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Updated: Feb 15

I’m sitting at the Thanksgiving table, sandwiched between my mom and cousin, eyeing the plate of food in front of me. It looks full to the naked eye, although maybe oddly composed compared to the average plate of Thanksgiving food. I have a small amount of turkey, a dollop of potatoes, a scoop of cranberry sauce, and half a plate of vegetables. This portion wouldn't set off alarms, just someone trying to “eat healthier” or “cut back on carbs.” It may even be viewed as disciplined by someone wishing they had the “self control” to abstain from half the food groups. As I watch my family swept up in a chorus of conversation, I sit quietly and focused, using the noise as a container for my calculated control. One of my aunts leans over to ask me about my course work. 'I have no time for this,' I think. I give a curt response to cut the conversation short and throw her off my tracks. Back to the carefully mapped out land plot of food on my plate. I take small bites of my vegetables in minute intervals, with large gulps of water between each bite. When I know no one is watching, I smear the potatoes across my plate, mixing the palette with my cranberry sauce, returning mechanically for a bite of my vegetables. At this pace my plate "clears" at the same rate as everyone else’s, enough as to not draw attention. I have done well, but my mouth salivates with the smell of fresh turkey and my stomach grumbles with fury. A primal, animalistic force overcomes me and I black out. Before I realize it, I’ve finished the small pile of turkey and smeared potatoes in fifteen seconds, without thought. I stare at my plate in horror, terrified by my lapse in judgment. While everyone else is enveloped in the warm joy of the holiday, I stand up and quietly walk to the bathroom, purging the contents of my stomach into the toilet, kneeling on the cold floor. ‘I wouldn’t need to do this if I had enough control’, I tell myself. I made a choice and I had to deal with the consequences. I wipe my mouth and stare in the mirror. I lift up my shirt to admire my flat, pale stomach and outlined rib cage. My collar bones are razor sharp, my jaw line angular and cheeks hollow. This is my masterpiece, something only I can take credit for. I walk back out to the party and sit in silence the rest of the night, focusing all the energy I have into avoiding the dessert table.

My eating disorder started as an outlet for overwhelming emotions. They always felt big but as the world expanded with additional stressors, so did my anxiety. My body became a place to channel my feelings of helplessness, the only thing completely in my control. It was relieving to have something to focus on, a goal to achieve. It was difficult at first and I would eat, although earlier on failure to avoid food didn’t feel as detrimental as it did on Thanksgiving. Part of me didn’t believe I could stick with it, that maybe I would lose a little weight and give up. After several weeks of significant under eating, it became dangerously easy to starve myself. I began to lose the feeling of hunger and felt like I was always high. The more I lost, the more powerful I felt, the more I wanted to lose, the more focused I was on my weight and appearance. All I could think about was food and not eating, so making it to the end of the day without eating was triumphant. Friendships and relationships fell away as my sole purpose became avoiding a basic necessity of life. I got more attention from men and envy from women, which empowered and validated me in my self destructive warpath. I was undefeatable and entirely, unreservedly alone. 

Eventually there came a day when I looked in the mirror, five pounds lower than my goal weight, and not even body dysmorphia blinded me from seeing I'd surpassed the body size I set out to achieve. In this moment I realized:

  1. I was not happier being thin.

  2. I had no control over my disorder.

  3. I did not know who I was outside of my obsession with weight. I didn’t have a personality, I didn’t care about anyone, especially myself. I had no remnants of humanity.

It wasn’t self love or respect that caused me to seek out treatment, but the realization that if I didn’t change something I wouldn’t get the chance to learn self love or respect. I didn’t have any understanding of intuitive eating, body diversity, or diet culture, but I did know that I was killing myself and there was some part of me that knew I didn’t want to die. Seeking treatment was the best thing I’ve ever done, but that’s a story for another day. The following are, however, facts you don't need to be in eating disorder treatment to know:

- Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.

- Anorexia is the most lethal psychiatric disorder, carrying a six fold increased risk of death, four times the death risk from major depression

- 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.

- 95% of diets fail and most will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.

- 75% of American women surveyed endorse unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies

- 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always”

- Almost half of American children between 1st – 3rd grade want to be thinner and half of 9 - 10 year old girls are dieting

- At least 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder and million more are struggling with binge eating disorder.

- BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.

- Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.

- Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight.”

- People in larger bodies are half as likely as those at a “normal weight” or “underweight” to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.

- U.S. weight loss market is now worth a record $72 billion

- An estimated 239,000 bariatric surgeries (weight loss surgeries) were performed in the U.S. in 2018, constituting a $5.98 billion market. The number of surgeries has been growing about 5% per year.

- Diet dinner entrees is a $1.9 billion market.

- The “obesity industry” (commercial weight-loss programs, weight-loss drug manufacturers and bariatric surgery centers) will likely top $315 billion this year. Nearly 3% of the overall U.S. economy (approximately the combined total of the statistics listed above).


Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders. (2020, May 08). Retrieved December 08, 2020, from

Eating Disorder Statistics. General & Diversity Stats: ANAD. (2020, November 16). Retrieved December 08, 2020, from

Christina Weiss. (n.d.). Statistics on Dieting and Eating Disorders [Brochure]. Monte Nido and Affiliates, California: Author.

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