That’s quite a stat. It should be surprising, except, well, it’s not.
Everyone knows someone who’s been affected. Schools and colleges expect it. Many industries endorse it. A generation of young people (predominantly girls) are starving themselves to death and it’s part of the furniture.
Eating disorders are not the only issue. But they’re the default for far too many.
Here are some guesses:
1. You must be sexy – even if you’re still a child. Sexy is the new beautiful. It’s what proves that you matter. Sexy is powerful and sexy gives scared little girls a kind of voice. Eating disorders do the same thing. By making yourself too big or too small, you can de-sex yourself and your world. You can achieve a different beauty of your own (even if it kills you).
2. You’ve lost your mentors. Some (Sunday school teachers, Guide/Brownie leaders) are less in evidence. Others have been marginalised, (older people). Some refuse the role, (parents who were never parented, grown-ups acting like kids). Some are confused, (pop stars trumpeting sexual freedom and selling their own bodies). Others are contradictory, (women’s magazines that claim to care but are driven by profit). An ED tells you what you do, what to think and what you are. Job done.
3. The old boundaries of modesty or prudery or whatever you want to call them, are no longer there. Your body is public property – so you try to take it back. You can do this in a number of ways. Perhaps (even though you were reared in a secular household), you look to religion. Perhaps (like increasing numbers of young women), you adopt a literal or metaphorical veil. Or perhaps you develop an eating disorder. You make your body the boundary.
4. You’re scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. You don’t look like the women you see on TV and (past the makeup/retouching) neither do they. You’re ashamed because you’re different to them. You’re ashamed because you care. You don’t know what to do with this shame, so you swallow it and then you vomit it back up.
5. You’re a perfectionist. A good girl. Maybe a Christian. You’re not going to rebel with drink or drugs. No-one’s going to get upset about you losing weight. They might even applaud.
6. Since before you could speak, the media have told you that food is the answer. It’s “good” or “bad” – but never neutral. Make your choice.
7. Social media makes everyone seem perfect. You’re not.
8. You’ve been taught to wear lipstick. You’ve not been taught how to handle your feelings.
Tell me how to be a woman. Tell me why I should take up space.
“These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
(But) … you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Col 2:22-3, 3:3-4