Bekah DeForest eating disorders

Your Health | 4 years ago

Learning to Love Yourself and Conquer Eating Disorders

The road to recovery for eating disorders can be tough, but help and support are always available for those who are in need. 

Eating disorders are a very common mental health condition in the United States. Over 30 million people in the US have an eating disorder, and about every hour a person dies due to an eating disorder-related issue, making it the deadliest mental health disorder.

People with eating disorders have abnormal eating habits, such as significantly limiting their food intake or erratically overeating (often stemming from hunger brought about by their undereating), which negatively affects their health.

People of any gender, race or age can develop an eating disorder. Several factors can increase the risk, including having relatives with an eating disorder, having a history of constant dieting, or dealing with psychological stresses such as body image dissatisfaction or perfectionism. Even being teased or bullied can trigger a problem.

Many people find it difficult to understand how an eating disorder develops and evolves. Here, 18-year-old Bekah DeForest shares the story of her own personal battle and how she’s taking steps to learn to love and accept herself as part of her recovery process.

How an eating disorder can start

Often in the beginning, a person just wants to improve their health, so they set reasonable nutrition and exercise goals. But over time, for any number of reasons, their dieting behaviors become the most important aspect of their life.

Bekah explains she started out engaging in healthy habits, which then sparked tons of compliments from friends, her parents, and people she didn’t know. "Needless to say, this made me want to lose more,” she says.

Over time, her habits progressed to a dangerous point. “All I did was sleep and I wouldn’t go out with my friends anymore because I was too worried about working out and not eating,” Bekah says.

Noticing the signs of an eating disorder

It can be difficult to determine whether your friend or family member has an eating disorder. This person could be hiding their actions because deep down they know their dieting behaviors are abnormal and need changing, but they’re still in denial that they actually have a problem. For Bekah, this was the case.

“I was always in denial that I truly had a problem," she recalls. "Even when I was in the hospital, I thought I could fix it on my own, which I know is untrue for me. I gave in to everyone around me saying it was serious when I started seeing pictures of myself and all you could see were my bones.”

Making the decision to seek help

People with eating disorders are often resistant to seek treatment. They think they just have a few bad habits that they can easily reverse on their own. “I was very opposed to the idea of getting help because I thought I could deal with the problem on my own," Bekah says. "I kept telling everyone around me I would stop and I would get better, but it was too hard.”

Eating disorders become tied to regular habits, and regular habits you’ve practiced for years are difficult to break. People who seek treatment have a better chance of reversing their bad dieting habits, re-establishing healthy diets and surviving.

Bekah stresses the importance of seeking help. “Going to the hospital was the best thing I could’ve done, but to begin with, I was still in denial about my problem," she says. "Getting help was what kept me alive.”

The road to recovery

The recovery process enables a person with an eating disorder to leave the outside world and focus on the eating disorder problem. They get access to professional staff experienced in managing eating disorders, and they also get to share their experiences with other patients, so they don’t feel so alone. “I wouldn’t have been able to stop my problem if I hadn’t been in an isolated area with people who were going through similar experiences,” Bekah says.

“An eating disorder is something you have to deal with your whole life,” she says. “But if you’re recovering well, the eating disorder voice in your head gets quieter and quieter until it doesn’t bother you anymore.”

According to Bekah, treatment allowed her to find new ways to cope instead of falling back into her old eating disorder habits.

Do you know someone with an eating disorder?

Reaching out is the first step to recovery.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with an eating disorder, help is available. Your primary care doctor is there to offer support and treatment options. You can also call the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline at 800-931-2237 for more help and resources.