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When Eating Disorders Become a ‘Competition’

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

One of the most toxic things I found whilst in the depth of my eating disorder was the competitiveness. It was a competition to be the thinnest because of the obvious stigma: I couldn’t have an eating disorder if I wasn’t severely underweight. It wasn’t just a competition with myself to reach my lowest weight, which many may think; it was a competition with other people with eating disorders to beat their lowest weight and be the “best anorexic.”

Each day, it was a competition to go the longest without eating. I heard stories of people fasting for a certain number of days, and the voice inside my head told me that to be successful I had to fast for longer than them. I saw images of people being tube-fed in the hospital and in a way, I was jealous. I felt invalid because I had never been sick enough to be tube fed, I had never been forced to go into hospital. In my eating disorder’s eyes, I was a failure. I wasn’t actually ill; I was a fake.

The truth is, no matter how much weight I lost or how long I went without eating, my eating disorder was never satisfied. Even if I lost the most weight or fasted for the longest, I always found someone else who was “sicker” than me. There was always someone new to compete against. I didn’t deserve help because I wasn’t sick enough.

The moment you begin living with an eating disorder or any mental illness, you are ill and you are worthy of help. Every eating disorder is serious and life-threatening. To your eating disorder you will never be sick enough; even on your death bed, you still won’t be sick enough. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, sometimes with physical side effects. Don’t let your recovery be defined by the side effects. You are worthy of help no matter your shape, size or ethnicity.

You are worthy of help no matter whether you’ve been hospitalized or not. You are worthy of help regardless of how ill someone else may be. Every struggle is valid. Most importantly, it is not a competition. There is no reward for being the “sickest.” Don’t wait for validation that you are sick enough until it’s too late, because it will be too late.

Photo by mari lezhava on Unsplash

Originally published: July 25, 2018
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