- I thought having an eating disorder was uncommon
- Experiences like having an eating disorder need to be shared
- What can the diary of a 13 year old teach us?
Talking helps us understand common misconceptions and find solutions.
A 13 year-olds diary uncovers 5 common weight-loss misconceptions that prevent you from losing weight.
I never talked to anyone about having an eating disorder until I was in my first year of university. By then I’d been preoccupied by trying to lose weight for more than 5 years and all my self-defeating habits (based on common weight-loss misconceptions) were deeply ingrained.
Recently I heard a young woman named Rebecca read a diary entry she wrote when she was 13 years old on a podcast called Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. In just a couple minutes she highlights 5 common weight-loss misconceptions; 5 things I also got wrong when I was trying to get healthy.
I wanted to write this post because we need to talk about having an eating disorder—or anything else we’re going through. Talking helps us get to the bottom of problems and saves us precious time.
It’s important to understand experiences beyond our own
Every time I tune into CBC radio I learn something. Each short segment is packed with information. Hours and hours of interviews, research and healthy debate are distilled and polished before being transmitted across the airways. It’s a luxury to flip a switch and hear the final product.
A few years ago I started carrying a small hand-held radio around the house. I love taking the voice that comes out of that tiny box with me to do laundry, wash dishes or put on make-up. Mundane tasks take a back seat, while I’m introduced to new ideas that get me thinking and excite me.
Of course the hourly news is interesting, but my mind is stretched and furnished, better than it could be with any formal education, by listening to the lineup that’s played on CBC.
Literature, art, politics, science, business, music, philosophy, history, mathematics, psychology … and a healthy serving of what it is to be human, are taught and connected to current events.
When important facts are explained through true stories we’re able to see how all the stuff we’ve learned translates to the real world.
Some of my favourite programs include:
- Under the Influence with Terry O’Reilly
- White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman
- The Debaters with Steve Patterson
- DNTO with Sook-Yin Lee
- Ontario Today with Rita Celli
- Because News with Gavin Crawford
- The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti
…and many more.
The newest addition to my list of shows introduced by CBC Radio, is Grown Ups Read Things They Wrote as Kids with Dan Misener. Also known as: GRTTWaK.
What is GRTTWaK all about?
Just re-read the title!
Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is a live, onstage storytelling event, turned podcast, that documents adults from across Canada reading “their own weird and wonderful childhood and teenage writing”. As stated on the GRTTWaK website:
The material read on GRTTWaK is diverse. Some stories are flat out kids being kids while others tackle advanced topics. A common theme is trying to solve a problem or reach a goal. On past episodes I’ve heard:
- angst-y breakup poetry
- short fiction about crime-fighting insects
- a Gulf-war analysis (from an 11 year old)
- a diary entry about finding a dead bird
- a note that threatens the tooth fairy
Regardless of the subject matter, this podcast is revealing. Kids are good at getting to the heart of a situation. They often have strong intuition and make spot-on observations.
GRTTWaK is a great reminder of the respect young people deserve.
This program has made me laugh, cry and reflect on my own life. Each episode helps bring me back to all the years I spent collecting information and trying to assemble it; kids work hard to understand themselves, the world and where they fit in it.
GRTTWaK accomplishes something unexpected
The other day I received the latest GRTTWaK Newsletter. It encouraged readers to take part in an upcoming taping of the show. Additionally, Dan Misener wrote:
… Our primary goal with Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is to have fun. To get a bunch of people in the same physical space, and to be open, honest, and vulnerable together. The end result is always entertaining.But beyond pure fun, we want GRTTWaK to reflect the experience of growing up from as many different perspectives as possible.
I grew up as a boy in a middle-class suburb in the 1980s. That’s my reference point for coming of age. Yet, thanks to GRTTWaK, I’ve caught a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up as a teenage girl with an eating disorder in Calgary. And what it’s like to immigrate from Trinidad and see snow for the first time. And what it’s like to go to summer camp in upstate New York in the 1930s. These perspectives are way different from my own, and I’m better off for having heard them.
It’s important for me that GRTTWaK do a better job reflecting the experience of growing up … in all its diversity …
–Dan Misener, GRTTWaK
Is having an eating disorder a coming of age story?
Dan Misener’s mission is important. Growing up pre-internet, I saw movies about overcoming drug addiction (Trainspotting), alcoholism (When a Man Loves a Woman), divorce (Kramer vs. Kramer) and so many other challenges that touch young people. But I never came across a movie, TV show or book about a person who had a complicated relationship with food. And that made me feel alone.
