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A poem honoring National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I wrote this poem because popular media coverage of eating disorders normalizes the behaviors and results without addressing the serious medical consequences and disturbed cognitions underlying a disorder.

For more information visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/index.php or call the free, confidential Helpline, Monday-Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Pacific Standard Time: 1-800-931-2237.

National Eating Disorders Association from NEDA on Vimeo.

How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

3 jellybeans a day will cause you to gain one pound within a year.

If you put ice in your water, you use calories to return the water to body temperature.

I have always known I have an eating disorder,

but for a long time I didn’t tell anyone because

I didn’t want to get better, I just wanted to get skinnier.

Now I want to get better

And I want to help other people

But this is not for the girls struggling with anorexia who are reading this

We’re not paying attention.

We’re thinking about how many jellybeans we’ve eaten recently, and reminding ourselves to ask for extra ice in our diet soda.

No, this is for the people trying to help them.

If you want to help someone with an eating disorder

If you want to help me:

Give me attention – Anorexia is just a synonym for help.

So spend time with me, care about me more,

but don’t invite me to dinner, don’t buy me chocolates, don’t take me to a party

I know exactly how many calories there are in each red cup.

Don’t take me shopping,

pant sizes haunt me,

don’t invite me to the movies,

I idolize the actresses,

don’t mention swimsuit season, don’t watch me eat on thanksgiving

and for god’s sake do not tell me that weight doesn’t matter and then say that you’re worried because I’ve lost some.

You say, “Beauty comes from inside,”

So to me there is no difference between you telling me I should be bigger and fashion showing me I should be smaller.

Only I can decide I like my body

and right now I like myself better small,

so stop trying to control me

because you can’t.

But invite me to finger paint with my eyes closed,

lets go for a walk in the rain, lets sit and play scrabble together, let’s plant a garden, lets build a fort, lets write a poem

and if I admit, which I probably won’t,

but if I get honest enough to say that, “Nobody understands why I don’t like myself, and I feel so alone,”

honestly tell me that I am, that you don’t understand what I’m feeling,

because then I’ll know that you’re listening,

and if you’re really listening to my loneliness,

then I am not alone.

I’ll see that life is really circular,

“the circle of life.”

It will remind me that I hate clichés

and that this whole overachieving girl with anorexia thing is too easy.

Anyone with this much privilege can look like a super model

I want to be a super hero.

Anybody can hate themselves

I want to love myself.

You see my eating disorder never had anything to do with food.

I always liked lunch, but I liked being skinny more

Anorexia was just a rebound after I fell out of love with myself.

I wanted to like myself and anorexia gave me results I could measure

It gave me control, I fought anyone who tried to take that away from me

It was up to me to realize that my source of control was controlling me,

I was getting skinnier, but I wasn’t getting happier

and if it kept going the way I thought I wanted, eventually I would die.

I didn’t want to die!!

I wasn’t ever even remotely close to death,

but I am sick and I don’t want to be sick forever

I want to like myself.

I don’t know exactly what that looks like,

but I’ve decided to stop counting pounds,

and I started counting the number of days since I have weighed myself.

(5 months!)

Instead of worrying about swimsuit season, I celebrate summer

Because I look good naked all year round.

Instead of idolizing actresses,

I ask myself “Who are my role models?”

They’re people who haven’t been photo-shopped,

the people who have been spending time with me all along.

People who listen to me without trying to “fix” me

People who see me as more than just another girl with an eating disorder, but as a woman struggling to accept her body and accept herself

People like you

Thank you for listening.


Katie McCorkell is President of Active Minds at the University Washington, a club dedicated to fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness. She is majoring in Psychology, and also studying Chinese. She draws her poetic inspiration from Youth Speaks Seattle.ikoni

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