​​​​​​​Rosie Maguire - Anorexia Nervosa is not a lifestyle choice

Hello Warriors, I have here my writing which I hope you find inspiring.

Lots of love, Rosie.

Why would I choose at age fifteen to be sitting in an adolescence mental health hospital with my Mum and Dad waiting on someone to come and tell me I had to be admitted to hospital? Why would I choose to be sitting there a month before Christmas watching as girls around my age walked out of the hospital dining room all of them crying, all wearing NG feeding tubes and one of them attached to a drip? Why would I choose for my Dad to cry all the way home in the car realising that his daughter was slowly dying? Why would I choose to become so mentally ill that the police came to my house twice to protect my family and me? Anorexia Nervosa tried to tear my whole life apart. Anorexia stopped me from doing my exams; it stopped me from doing anything. Anorexia Nervosa confined me to hospital and it almost killed me. Why would someone choose to be living the reality of the mental illness Anorexia Nervosa?


1.25 million people in the UK are believed to have an eating disorder. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. The horrible eating disorder known as Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. 1 in 5 Anorexia sufferers commit suicide. Anorexia is a serious mental health disorder that kills. It is not a lifestyle choice. As a society our perception of Anorexia has been twisted becoming a title used to describe a person's figure. Anorexia is a disorder of the mind that often comes with life-threatening physical side effects. Our perception needs to change.


Anorexia Nervosa was first described in 1684 but was not diagnosed as an illness until 1870 with many historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots believed to have suffered from the condition. Anorexia Nervosa is a mental illness involving someone being of a low weight due to restricting their food intake. On top of restricting their food intake the person may do lots of exercise to get rid of food eaten or experience episodes of binge eating (eating large amounts of food at once) and then in some cases purging. Anorexia will distort the way a person sees himself or herself often making them think they are overweight when they are medically underweight. Psychologists always view anorexia as a separate person/thing to the sufferer because it is an illness that takes over a person’s mind manipulating them to develop detrimental behaviours. It is separated this way because a person doesn't choose to get Anorexia. Why would someone choose to be consumed by a mental illness? When Anorexia gets a hold of a person's mind, the person can't just ‘snap out of it’ or ‘eat a McDonalds’ and be rid of the illness. When Anorexia gets a hold of you it will consume you. Just like cancer.


I hate today’s body-image dominated culture, the pressure people feel to look a certain way, eat a certain way and act a certain way just so they can become society's version of “perfect” is so messed up! Today it seems like people are constantly fed lies on a daily basis from social and other forms of media on how to live their lives correctly. All of this pressure exposes many girls to developing eating disorders and although Anorexia can affect anyone of any age, gender or background, women and girls make up around 80 percent of eating disorder cases with 14-25 year olds being most affected. Why is it that 1 in 100 women aged between 15-30 are said to be affected by Anorexia? Eating disorders don't discriminate. I wish people did not have to get Anorexia. I wish there weren't people all over the world of all ages and gender developing these horrible illnesses. Girls as young as 7 agreed that they were rated more on their looks than their abilities and that they felt pressure to look ‘perfect’. The rate of body dissatisfaction in men and boys is also rapidly increasing. Eating disorders will often develop during adolescence. I’ve seen this myself. Being in a hospital surrounded with girls and boys who are also trying to recover from Anorexia. Anorexia catches people when they are at their most vulnerable and for many people this is during their teenage years. Throughout adolescence young people develop mentally, physically and emotionally. Not many aspects of their lives are able to be controlled but people can control their eating and exercising habits and this can often spiral into the development of an eating disorder. It is clear that anyone can be susceptible to conditions such as Anorexia. People don’t choose to develop Anorexia, Anorexia chooses you. 


If Anorexia Nervosa is not a lifestyle choice, then why do people get it? Eating disorders arise from much deeper issues than someone ‘wanting to be thin’. We must understand that eating disorders are much more complex than a fixation on food. Eating disorders are a way for sufferers to control and channel their anxieties allowing them to gain control over something in their lives. Eating disorders can be triggered and develop from a number of things. Anorexia can arise from psychological issues such as low self esteem, feelings of inadequacy, troubles coping with emotions and in particular perfectionism and impulsivity. Society and culture may also help to bring on eating disorders. If being an adolescent in the 21st century wasn’t hard enough people of this generation are being constantly exposed to social media. A ‘space’ which can be freeing but on the other hand can cause a lot of damage. 71 % of teens say that they use one or more social networking sites. These social media sites have caused many young people in particular to experience a higher state of body dissatisfaction, associating being thin with happiness and subsequently making them spiral into a cycle of mental turmoil and self-loathing because of the things they are able to access online. Young people of both sexes are constantly bombarded with images of people they perceive to have ‘perfect bodies’ making us compare ourselves to the people we see everyday through a screen. It is proven that with a higher level of body dissatisfaction comes higher levels of dieting, weight control, skipping meals, smoking and other obsessive and often destructive habits. 


In addition, a person's environment has been found to affect their food and eating habits. Environmental factors such as negative family situations, a difficult childhood, history of abuse, regular activities that encourage a certain body type, peer pressure and bullying often translate into a controlling of food and exercise. Lastly, genetics can predispose people to eating disorders, eating disorders can often run in families and specific chromosomes have been linked to Anorexia. 


The reality of Anorexia is very different to what the media makes it out to be. The image of a emaciated body may spring to mind but Anorexia doesn't just affect your appearance it affects the sufferer’s whole life. The reality is that it wants to kill its victim and completely take over the person that they used to be before it arrived. Anorexia tears apart families, it abandons friendships, it takes away sexual attraction, it weakens your bones and heart, it leaves you never feeling satisfied with yourself, it stops your hunger cues, drains your energy, deteriorates, stripping down until the sufferer is just a shell. A shell of the person they used to be. Life with Anorexia is not a life. 


I don't know the definitive reason as to why I developed Anorexia Nervosa and I never will. What I do know is that I never chose to develop the thing that almost destroyed me. Anorexia goes so much deeper than a desire to be thin. When I was in the depths of my eating disorder and was attending a day program at a mental health hospital I had a dream about a emaciated, soul shuddering, indescribably evil women that was trying to kill me and then tried to kill my family. Looking back now I can see that the women represented Anorexia Nervosa. This illness that was consuming me during this period in my life wanted to kill me, nothing less. Anorexia Nervosa is not ‘the trend to be thin gone too far’ or a ‘lifestyle choice’ it is the same as the plague, cancer and any other illness or disease. Life with Anorexia is not a life. When you have Anorexia you are only existing. It infuriates me when someone sees my eating disorder as a fashion or a choice. I didn't choose to get Anorexia but I did choose to fight it. I’m no longer the girl sitting in a hospital ward, smashing up her bedroom, throwing food, living but barely alive, whose whole life is Anorexia and only Anorexia. However sadly, there is an increasingly large number of young and vulnerable people in today’s society who are that person - who are ‘Anorexia Nervosa’. 


I believe that if society can better understand what this serious mental illness is and the damage it inflicts on both the sufferer and their family and friends, and then maybe we can start to reverse the increase in young people developing such conditions.  


I want nothing more for people in society who are not affected by Anorexia to realise Anorexia Nervosa is and never will be a lifestyle choice.


Rosie Maguire. 

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