Speak to Silence: the causes of eating disorders and my story

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Photo and Illustration by Maddy Truka

Speak to Silence tackles eating disorders and opening up tough conversations in its first chapter.

It’s no secret that society today is seemingly exploding under the pressure of eating kale and riding a Peloton, having a perfect bikini body and idolizing models and influencers who behind the screen, may not be as perfect as you’d think. It is from these small influences ranging to larger trauma that can contribute to triggering an eating disorder in an individual, though these influences are commonly misunderstood. Lack of conversation and informative education regarding eating disorders leads to ignorance and misconceptions as to what really causes them, how it can be prevented and if they’re a choice.

Eating disorders are not a choice and are directly correlated to deeply rooted anxiety and obsessive compulsiveness in an individual. Eating disorders have also been proven to be genetic and a common phrase among doctors is “genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.” Environmental factors could potentially include intense trauma or change, family, stress or societal or athletic pressure regarding what a “perfect body” looks like. Those susceptible to eating disorders commonly have long struggled with poor self-esteem and negative body image. As a whole, an eating disorder is ultimately triggered by a combination of genetic, psychological and environmental factors.

These factors have caused me to struggle with both anorexia and orthorexia since my freshman year. I have always been very insecure about myself, obsessing over the size of my clothes, resenting my personality traits and criticizing photos of myself since I was little. When high school came around, I was extremely susceptible to the pressure of being in a new environment with seemingly high expectations. Joining high school sports, I became more active and was making meals on my own. Not knowing how to make much except rice, eggs and microwaving chicken, I unintentionally changed my diet, and the combination of these caused me to naturally lose weight.

That was when the validation came. Many of my peers commented on how great I looked, that I was losing weight and was becoming much healthier. This made me fear foods that have been (inaccurately) deemed unhealthy: sweets, pasta, french fries. By the time summer came, my disordered habits worsened in response to feelings of loneliness. I felt lost and without an identity, so my identity became eating healthy, then eventually eating nothing at all. My identity became my eating disorder.

While there are a wide variety of circumstances that trigger eating disorders, my story is not far off from those of others. So, how can you recognize these behaviors in your loved ones, or even yourself? This is something that will be further discussed, but for now, I believe it’s important to have a grasp on the intricacy and brutality of eating disorders and that they are in fact not a choice.