body image

Eighty-one percent.

That’s how many 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.

Sad, isn’t it? And yet, eating disorders maintain their taboo status and their high mortality rate in equal measure; they cause 12 times more deaths in young women than all other causes of death combined.

Unfortunately, the pressures of society to stay svelte and slim are not the only contributing factors to the rise in eating disorders. In fact, the psychological idea of control and order plays a greater role than many realize. When excessive stress, lack of structure, or even just the idea of a routine become too consuming, many men and women alike run the risk of finding that discipline in one thing: Their diet.

Whether battling with body image or struggling to lessen a firm grip on life’s framework, those suffering from eating disorders are not alone. This April, We-Care.com is focusing on eating disorder awareness and treatment, and partnered with the Eating Disorder Coalition of Tennessee to help eradicate the stigma of eating disorders and provide assistance to those who need it.

With this partnership came an amazing introduction to Maria G., an incredible survivor of anorexia nervosa and other related eating disorders. Maria shared her journey of recovery with us.

I wish the process of recovery had been simple for me: Eat food, girl. It wasn’t, though, and from what I know of my fellow travelers’ journeys, it wasn’t for them either.

I, like so many Type-A high achievers, was addicted to perfection and routine. I discovered at the young age of 13 that if I create systems, then I know what I am going to get. Plug and chug. So I did, and for the most part it worked… and worked too well, far into my 20’s.

“The world breathes in our differences and uses them to shape the future. Each of us, in our most authentic state, cause ripples of change.”

My addiction to perfection and routine, when left to the wild mind of this overly passionate girl, came to be a major cause for my battle with anorexia and a multitude of other EDs [eating disorders], though. What I didn’t yet understand is that the more I deprived myself of what I needed to survive, the more I deprived the world of the girl it needed alive.

See, I believe we are designed to live in community, and recovery requires that we go back to our human foundation. I recently sought out the Eating Disorder Coalition of Tennessee, because I had learned an important concept in my journey: Community heals.

I’ve found strength, even in my post-recovery days, simply through the blog community they’ve set up based on real experiences of those who have actually walked in my footsteps. What we constantly put in front of our eyes and minds creates us.

It’s simple: We are a product of our environment, and my environment has now been shaped by powerful stories of recovery outside of my own.

“What we put in front of our eyes and minds creates us.”

Community released me from the constraints of perfection and routine, and helped me build the environment of positivity that took me from recovery to what I like to call “strong recovery.” The world needs me (and you) to carry it into the future. EDCT has allowed me to know “you,” who — like me — needed to be released from EDs hold.

Our flaws and imperfections — the things that set us apart from others — are the very tools the world uses to grow and change. See, if we were all alike, we’d be disposable. The world breathes in our differences and uses them to shape the future. Each of us, in our most authentic state, cause ripples of change. Thanks to EDCT, we are now free to take on the world the way we were meant to.

– Maria G.

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Stephanie Sharlow is a Marketing Coordinator for We-Care.com, building relationships with media professionals to share the incredible stories of the 800+ nonprofits that We-Care.com supports. She has always been dedicated to giving back, even founding a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for suicide prevention and awareness based out of her alma mater in 2011. Stephanie is a Media Fellow graduate of DePauw University, and lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @StephSharlow.