A random situation provoked societal thoughts.
I first saw Scary Stef at hot yoga. I thought she was too thin, but I also thought that maybe I just don’t understand body sizes. I understood that my thought was an honest reaction when I saw her practicing next to a very healthy, athletic woman. Truthfully, I am shocked at my initial reaction of her because I was utterly disgusted – she is so thin you worry that she will fall over dead in your presence. Now that I’m in recovery, I can see how awful she looks and I can also understand how terrible it is to be in a place like that (this is a good thing because it is somewhere I know I don’t want to be). I don’t usually pay much attention to those around me, unless I’m laughing at my inability to do some poses, or when I literally fall on my head! 🙂 (Don’t judge!). Now, I choose where I will practice my yoga because I don’t want to be in a position of looking at her. One morning, as I was in downward dog, I couldn’t help but notice that she was directly behind me and I felt sick looking at her. I was so distracted by the bones and her fragile frame. I now understand what my husband meant when he told me I was getting too thin when I could slide my “sick jeans” on and off without unbuttoning them. Part of me fears I looked as disgusting as she does now (I kind of hope I never have to confront that!).
Staring at Scary Stef is like watching a train wreck. You can’t stop looking at her, no matter how hard you try. Each time I walk into hot yoga, I observe where she is and how I can stay away from her. A large part of me feels bad for her because she has to be in a terrible place to continue doing what she is doing to herself. Being so wrapped up in your body and weight loss is a very sad place to be. The other part of me worries for her. Being so caught up in that place takes a large toll on your body. And there is a little, tiny part of me that is slightly jealous that I’m not in “control” in that manner and bringing the number down. The positive thing here — I recognize that it is not healthy to be “there,” and it really is a false sense of control. That control I’m yearning for is already happening, I just have to constantly realize it.
In a discussion with a friend I see at yoga we both agreed on a few things: Why doesn’t anybody say anything to her? She’s obviously not well. Are we that stuck in our own world, and are we that politically correct that we don’t notice her suffering? Yoga is a practice about being healthy and finding strength, but we are always so shocked at how much the instructors engage with her, and still don’t do anything about it. In fact, at another yoga studio a former athlete/coach who I worked with was terribly sick and she was still allowed/encouraged to practice as well. I’m not saying they should banned from any type of workouts, but shouldn’t the care for humanity come first? When we see someone suffering like that, do we have a moral obligation to tell them what we see? Or, has our world become a place where we are all so individual that our interpersonal communication has changed? Do we care more about the business that comes in? Yes, yoga does bring peace and is calming, but there has to be a point where health is considered.
As Scary Stef moves through yoga, she’s not doing what she used to do – she seems incapable of doing the poses she was doing before, and it’s obvious that it’s because of her withering body. Which person’s job is it to say something to her? For me, my students, who don’t understand boundaries, thought it was their place to tell me I looked too thin and they were scared. Was it their place? Surely not…. but from one human to another, their concern was evident. If something is said, at this point, will she really see her problem? Even if she doesn’t, should that matter? There is a point where you have no idea how serious your problem is until somebody steps in – and then it is still difficult to understand – is that where she is; consumed? Anorexia isn’t about knowing what you are doing. You get so caught up that you are blinded to what is important and health really is.
When I started this journey of clawing myself back to health, this was just “an eating thing” and I was sure I had it under control. It wasn’t until I was so consumed that I realized I didn’t have it under control – and I only realized that after constant reminders from my psychologist (and me experiencing what she was saying). When you are at a certain point, and so sick, your brain can’t comprehend the danger you are in – thoughts are racing so much that you lose track of what feels like everything. I remember being so sick and thinking that my bones sticking out looked beautiful, but they didn’t stick out enough. Sadly, it seems that’s where she is. There is also a point where you truly believe that people don’t see how thin you’re getting because you don’t believe you are thin at all.
There is nothing normal in obsessively counting calories, eating rice cakes (because very few people actually like the taste), cutting out food groups and reducing intake to lose weight. We have become so hyper-focused on our bodies, and changing them, that we don’t have time to actually enjoy the one we live in. We spend so much time trying to change…. for whom? ….. people who will never help us, care about us, be friends with us, talk to us, have lunch with us, engage with us….
I think there are a lot of people who do not understand eating disorders, especially anorexia. It’s an illness, not a choice. So often it is seen as a symptom of vanity, but it’s really much deeper than that. Eating disorders are about coping and distraction from negative things around you. It’s about running away from anything you don’t want to deal with, or feel, and it’s about not being at a point where you feel you deserve to be healthy for any mistakes you’ve made. Honestly, if everyone understood that about this disorder, I really think people would step in and help those who are suffering. It’s hard for people to see that someone is actually suffering from this disease when they see it as just a means to get thinner. On so many occasions I was told, “I could never stick to the diet you are on, I love food too much.” – they didn’t realize the agony one goes through with the eating disorder – and little do they know, we are obsessed with food, just in a different way.
The understanding of eating disorders would allow people to stop, give that person a hug and tell them they don’t have to continue to suffer. Hopefully at some point more people will understand the impact of eating disorders because the rate they are developing them is very alarming.