It got me thinking the world didn’t understand eating disorders. Which lead me to wonder how I could ever get better. I always believed I would. But I didn’t know what steps to take or even where to start.
When I was in university I saw one bit of writing about having an eating disorder. It was scribbled in thick, black ink on the back door of a bathroom stall in an out-of-the-way washroom on main campus. I can’t recall what it said. But I remember it was the first time I was aware there was someone else out there who was also trying to get better. This knowledge was comforting even though I had no idea who it was.
The reality is that eating disorders are rampant. The preoccupation people have with trying to lose weight – all down the spectrum – is an epidemic. Imagine if we added up all the time, resources and unique potential people spend on trying to lose weight and put it toward something productive—like discovering their interests and using them to help others.
Why don’t we talk more about having an eating disorder?
We’ve advanced in so many ways. We can replace heart valves, eat watermelon in the winter and watch a film on our phones. But disordered eating remains a huge issue. 1 in 4 teen girls spend between 20% and 100% of their time thinking about weight, hunger and deliberating over what they should or shouldn’t eat.
Why aren’t we talking about having an eating disorder?
Why aren’t we getting the good information out there?
GRTTWaK has opened an arena
GRTTWaK has created a space for people to share experiences from an uncertain time in their lives. Hearing from people who’ve overcome obstacles is proof life can get better. It also gives insight into what’s going on at a critical point in a person’s struggle. These honest accounts help us understand the kind of information gaps that exist so we can sort out the necessary support.
GRTTWaK talks candidly about having an eating disorder
After receiving Dan’s newsletter, I got in touch with him to find out which episode of GRTTWaK included the story about the girl from Calgary who was preoccupied by trying to lose weight. Dan was kind enough to send me the link that follows, perfectly cued up to Rebecca’s story. Much like Lena Dunham’s food diary, Rebecca’s reflections are an important tool for learning. Whether you’re preoccupied by trying to lose weight, or worried your daughter has an eating disorder, I hope you’ll take a moment to listen.
What can we learn from Rebecca’s story about having an eating disorder?
The first thing that struck me when listening to Rebecca read a diary entry she wrote when she was 13 years old, was how completely full of purpose adult Rebecca is when sharing what she went through. She saw value in her experience, decided it needed to be told and made it happen. What a go-getter! And the fact she read to the end, even when she was upset, shows what a strong person she is.
Dan introduces Rebecca’s segment with this quote:
Courage isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about being open and honest and vulnerable in spite of being afraid. Courage means accepting our vulnerability and speaking from the heart.
– Brené Brown, research professor
While Rebecca’s diary entry takes roughly 5 minutes for her to read, it gets right to the heart of the situation. 13-year-old Rebecca spotlights 5 common weight-loss misconceptions. Unfortunately these false beliefs stayed with her, in the privacy of her mind, for many years after.
My next 5 posts will look at these misunderstandings. I’ll explain how the same misinformation the got Rebecca off track also set me up to fail. The goal of unpacking these avoidable pitfalls is to prevent others from making the same self-defeating decisions.
Progress can only happen when people are willing to talk about obstacles they’ve overcome. Then we can improve the information out there and make it easier for the next person.
A big THANK YOU to Rebecca for making her private diary public with the goal of helping others. Anyone who’s ever been touched by having an eating disorder will appreciate you sharing a story that is unfortunately widespread.
And a special thanks to Dan Misener for making a place for this to happen. If you build it, they will come. We’re lucky you’re letting your “baby” evolve to reflect more diverse coming of age stories.
Build healthy eating and exercise goals. A healthy weight will follow.
Take a moment to think of a few people you trust. Find a quiet time to sit down and share what’s going on in your life. Ask for help. A good starting point could be reading this post together and the 5 common weight-loss misconceptions that follow. And when you sign up (below) you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned. It will help you build healthy eating and exercise habits—or reach any goal.
GRTTWaK episode 219: Featuring Rebecca reading a diary entry about her preoccupation with weight.
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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it
Have you kept any of your writing from when you were a kid? Does it cover having an eating disorder or another difficult time in your life?
P.S. Find out how GRTTWaK began! Check it out here.
Many thanks to local Toronto Shops Logan and Finley and Preloved for hosting an inspiring Earth Day Event. I’m always proud to wear Preloved! I’m excited my name was drawn for this sustain-ably-resourced cardigan. Thank you!