October 10, 2021 – Eating disorders are often marked as having an abnormal relationship with food. And while this may be true for some, I never found food to be the problem. It was always, well, the actual act of eating. 

When I was in 5th grade, I always found myself growing anxious at family dinners. The feeling of biting, the sound of my dad chewing, the cutting and swallowing and repeating of this process made my skin crawl. I couldn’t point to why. I just knew I dreaded dinner. I would pretend to sleep or say my stomach hurt, anything to avoid eating with my family.

In high school, I wouldn’t eat until I got home in the afternoon. In the morning, I couldn’t bring myself to — partially out of a lack of time, and partially out of the fact that school started at seven in the morning. During lunch, I didn’t want my peers to see me eating. It didn’t matter if they were eating too. I didn’t want to carry a lunchbox around all day, to risk my comfort of walking around the halls weightless because I craved food that much. I didn’t want to stand in the lunch line for fifteen out of the less than thirty minutes we had only to put most of it in the trash, feeling unsatisfied and appearing ungrateful for what I had. Although the media has exacerbated this issue, it may also help resolve it. Fortunately, there is no shortage of information on the issue online. Many dieticians and advocates promote intuitive eating, but intuition can be suppressed by years of bad habits. Changing these habits, though, may begin with embracing body neutrality. As described in Susan Sontag’s “The Double Standard of Aging,” women’s physical appearance — and its ability to appear eternally young — has historically been valued over their abilities. Yes, we should love our bodies, but we should also move the emphasis away from what they look like and towards all they can accomplish.