Eating Disorders

Grace Connolly , Staffer

Sophomore Cassidy Morgan* is used to feeling guilty. 

   She feels guilty after she eats, and she feels guilty if she doesn’t eat. She feels guilty if she purges, and she feels guilty if she doesn’t. Her eating disorder affects her both mentally and physically, and she feels like she fails if she doesn’t counteract that guilt that she experiences after eating.

   One of the many issues teens experience is eating disorders, or disordered eating, and this issue is also present at Martin. Despite how important this topic is, it’s rarely talked about. The discussion about disordered eating is so necessary to help people’s health, make people comfortable, and even save lives.

   Eating disorders are psychological disorders that are revealed through abnormal eating habits. Disordered eating, on the other hand, is an irregular or unusual pattern of eating, for any number of reasons. No matter what a student is experiencing, it’s important to discuss eating disorders and their effects because it is a serious health issue.

   “I think kids don’t realize they have an eating disorder, or they have one and don’t know that it’s as big of a problem as it could be,” coach Jamie Couch said.

   Despite its importance, there are a multitude of reasons why people don’t talk about their experiences with eating disorders/disordered eating.

   “I think it’s a very difficult subject to talk about, so I think it takes a lot of courage,” counselor Amy Benson said.

   Although eating disorders are very common now, it’s still stigmatized so people don’t feel comfortable talking about it. 

   “I think it’s probably occurring more than we think that it is,” Benson said. “And it’s really hard to tell because usually with that particular disorder, people who have it are very good at hiding it.”

   Eating disorders can affect anyone, but one group that seems to experience disordered eating a lot is athletes.

   “I definitely think with athletes it is more prominent because we’re also talking about our physique,” Couch said. “Like when runners continuously get stress fractures, if they aren’t increasing nutrition, that deficiency can lead to injuries because they aren’t equipping their bodies with what they need.”

   With anyone, eating disorders can lead to difficult conversations. Conversations that may make them choose to not discuss their eating habits with anyone.

   “Just like with any other issue, I think that if they have a good relationship with teachers, or counselors, or any adult really, they would talk to them,” Benson said.

   A large part of having such a difficult discussion is a connection between the people in the conversation. People who are struggling might need someone they can trust, someone who will listen, and the connection they have with the person they’re talking to is key.

   “Being a coach of a sport gives me a better perspective to tell whether they do or not,” Coach Couch said. “Being a teacher in a classroom is hard to tell. Unless they come to you and tell you, or that you notice they’re lethargic all the time or that they aren’t eating, or those types of things.”

   Because talking about disordered eating is so important, it’s also necessary to build an understanding of what an eating disorder could look like.

   “It can be anything, like specifically for me, it’s like, I have to obsessively check the calories of everything I eat, and it’s just constantly thinking about what I’m putting in my body,” senior Brianna Stubbs* said. “It’s a disturbing amount of people that have bad eating habits. I would say that out of the people that I’m close with, it’s more people struggling than people that aren’t.”   

   Because of its serious nature, it can be difficult for students to know if they can reach out to someone for help.

   “I think as an older generation, it isn’t as common for parents, so they might not be educated enough to be aware of the signs of  an eating disorder,” Morgan said.

   Even though there may be a lack of understanding when talking to someone who hasn’t experienced disordered eating, it can still be helpful to discuss with someone about eating disorders.

   “I went to a therapist for it because my older sibling has experienced similar things,” Morgan said. “And it helps to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about for sure. Who’s like not in the family.”

   Eating disorders can greatly influence actions and decisions, just as much as someone’s mental health.

   “I eat when my mom’s not home cause I just feel like I have to,” Morgan said. “I don’t eat at school in front of people. Like I’ll eat in class when everyone’s attention is away from me.”

   People’s words and actions around those with eating disorders can impact their health, whether it be mentally, physically, or both.

   “I feel like strong emotions, like any kind, it doesn’t have to be sadness, or anything like jealousy, happiness, celebration, you know any strong emotions, are triggering” Stubbs said. “If someone makes a comment to me about my eating habits, I’m going to get more insecure and maybe not want to eat as much around other people. Eating disorders are usually fueled by being insecure about your body. I started noticing that other people looked the way I wanted to look and I was like, ‘How can I fix this?’”

   As well as the act of harming themself through eating disorders, they can also be experienced through the guilt or shame someone feels throughout their eating disorder.

   “I feel like there’s so many things in the house I shouldn’t eat, that I don’t need to have because I don’t have the ‘right’ body that would allow me or make me deserving of eating this stuff,” Stubbs said. “And when I do crack and eat that stuff, I feel so guilty about it.”

   Eating disorders are present within any age group, but mainly teenagers. However, people of younger and younger ages are starting to experience what can only be described as disordered eating habits.

   “It developed around eighth grade, but it got worse as I went through high school,” Morgan said. “That’s when it first started.”

   High school is such a milestone point in teenagers’ lives, with so many new emotions, feelings, and experiences all at once. This wild environment can lead to and worsen serious health issues that plague the younger generations. Talking about some of the most difficult subjects is scary, but it can also save lives.

   “Eating disorders aren’t really talked about because specifically in high school, like being a high school girl, it’s like, ‘Oh, so many people have one,’” Stubbs said. “It’s not something weird, it’s not something special or whatever. I think it should be talked about because it’s not just something everyone experiences. It’s a form of self-harm.”