From “I'm skipping lunch because I am going out tonight” to “This will make me fat,” eating disorders are by far one of the most normalized mental illnesses in society. For years both men and women have been told over and over that they must restrict themselves to eating food with less nutritional value and as time went by, it has become our new normal.
Eating disorders are one of the top five common mental illnesses and during this pandemic the rates have gone up by 80%. Although mental illness isn't one's fault, for eating disorders, things people say can definitely help them spiral into behaviors. One of the most horrifying parts is that since the behaviors and symptoms are so common and looked over, lots of sufferers are invalidated and doctors refuse to treat them for multiple reasons including stigmas that say all patients must be underweight. The behaviors are so normalized that the public even sees them as something everyone should strive for.
If you have ever spent a holiday dinner with your family you have probably heard at least one of them bring up morality with food. Or hear them say that they didn't eat all day to “save up” calories for the night. And your family probably didn't even worry for them, they probably just agreed or said something along the lines of, “Wow, you have so much willpower!” These exact moments are what causes young children to start growing anxious around their bodies and choices of food at such a young age, and it sets them up for disordered eating in their adulthood.
Eating disorders are deadly and are just as valid as any other mental illness. The last thing we need is to encourage the behaviors and ignore the severity of the consequences which can include brain damage and vital organs shutting down. The best thing we can do is to find a more neutral approach to discussing food and our bodies.