What Happened When I Talked to My High School About My Eating Disorder
By: Eva Romanoff I am a 10th grader at an all girls high school, which means almost everyone surrounding me is often worried about how they look. I, too, used to participate in the conversations surrounding the best diet or the workout that is absolutely necessary to get that one perfect guy to notice you. Over my years in recovery though, I was able to step back and realize these conversations are not “just how teenage girls think,” but a part of a larger societal problem about the placement of young girl’s self worth on their appearance.
After seeing that body image was a deeply rooted issue in my school, I began to speak to the administration about the fact that the conversations surrounding body image are too rare and too simplified. Honestly, I felt that I had had my experience discussing food and weight at treatment, and that my friends deserve the opportunity to share their emotions in a safe space as well. So, I was thrilled when others agreed with my perspective, and I was overjoyed when I discovered our grade would be broken up into groups of 10 girls and paired with 2 seniors for an hour a week with the goal to discuss how we feel about ourselves, physically and emotionally. Yet the second I entered the classroom filled with familiar faces students and no teachers, my stomach dropped.
The majority of my grade is aware of my eating disorder, my treatment process, and my recovery, so how was I meant to talk honestly about my body image without seeming self-righteous or all-knowing? How was I meant to express my confidence surrounding my progress without seeming conceded? How was I meant to express my remaining stress about my image without seeming like a fraud whenever I promoted positive body image? I was having trouble balancing my positive recovered mind with my insecure teenage mind. I was overwhelmed trying to figure out how to be recovered and confident and humbled and helpful and honest. I was desperately trying to find a way to use this time, the time I had fought for, to talk about my body image in a way where I could share my knowledge and confidence I had gained in treatment while also accurately expressing my emotions. I was putting too much pressure on myself to be the perfect, relatable spokesperson for all eating disorders and insecure girls in my school.
So, I made it through the hour discussion by being brutally honest, because that was all I could do. When I heard a friend say something that I had previously discussed in treatment, I responded by explaining how I related, and then repeating how I got through it. When I thought something I was insecure about, I spoke my thought and walked my friends through my emotions and actions. Yet I was still carefully, meticulously balancing a conversation concerning the topic I was most passionate about discussing. As I reflect on this hour of my life, I realize I should not view this hour as a lost opportunity for be to be honest, or a failed discussion that was my responsibility to lead. I should view it as a first step. 60 minutes with 12 girls is not enough time to delve into all the aspects of body image, insecurities, and the sources of them. It is just a first step, and I need to be okay with that. I am learning that the process of eating disorder education and awareness is just that; a process. I cannot snap my fingers and explain everything I have learned in therapy, or fix everyone’s fears surrounding food. What I can do, and what I am able to do, and what I promise to do, is push for the second, third, fourth, and fifth steps. Because I cannot solve all the problems surrounding body image myself, but I can be responsible for my portion and just simply do my best.
About the Author: Eva resides in New York City. Eva is a high school student who works with other teenagers to instill a sense of hope regarding the possibility of full recovery, as well as what that means and what that looks like in a teenager’s life. At Project HEAL, Eva is dedicated to providing others with a sense of community and security throughout the process of recovery, spread education and awareness to fellow high school students, rand to promote a healthy lifestyle that allows everyone to discover their true selves and purpose. She is passionate about horse back riding, learning about history, and spending time with friends and family. Eva’s favorite ice cream flavor is coffee ice cream with chocolate chips and caramel sauce.