By: Sammi Farber
So I have been getting a lot of questions from people, both struggling and not, on what my opinion is in regards to if we chose our eating disorders.I have done a lot of processing when it comes to this topic because it is something I feel very guilty about.
What I am about to say is 100% from my experience, I CANNOT speak for anyone else but my own, however I want to explain to you why I think it’s a little bit of both.
DNA loads the gun & society pulls the trigger.
I think some people think that you can catch an eating disorder like it’s the common cold. Not the case. In order for disordered eating to manifest into a full fledge eating disorder, you have to have the DNA for it. There is a chemical imbalance in your brain that causes this compulsive behavior reaction to start. This imbalance, combined with societal influencers, makes the perfect recipe for an eating disorder.
I remember being very young when I started to notice things about my body. One body part that I am extremely self conscious about are my arm pits. I know bizarre but true. I don’t know how old I was, but when I was in gymnastics one night, I remember one of my team mates showing us that she could make a “cup” with her armpit, I have no idea why, we were clearly very young and bored, so bare with me.
Anyway this “cup” thing, I couldn’t do it and from then on I was always super aware of my armpits. I just felt like they were “fuller” than other people’s, I know this probably sounds like the most ridiculous thing but it’s something that bothered me and still does to this day, and I’m sure it bothers others but because it’s so strange, they probably don’t talk about it.
That night at the gym didn’t really start up anything but I remember it making me aware of my body and then once I stopped gymnastics that awareness got even worse. All of a sudden, because I wasn’t training, I started developing and going through puberty.
Naturally, I put on some weight, which basically felt like it happened over night and a lot of people noticed. I remember throwing out my lunches at school, thinking that was the answer. One of my friends ended up telling her dad, who was a doctor, that I was doing this and they sat me down in their house and basically had an intervention.
Looking back, I probably should have listened. But instead I stopped throwing out my lunch and just started dieting. That’s where society came into play. I would lose weight and everyone would praise me- kids, parents, teachers you name it. I was constantly being told how much better I looked and asked how I was doing it.
That’s the fucked up thing with society when it comes to eating disorders, anorexia in particular.
When someone is thin and develops anorexia, they get put in the hospital, but when someone is not already thin and develops anorexia, they get PRAISED.
Carolyn Costin often references back to the time when her and her three friends went on a diet and she was the only one who ended up with an eating disorder. That’s how I kind of think about this incident in gymnastics, no it did not cause my eating disorder what so ever, but I did obsess and fixate on my body when in reality all the other girls there probably just thought it was a cool thing and got over it. I mean clearly there’s something there if, at least, 15 years later I still remember it.
So here’s the deal with my stance on my ED, and why I feel guilty around just saying it was in my DNA. I have to take some responsibility for it. I started dieting, I followed the trend, I restricted until there was nothing left to restrict.
I may not have chosen to have the chemical imbalance imbedded in me, and neither does anyone else BUT I did choose to continue on this path. I did choose to restrict.
It wasn’t until I chose recovery that I realized this. It is NOWHERE NEAR as easy as it sounds to just “turn it off.” A lot of supporters will often say “just eat” and now, being in recovery, I can see how that’s the common answer, but it’s just not that simple, believe me I wish it was.
When you are stuck in an eating disorder, your brain is completely taken over. Your body is in shock, it’s in survival mode, it is the furthest thing from rational.
Look at it from my point of view. I was someone petrified of death. But I had a doctor look me in the eye and tell me my heart rate was at an alarming low and I was going to have a heart attack. My heart was going to stop beating and you know what? I didn’t care, I still didn’t stop.
I think having the whole debate on if we chose our eating disorder or not is about as relevant as debating what came first, the chicken or the egg. No one really has the answer, I definitely don’t.
The only thing I do know is, eating disorders are not just a mental illness, they are a slow suicide. I, like many others, was actively killing myself, without even the mental capacity to see what I was doing to myself or my family. I was sucked into this black hole and just couldn’t get out.
So honestly, I really don’t care what lead me to my ED or if it’s something I could have prevented, because quite frankly there is no use in dwelling on the past. I can’t change what happened to me and honestly, given the option, I don’t think I would, but one thing I know I can do is see that I have a choice to make EVERYDAY, and that’s the choice of whether I’m going to listen to my eating disorder or recover.
Don’t fixate on how you got to where you are, just know you’re here and make the next right choice.
So were our eating disorders a choice? That I don’t know but what I do know is, recovery is and always will be.
This blog post was originally published here
About the Author: Sammi Farber resides in New York City and is a National Champion for Project HEAL.
Sammi is currently in recovery and has decided to dedicate her recovery to helping and inspiring others. She has also created an organization called The Unicorn Affect. In doing this she hopes to help people in residential treatment get the treatment they need without the worry of insurance cutting them too soon. She believes that hitting maintain in treatment is crucial to relapse prevention and wants to make sure that everyone who is brave enough to go to treatment has a fighting chance at full recovery because it is possible. Sammi has also decided to go back to school for her masters in social work. She feels it is her life’s purpose to help people. As a Project HEAL Champion, Sammi is dedicated to showing the community that recovery is anything but linear. It is hard work, quite possibly the hardest work you will do in a lifetime, but it’s worth it. Recovery is possible. She firmly believes that we may not have chosen our eating disorders but we do chose whether or not to recover and by advocating each day she is showing her personal journey and how she chooses recovery day in and day out. Most importantly, she wants to show everyone that they are not alone. She is passionate about helping others, cooking and traveling (mainly to disney world). She can often be found on her Instagram exploring NYC in search of the latest food craze, laying low with friends and family, or in the candy aisle at just about any drugstore 😉 Sammi’s favorite ice cream flavor is a toss up between Nocciola Gelato from Grom (really Italy but let’s face it Grom is quicker and just as good) or Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.