I used to spend at least four hours every day last year looking at photos of food. Anytime I felt the slightest sense of boredom, I whipped out my phone and scrolled endlessly through ever-popular “food Instagrams,” salivating at pictures of three-tiered cakes frosted with outrageous colors, waffles drowning in heaps of cream and drizzled with dark chocolate.
Then I started to add up the amount of calories those delicious desserts might contain.
Quickly, an obsession took over me. I was fixated on one Instagram user, wondering how she could possibly consume so much food each day and not gain weight. I grew increasingly concerned with my own diet. I couldn’t understand how I could eat anything at all without gaining a pound or two.
I began eating less and less, focused on maintaining my figure. I became selective and picky about the number of calories I consumed. I spent an absurd amount of time on health magazines and websites, searching for meals with the least calories. Counting calories became second nature to me, and this excessive mental math felt as natural as breathing.
Never did I think that I was only months away from developing a serious eating disorder. My dangerous feeding habits did not fall into the standard criteria for anorexia or bulimia or anything else for that matter, and without a name for my condition, I only spiraled further, dismissing my symptoms. I ignored my constant fatigue and I planned what to eat and when to maximize weight loss. I ignored my confusion when I awoke halfway through the night because my stomach couldn’t stop growling. I thought of myself as pathetic, but not once did I recognize I had an eating disorder. I actually blamed the amount of time I spent facing L.E.D. screens and on my iPhone for my deteriorating state. It was only later that I really understood how true that really was.
I was too embarrassed to talk to the people around me and admit that I needed help. I considered my health issues invalid because my condition didn’t have a name. ‘Other specified feeding or eating disorder’ or OSFED is a catch-all category for eating disorders that do not meet the diagnostic criteria of other more delineated conditions.
At Andover, we need to acknowledge that unconventional eating disorders exist and support those who suffer from them. According to The Phillipian’s 2015 “State of the Academy,” 17 percent of students have had an eating disorder, and of that percentage, 54 percent developed that eating disorder on campus. It is unclear in which clinical category of eating disorder each of these cases lie, but every one of them is just as significant as the rest.
I urge students to always seek help, even when their condition seems nameless and indefinable. Some eating disorders may not always manifest themselves in a way that is easily diagnosable; but nevertheless, as I have learned from my own experience, they need to be taken every bit as seriously.