What My Eating Disorder has Taught me about Food Insecurity

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I have been in treatment for anorexia nervosa for about a year and a half. Before developing an eating disorder, I had no concept of food insecurity how many people in impacts on a daily basis. I grew up in the wealthiest county in TN, and food insecurity has never been an issue for my family.

Growing up, I wasn’t food insecure. I didn’t understand why being hungry in the classroom was such an issue until I was that student. Although I had all of the physical resources to have a good nutrition quality of life in college, I lacked the psychological skills needed to cope with my anxiety and depression. This lead to binge-restriction cycles and 30 lbs of weight loss. I remember sitting in class in so much pain because I hadn’t eaten enough that day. I spent hours trying to study because it was so difficult to concentrate on anything but food, exercise, and my body. It was a really dark place, but I really do think it opened my eyes to how the body reacts to chronic food restriction. I understand all too well how life-debilitating the binging-purging cycles.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to afford treatment, and after 2 summers of consistent outpatient therapy, an undergrad in Nutrition, and a wedding, I am in a place where I no longer choose to restrict foods when emotions are high motivation is low. I have gradually developed skills that have helped my body “relearn” how to eat intuitively. I have developed a balanced, healthy relationship with food, a relationship is sustainable and lasting.

I get to make that choice. People who are food insecure don’t. For many of them, this is their daily reality.

They can’t always eat intuitively; they eat more when there is food provided and restrict food to make ends meet for their families. Many people who are food insecure don’t know where their next meal is coming from. I am hoping that this 3-Day Snap challenge will open my eyes even more so to how difficult it is to nourish my body on a budget of $4.40 per day. There is a good body of evidence that suggests that many individuals who are food insecure develop this “feast + famine mentality”, much like those with eating disorders that are characterized by binging and restriction. My heart breaks for those who experience this and don’t have the resources to nourish their bodies properly, as this population is so dear to my heart. It doesn’t surprise me that food insecurity is correlated with obesity and other chronic diseases. Just as the diet mentality (binge + restriction cycles) leads to eventual weight gain, many individuals who are food insecure are running into these same problems.

The 3-day SNAP challenge has already stretched me because I wasn’t able to buy the usual brands that I wanted, and the budget didn’t leave much (or any) room for snacks. I know that I will have enough to eat in the next 3 days but I’m going to have to get over the fact that I only have 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables each day. I’m excited to get started and gain wisdom and understanding through this experience! Stay-tuned for my day 1 food journal!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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