Food and Eating Disorders
My Personal Experience
by Natcha Maithai
Having grown up an obese child, I rarely would put myself at the center of attention. I don’t habitually go around and share my childhood story, no matter how dramatic.
However, over the past few years as I converse with women (and more recently, men), it disturbed me as to how all of them felt some kind of insecurities about their bodies and were constantly contemplating ways to lose weight or look better. Terrified and perturbed, I ended up telling them that I survived an eating disorder and that I was concerned for them, while reassuring them that they looked okay.
More than half the time, they actually admitted to me that they had done very harmful things to themselves in order to get skinny. Two people told me they purged, one to the point that she vomited blood. At least 5 women told me that they had taken some pills in order to lose weight as early as 13 years of age. Another girl told me she was part of a group of girls that skipped meals together in order to lose weight. They had all hidden these behaviors from their parents until years later, when fortunately, they grew up to become healthy adults.
It is pure agony for me to hear every one of these cases and not be able to do anything about them, but I keep listening of course. Disordered eating and harmful dieting practices are much more common than all the numbers the studies show. Besides, nothing angered me more than the article “the Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf about how popular culture only pictures skinny women as beautiful, successful, and dominant. Year after year I kept wishing there was something I could do about it, but I never had the confidence nor the qualifications to do it. I have spent a good part of my life suffering from obesity, body image issues and an eating disorders. I decided to share my story because I want to help people.
As a child, I was obese because I used foods to comfort me from all the bullying and exclusions I had experienced. I started puberty with an eating disorder because I felt my life had shattered from my parent’s divorce and my crush’s rejection. That was followed by 6 different diets all the way until university. I graduated at 165 lb. (30 lb. heavier than I am now), and pretty much held on to the weight because I was terrified of yet another eating disorder episode. It wasn’t until I figured out the relationship and self-esteem issues underlying all of these that I would feel comfortable undergoing a body transformation again, this time, for the better.
Muscle building comforts me in a sense that I need to properly nourish my body to gain muscle and strength, so I went ahead with it. After years of being a cardio junkie, I realized It is indeed the way to achieve the body I want Within a few months, I started to lean out and attract questions from women about how I became thinner or lost so much weight. That’s when I started to feel empowered. I realized then that I have some credibility, that I can do something do maybe help others.
I started by becoming a personal trainer and learning all I could about women’s fitness, then nutrition and coaching. Education-wise, I never stop learning what I can do about this issue from several angles: raising awareness, advocation, prevention and treatment. Coaching excites me a great deal because it seems like a great way to help someone achieve a healthy body image and take up a healthy lifestyle. My life experiences are the source of my passion. The dramatic childhood has toughened me up to be a successful person and provides a unique background for me to help women get healthy from the inside out.
ABOUT EATING DISORDERS:
- Eating disorders comprise a category of mental illnesses with the highest mortality rate.
- Like many other mental illnesses, the thought processes may be different from that of normal people. They are often in denial and cover up their symptoms.
- For Anorexia Nervosa, there is usually an emotional root cause or painful life event(s) that triggers it. It’s often explained as how the patient attempts to have control over something.
- Base their self-worth solely on how much they weight or their appearance
- Terrified of gaining weight
- Body dysmorphia, e.g. may think they are fat, ugly, unattractive, even though they are skinny
- May have been rejected, abandoned, in a state of depression, deep insecurity, trying to be perfect, lost or fear of losing control of things that are very important to them.
- Strictly count, weigh, measure foods or calories. May make foods for other people, or move foods around on the plate without actually eating.
- In denial. Lie about how much or what they are eating.
- Other physical signs resulted from malnourishment: get cold easily, hair falling out, bad breath, low energy level, low concentration, fatigue, brain fog, fainting, muscle atrophy, low immune systems, signs of purging like decayed teeth, signs of over-exercising, symptoms of lacking vitamins
Visit Natcha’s site at: http://www.natchamaithai.ca/