5 Unexpected Things I Learned From Having an Eating Disorder

#2. It Can Be Expensive

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Christine was pretty amused when she came across an article on a gross pickup-artist blog titled 5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder, and not just for the reasons you would normally laugh at those kinds of people (don't worry, that link goes to another eating disorder sufferer's analysis of the article, because fuck giving them traffic). It was because one of the items on the list was "She costs less money," and oh boy are these pathetic manbabies even more clueless than you thought. Starving might sound cheap, but there's a reason eating disorders are considered a "rich girl's disease." Even the most ludicrous stereotype contains a kernel of truth, after all, and the kernel here is that it's really easy to get fat if you're poor and really hard to lose weight without a ton of cash and free time. Thanks, capitalism!

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You're more likely to see a candy dish at the unemployment office than a bowl of carrot sticks.

To start with, there's all of those laxatives, diuretics, and diet pills. Gym memberships don't come cheap, either, as anyone who's ever taken one look at the price tag and laughed themselves out of a New Year's resolution can tell you. The sheer amount of food you eat in a typical binge is going to send your grocery bill skyrocketing -- you can't exactly be called a cheap date -- and then there are all the weird tricks panicked sufferers can resort to when nothing else is working, like exotic diet foods and spa treatments.

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These berries came from a country where you do not live. Clearly, they are made of magic.

Some people might save up for months for that sort of thing, but someone with an eating disorder is like a junkie trying to get their fix, and they're equally desperate to drop however much cash they need to. Once you decide that maybe this isn't the way you want to live your life anymore, you better hope you have good insurance -- the average cost of a month's stay in a rehabilitation program is about $30,000.

Which brings us to ...

#1. Recovery Is Like Drug Rehab

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We've all known, or at least heard of, people who smoked right up until the day they died of lung cancer, or were told their liver was failing and went straight home to drink a six-pack. Eating disorders are no different -- and by that we mean they can absolutely be fatal.

"It becomes a part of your identity," Sara says, and that makes sense considering the above -- the disorder dominates your schedule, budget, and everyday thoughts. It's your life's work, and that makes it incredibly difficult to let go. Even when Sara's body started showing signs of shutting down (her heart would start pounding out of nowhere, followed by annoying periods of unconsciousness) it was still a long time before she could accept help. When even staring death in the face isn't enough to convince you that maybe you should have a sandwich, it's pretty hard to argue that you don't have a "real" illness.

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"That's close enough, right? I don't really have to chew it, right?"

And fixing it can be even harder, because unlike drugs or alcohol, food isn't something you can abstain from entirely. That's kind of the opposite of what you're going for, but it's tricky, because you also don't want to eat too much and be tempted to binge. It's a delicate balance. So, just like an alcoholic who can't be around booze, food-related celebrations like Thanksgiving can be a landmine for recovered eating disorder sufferers, and any stressful event can be a potential trigger for the desire to regain that control through food. Christine says the biggest trigger for her was just the act of coming home after class, because that's when she would usually start bingeing. Home is a pretty hard place to avoid, what with living there and all, so she signed up for trips to study abroad. That's right -- she literally left the country so she wouldn't be tempted to binge.

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"Everything's boiled and bland here? Sold!"

And, where a movie would portray the healing process as the protagonist checking into a clinic and then learning to love herself over the course of three scenes and a montage, fixing this sort of thing in real life is much, much messier. Ask any addict -- bodies are stubborn things, and even good change will be met with resistance, in the "French resistance" sense of the word. In this case, the protesters line up all along the road from your stomach to your asshole, firing their muskets and generally fucking shit up, pretty literally. Sara's body reacted to the six meals a day she was forced to eat in recovery by deciding pretty illogically that she didn't need to poop anymore and threw in some cramping and bloating for fun. You can't exactly ask for a laxative, either, because that's kind of what got you into this situation.

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See? Still pooping, even after all these entries.

Even once you get past those short-term effects, your metabolism is a mess. All the starving and bingeing and purging has thrown it into permanent emergency mode, making you way more prone to weight gain than you ever were before, because life is full of cruel ironies. After receiving treatment, Christine started eating around 1,600 calories a day and exercising for 30 to 60 minutes every day. That sounds like a pretty healthy lifestyle, one that would probably result in weight loss for most of our lazy asses, yet she actually gained 15 to 20 pounds. And while none of us like to put on weight, imagine what a trigger that is for someone who spent years obsessing about every ounce.

Now, look around you and notice how much of our everyday culture is food-based. We eat to celebrate holidays, we date by going to dinner, we have job interviews over lunch -- everything revolves around food, and every mention of it is a chance to relapse. And none of this is made any easier by people rolling their eyes and saying (or posting in comments) things like, "Eating disorder?!?! I can show you people in Africa who know what real starvation looks like! Just eat a damned sandwich!"


Manna just wants everyone to stop body-shaming each other and also to follow her on Twitter.

Related Reading: Cracked loves telling you about the stranger jobs on this earth. We learned a lot about the rich and famous by talking to this employee at a fancy hotel. We also heard some life lessons from a former terrorist and chatted with a fellow who escaped the prison-state of North Korea. Got a story for Cracked? Message us here.

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