Eating disorders are not about food. Food behaviors from restricting to bingeing and purging are ways we tell the world our story of pain, regret, loneliness, shame, and loss. But too often that story is overblown in our minds. We lose perspective on what’s important and what we have. Today I was reminded what is most important when I heard about the sudden death of a man just a couple years older than me.
This man, like myself, was a Jewish man from Baltimore. He was bald, like me. He was thickly build like me. And like me had found a woman who loved him unconditionally and deeply. She is a black woman, a Christian, and a dear soul. They went to the same high school and were in the same grade, but were not friends. It was many years later, at a reunion event, that they reconnected initially as friends and then as soul-mates.
I mostly know their story, as so many of us do now, via Facebook posts. We all went to the same high school, and interacted enough for me to know they also have a toddler son. But what they documented most was their love and affection for each other and their tight family unit. From different races and religions, they bonded over Orioles, Ravens, and Maryland crabs. It took them almost two decades to find this love, and they didn’t waste a second of the five years they had together.
That’s a powerful love. Isn’t that what so many of us who develop an eating disorder are trying to find? Too often, we give up hope and stop believing at our core we are lovable too, so we try to change the surface to mask our ugly beliefs in ourselves. A thinner, younger, more beautiful or masculine body will earn that love. Or we binge to numb out the pain, distract from our anxiety, or feel the emotional consolation only comfort food can offer in that moment. For so many though, there are those around us desperate to help, but we don’t see them or we stop looking for them.
Truth is, if we trust ourselves a bit more to take that little extra risk – if we pray, hope, and seek out that love we deserve and crave – we will find it eventually. By stepping back from our eating disorder thinking and behaviors, all of us who struggle can find what really matters in life to us, those connections and relationships we need. We can find that partner, that love, that family, and make it ours. It may take 20 years. It may only last for five. But the risk is worth the reward. It was for my friends. I’m so sad for them today. I’m so happy they were able to find at each other.
I’m reminded to cherish what I have. I thank them for that perspective.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.