My Eating Disorder: A word by Stephanie Voyard

"Growing up, I never had a "normal" relationship with food or how I perceived my body. There were days where I’d starve myself and others where I would binge eat to the point that I was bloated and nauseous. Now, this all depended on how I saw my body that specific day. If I thought that my body looked amazing- I’d starve myself. But if I thought I looked fat, I’d binge eat to distract myself from those thoughts. I never thought it to be weird, it was just my "coping mechanism”, or at least that’s what I told myself. Fast forward to my freshman year of college, I wasn’t doing so great. I was dealing with severe depression and that lead to me developing binge eating disorder.

You might ask, what’s binge eating disorder? According to the National Eating Disorders Association, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a severe, life-threatening, but treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.

Have you ever wondered why you were always taught what anorexia and bulimia are but never binge eating disorder? This is because of fat-phobia which is the fear and ingrained dislike of fat people. This is because fatness is viewed as this sin, resulting from laziness. Aside from fatness not being inherently bad, its stigmatization creates a complete disregard for people suffering from eating disorders.

When one is dealing with binge eating disorder, they either gain weight or their weight fluctuates drastically. The issue is that when you are seen as "overweight" and claim that you have BED, it’s almost seen as a joke. You are told that "you are just fat and that you need to lose weight and go on a diet." This response is counterproductive for those dealing with BED and in fact, it makes it worse! 

Going back to my personal experience, I knew that something was wrong with me every time I went to go eat. Every time I was having a depressive episode I was binge eating until I was severely nauseous. After eating, I would feel so dysphoric and completely hopeless. I started to see a therapist and a nutritionist (on campus) and both suggested that I go on a diet, which is the worst thing I ever did. I would stick to dieting and exercising for a week and as SOON as I messed up I’d resort to binge eating. This was a cyclic relationship for me from November 2017 to June 2018. 

I was blessed to have the support of my friends during such difficult times but there were times that I didn’t have much support. 

Mental health and eating disorders are a foreign concept to Haitian parents. When I had told my mother that I was having issues, she told me that I was misdiagnosed and that I should have never gone to college. When I told my father, he told me that I didn’t have any eating disorder and that I was just fat. And to this day, they do not acknowledge my issues with eating and mental health. 

So for all my Haitian folx who are dealing with mental health issues/ eating disorders- look for a family within whomever you can because biological family doesn’t equate to full support. I found a home within my friends who helped and supported me when I was trying to heal and to this day they still support me. It is not your job to convince those who invalidate your struggles that you have these issues.

Let’s fast forward to now- October 15th, 2018. I took the time over the summer to heal and this was the hardest part of it all. I figured out ways to combat and cope with my depression instead of eating food. For me, listening to my body and validating myself is what is healing me. I stopped working out every day and discontinued my strict diets. I eat how I want and when my body tells me to. 

I’m not fully done healing and I don’t think I will ever be. This all relates back to my self worth/love and that’s always going to be an on and off relationship. But I have learned how to go back and hold onto the things I love about myself so when times get rough, I can at least say that "I am worth it." Today, I am almost 3 months clean and that is my biggest accomplishment yet. I write this so I can touch at least one person’s heart that is going through struggles -

I hope this helped and you are not alone."

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