I’ve always been a good student, always earned good grades in school, read for fun, was anxious to learn anything and everything.
Yet, I am afraid to estimate how many hours of my life I’ve spent searching the internet to find out how to get skinny. Every variation I could possibly think of the phrases “how to lose fat,” “fat loss tips,” “the best way to lose weight,” etc. The amount of information online is completely unfathomable, it’s amazing really to have seemingly limitless access to every bit of information I could ever want to know about weight loss.
How could I go wrong, with all the answers before me?
But I did. I read all the articles, learned everything I could. Eventually, the searches turned to “lowest calorie foods,” “how to ignore hunger,” “best ways to throw up,” and trust me, there were just as many search results, just as much information to satisfy my curiosity. Never in my searches did I come across an article that read, “losing weight will not make you happy” or “stop searching for the cure to fat and start living your life.”
There are inspirational articles out there and there are informational articles out there, but there is also a tremendous untapped wealth of power and knowledge lying unwritten in the in-between. Journalism has such enormous influence, and that influence is growing ever greater in a world of globalization. Articles spread knowledge, knowledge is power and with such power, of course, comes great responsibility.
Eating disorders are also growing in influence worldwide. Millions of women and men, young, old, rich, poor and everything in the middle, suffer from variations of the illness. The numbers continue to grow. But the subject is rarely addressed directly, not in a way intended to help those millions of people desperately searching the internet for some kind of help, while their stomachs rumble from hunger and their throats itch from purging and their hearts ache with the desire for a cure.
While I scoured the endless pages of online knowledge, searching for I don’t know what, it was the loneliest I’ve ever felt. I would have given anything to read that others out there were searching like me, to know that I wasn’t alone, that I was loved. Of course it would be ideal to speak to my friends, to be comforted by family.
But there is no logic in disease and disorder. I knew my friends wouldn’t understand and I was ashamed to tell them. To tell them would be to admit weakness, to admit that I was sick, that I had a problem, and to do so was the worst thing I could imagine; worse than the ache in my stomach, worse than the starving sleepless nights. How could I explain to them the power of this thing that had taken control of my life? No, I had to fix it myself. But I wasn’t strong enough to do so.
Sometimes, we just need an impartial witness, someone to vent to, someone who understands. Reading an article from someone going through the same painful every day struggles as me would have meant the world while I sat locked away in shame and hunger.
If in my searching I found messages of the power of healing through words of reassurance and love and hope then maybe, just maybe, it would have eased my struggle, the burden that I believed I carried alone.
I used so much energy every day in trying to make myself skinnier, in trying to be better at being bulimic and then anorexic. I researched and read and found countless tips and ideas on how to be skinny and lose fat. When I realized the extent of the problem, I researched how to get better and found centers and therapists and some blog entries from people on the other side, already cured, but none with the truth I was living.
I certainly wasn’t strong enough to beat this or so I thought. Oh how it would have touched me to read about the beauty in everyone, the hope that we can all love ourselves for ourselves, the idea of being strong inside and out, not deprivation but growth. What if instead of diet articles, I was inundated with messages of love and strength and health and happiness? Words connoting light and love to break through the chasm of darkness that surrounded me?
Eating disorders are but one of the millions of issues that people endure in silence and believe to be alone. But the number of people living with such diseases increases every day and what a comfort it would be for them to know that they are far from alone and that there is hope, there is love in this world and they can find it again.
A shift in the perspective of journalism has the potential to help ease the burden on so many hearts and perhaps even inspire them to change their own perspective and start loving themselves.
There is no cure. Eating disorders are varied, multifaceted and constantly evolving, like any other deadly illness. In fact, it is the most deadly of any mental disorder. Treatments are as numerous and inconsistent as those for any mysterious virus. Reading articles about it will not cure the millions. But maybe it could help.
Maybe if the power of the media were redirected towards informing and inspiring and supporting those struggling with this horrible disease, we could help some of them.
What if there were as many blogs out there about loving your body and the food that fuels it as there are about losing weight fast? What if we told the whole story, the true story, of a disease that tortures its victims inside and out for years and years on end, often undiagnosed and untreated.
What if the message sent to kids online was predominately one of love, how many lives could be changed?
Author: Gabriella Sweezey
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: La Melodie/Flickr