a nasty name in the heat of an argument. The person who had negative things spoken to them will constantly have those expectations embedded inside their mind, whether it be that they need to be skinnier, smarter or more beautiful, those thoughts are there. They’re there to stay.

We really need more awareness surrounding these issues in schools today. I’m sure you’ll agree this needs to be put on the school syllabus, not just to inform but also to save lives.

I’d like to finish by quoting Anastasia Amour in saying, “Eating disorders are deadly and the silence around them even more so.”

 If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock image via jakkaje808

Originally published: February 28, 2017
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