Eating disorders – A thought provoking insight

What is the matter with Mary Jane

‘What is the matter with Mary Jane?’

Several days after seeing ‘What is the Matter with Mary Jane?’ (a one woman show depicting the real life battle with anorexia and bulimia experienced by the plays director/co-author), my mind is still processing the insidious nature of eating disorders that is experienced by so many girls and boys, women and men.

Working in the field of mental health promotion for several years I was continually exposed to the plight of those living with depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. But one area of the mental health spectrum I have not been so familiar with is that of eating disorders.

This is why it’s on my mind  

As my interest in health and nutrition continues to grow I have come to realise the importance of a good, balanced, nutritious diet to maintain a body that can optimally perform all of the functions needed in order to survive.

Food is fuel after all. Food is also enjoyment, social, and a way to share love and joy with family and friends.  But after watching this play, my eyes have opened to how food can become part of a constant battle and a way of living that is no longer positive at all.

For this reason I empathise with those who find themselves under the strain of an eating disorder, where food no longer represents any of the things that many of us take for granted. When the mind takes over, trying to have a positive relationship with our bodies and what goes into it, (and out of it), can be something that can bring a lot of grief.

But as with depression or anxiety, no one chooses to have an eating disorder. Illnesses like these are complex psychological conditions that are affected by genetics, environment, physiology, peers, education, abnormal neurotransmitters, the list really is endless.

The story of the young girl in the play made me realise that while a healthy relationship with food is definitely important, so too is a healthy relationship with yourself.

Celebrate you, who you are, your own body and what it can do

In this day and age we are so susceptible to the messages of mass media. Images pop up on our screens constantly of airbrushed Victoria’s Secret models, the latest craze of thigh gaps or bikini bridges, and even the filtered Instagram selfies of our own friends. Supposedly this is ‘perfection’. But in reality, the concept of perfection is just that – a concept – it does not exist.

I am guilty of placing unrealistic expectations upon myself from time to time when I get caught up in the desire to be a ‘better’ version of myself. But it’s time to release these expectations if I want a healthy body and mind.

Be kind to yourself and others

We are all unique and will all face our own struggles throughout this lifetime. For this reason, be kind to those around you, because you never know what internal struggles someone is experiencing just from looking from the outside. Understand that mental illness is just like any other disease where the people going through it deserve genuine support.

I can only hope that awareness continues to grow around eating disorders to help build back positive body image and healthy relationships with food.

Check out The Butterfly Foundation for more info on the great work that is being done to create a world that celebrates a health, well-being and diversity.

If you missed the play while it was showing in Richmond, ‘What is the matter with Mary Jane?’ is also a book. You can check it out here. The play, written by Wendy Harmer with Sancia Robinson aims to tour nationally in 2015, targeting schools.

To read the amazing story of Director and Co-Author Sancia Robinson read this post by Mamamia.

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