How often have you said “I want to be skinny”, “I’m gonna get thin”, or how many times have you found yourself gawping at ‘skinny love’ where collar bones stab you in the gut, where rib cages stick out and cause you to poke your own, and where thigh gaps make you look at yourself with disgust in the mirror? We’ve all been there. You go through this stage in early teenage years, where “looking good and being skinny” is at the top of the agenda. However, not wanting to eat does not go down too well in any household (especially south Asian homes, where rice is the cure for everything!)  And you begin to start telling small white lies and hide things from the very people you love – but that doesn’t bother you, because you are in control. You are achieving something on your own, and at your own pace. It’s all about “me and my body”. It begins with losing weight for an occasion, or just to get slimmer, and before you know it, you’re skipping meals, replacing most with diet coke, or chewing gum, and taking Ramadhan to your extreme advantage. You’re obsessed with exercising, looking at your ‘faults’ in the mirror and spend hours looking at ‘thinspo’ (Thin inspiration)…

Dear human, you’ve become a soul with no life. You’re no longer in control. Ana has become your best friend, and your worst enemy. Ana pulls the strings and calls the shots, so here is your bony body, bouncing around on stage, with your weak smile, and your limp performance. Some applaud for your slender body – “Bravo!” Ana is saying. Others stare in horror of what you’ve become – not who you have become, but what. Is there any personality left? Is there any freedom left? Is there any you left? Regardless of how much you smile, regardless of how much you have in common with others, regardless of how many Pro-Ana sites you visit – they all know,  we all know that you know it’s no longer you. You didn’t want this. You don’t know why, when or how this happened – but you’re the one that doesn’t want to let go. Ana is all you have, perfection is all Ana wants, Ana is always there… Are you Ana? When you have achieved what you wanted – why is it that you go behind stage and weep because you are scared, tired and weak? In that moment of reality, you begin to ask yourself if this is who you really are, if this is what you really wanted and if it is worth losing everything – but Ana tells you that you are being lazy, and soon these thoughts disappear to the back of your Ana filled mind. Do you remember what it’s like not to think about food? When was the last time you stopped counting calories? How about remembering what it’s like not hating yourself?

Dear reader, you are a human. You’re a human, with a soul, a life, and a body. These elements are not separated – they equate to you, they have a reciprocal relationship, and they need to balance each other. You harm the body, you harm the life – and the life harms the soul, and this harms your humanity.

The beginning of Anorexic life usually begins with innocent intentions, e.g just wanting to lose some weight. However for some, they just plunge right in at the deep end and go cold turkey. In an attempt to lose a drastic amount of weight, people will miss meals frequently, eat very little or avoid fatty foods all together. They may begin to tell lies about when they last ate, obsessively count calories, avoid social gatherings with the fear of being encouraged to eat, exercising excessively, or making themselves vomit e.g leaving the table straight after a meal to avoid full digestion – and even taking excessive amount of laxatives. Those who are developing Anorexia will consistently participate in “body checking”, where individuals will weigh themselves repeatedly throughout the day, measure their waist and other parts of their body, and look in the mirror a lot. Remember, a person who is developing Anorexia may not look Anorexic, but certainly is thinking like one. This is the most dangerous and sensitive time as if it is dealt with early on, their mentality could change for the better, or get harsher, leading to a living hell. There are other signs of Anorexia such as headaches, dizziness, tiredness, easily cold, discoloured hands and feet due to lack of circulation, dry skin, thin and loss of hair, brittle nails and (for women) irregular or no periods.

Behaving like an Anorexic?

Although Anorexic people mean no harm, they can lie easily – and they get better at lying to themselves and others around them. So, when trying to pick up on Anorexia, it can be very difficult i.e if you wanted something so much, and you worked so hard to achieve it, of course you would do anything to maintain it? Those with Anorexia, can persuade others to believe them when they say they are “okay”, but there are other behaviours that are very subtle, and do need to be considered in context e.g Anorexics believe that burning calories is the goal of every single minute so they will do anything to keep active, such as shaking their leg, to jogging up the stairs or even staying cold in order to burn those extra cals.

Are you looking in the mirror?

When you see your reflection – are you seeing the truth? Or just the deluded reality you’re telling yourself? Are you looking in the mirror – or are you blindly accepting what Ana is showing you? After much research and speaking to Anorexics, they knew what they had become and they could clearly see their bodies – but it was their own doing of drawing the veil over their eyes to only see what they chose to see. Some say that Anorexia has a psychological cause due to irrational thoughts, some say that it is behavioural due to the reinforcement they get from the pangs of hunger, and others say it is due to social learning and modelling where celebrities and fashion icons set a standard. However, the consensus is that Anorexia has underlying factors from all of the perspectives – but what is always agreed upon, is that if an Anorexic person doesn’t want to recover, they won’t. No matter how much you push, talk and treat them, they’ll find a way to keep the weight off, even if they are hospitalised – unless they truly want to get better.

Part 2 will continue next week

Meanha Begum

Author Meanha Begum

Meanha Begum is currently studying a degree in Islamic Psychology where she has been given the blessing to explore her passions, Islam and Psychology. She relishes in the insight of an Islamic perspective to incorporate into psychology, to help those who have never been given a chance that every devout muslim, and non muslim deserves. Which is why she considers Inspirited Minds to be a huge blessing in her life. She has been brought up in a heavy western environment, where Islam was once far from her reach, but through trials and tribulations, she has managed to come out stronger and closer to Allah than ever before. It's simply her experiences, ideas, and open nature that pushes her towards wanting to help others out of their vulnerable places, through their journey, and into happiness, with tranquil souls.

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