Charger Blogger, Nutrition Sciences Major Discusses Eating Disorders
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 explores eating disorders and disordered eating from a scientific and a personal perspective, offering support to her fellow Chargers.
October 23, 2023
By Beatrice Glaviano ’26
Hey everyone. This week’s blog is going to be a bit more on the personal side, and I’d like to invite everyone reading today to take a deep breath in and let everything bothering them – past experiences, something you or someone said that wasn’t very kind, getting a grade that you didn’t agree with, whatever it may be – go. None of these experiences have to matter anymore. They’re in the past, and it’s okay to let them stay there.
In today’s entry, we will be talking about eating disorders from both a scientific and personal view. I want to preface this article with a few things first, though:
If you believe that reading this entry may impact your personal and mental health, please do what’s best for you and tuck it away for a later (or nonexistent) time. As much as I love my readers, I am much more smitten with the idea of keeping your mental health in balance than with you reading my little blogs.
My experiences are never, ever to be compared to anyone else’s or used as a “golden mean.” What I say, do, eat, drink, whatever in order to keep myself healthy probably won’t fully work for you as you are your own unique, beautiful, and inspiring self.
Things can be rough.
But they will get better.
On that note: Hi. I’m Beatrice, and I don’t have things figured out as much as people think I do. Welcome to something that I call “The Day After.”
[Author takes a sip of water for once in her life and decides whether this is a good idea or not].
“What is ‘The Day After?’” You ask me.
I twiddle a pencil between my fingertips and try to formulate a response. There’s a pause, and you start to wonder why you’re reading the words of a random 19-year-old with a coffee problem. Eventually, I decide on something.
“The day when you remember that there is more to living than just breathing,” I tell you.
A lot of things have been put into perspective for me lately. About two weeks ago, I took a tumble down a small staircase. I was fine, by the way. I caught myself on the railing as my thought process of “I refuse to ruin my twelve-hundred-dollar laptop” was quite motivating.
To the outside world, I look fine. I go to the gym, I study, I laugh – my hair isn’t falling out and things seem to be going really well for me, which they are. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been able to partake in at the University, as well as the many friendships made on my journey. Yet, the good things don’t always smooth over the bad ones.
Yet about 48 hours later, I’m curled up in the waiting room in health services after being sent there by my eating disorder therapist. The peak college experience, amirite?
There are many different types of eating disorders – as well as disordered eating, and I’m one person out of millions – not much of a standard to look at in the grand scheme of things. For the most part, eating disorders tend to originally stem from poor body image. This can be due to multiple factors, such as height, weight, the presence of acne, birthmarks, and beauty spots, but it can also be due to a lot of internal things as well.
Today was my first day of therapy following the stairs incident, and, needless to say, the boat was a little rocked.
My therapist peers at me across their office. I like them, to be honest with you (hello therapist if you’re reading this blog; you’re great and you’re probably the best therapist I’ve ever had) and I trust in them a lot. But at that moment, I’m scrunched up in one of their chairs like an armadillo. A STEM armadillo with too much going on, and too much pride to always admit it.
“What do you think the goal of your eating disorder is?” they ask me.
I thought about it. I’ve come to terms that I’m not the most attractive person around, but I believe in the fact that who I am as a person – my morals, my truths, my work ethic, and values – is what really shows to the outside world. This past week, I’ve hugged three people who really needed it. Two were really stressed over grades, and the other was stressed over life. If there’s anything I’ve ever wanted to do with my life, it is to help people. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, really. If I could stop someone from hurting, maybe, just maybe, I could stop myself from hurting, too.
But I don’t tell her that. The answer I ended up coming around to was: “To give myself self-worth.” At the moment it felt like a complete lie, but the more I think about it the scarier the realization of truth becomes.
At the end of the day, it’s not the money I make, or the friends I have, or the grades I’ve achieved. It’s just me: tired and wearing a pair of baggy sweatpants with my dad’s oversized flannel spilling over my shoulders. There’s probably a dirty paintbrush lying around somewhere, as well as some ill-looking dishes and a shirt that’s crying for help.
Now, I bet a bunch of you are wondering, Beatrice, why the heck do we care about any of this. Just give us the how-to-fix-my-life spiel of positivity so I can stop punching CTRL-F on my laptop. Dear God.
[The Author smirks and sips some tea].
Patience, young padawans. Back to the story.
It started back in 2020. Everything happened in 2020 when you think about it. The human race needed a scapegoat for bad behavior, but it’s hard to hurt time. Anyhow, a really big trend that was going around at the time was “Glowing Up.” You know, fixing everything “wrong” about yourself with massive amounts of self-care before going back to high school a ‘new and improved’ version of yourself? Someone different? I was different alright.
After a month of self-starvation, I was facing kidney failure at 15 years old. My problems should’ve been making friends and figuring out what major I wanted to pursue. Instead, I was told by my doctor that I had a choice: recover, or deal with the consequences of my actions.
Four years later, I’m not “new and improved.” I’m cynical and going in circles. I really do love my life, though, and I eat better now, for sure, but at the end of the day I still have so many doubts about myself. Who am I? Who will I be? Is the version of myself now someone my past self would want to be? Would I recognize me?
A good part of the reason why I wanted to write this entry was because I know a lot of people struggle with this on campus, and as someone who’s always looked to others to give some type of God-honest opinion or story or something, I hope to be that person here on campus. Obviously, I don’t know anyone’s situation. I think there is a common, unspoken understanding of how detrimental eating disorders can be on one’s life as a whole.
So, here’s the advice you’ve been waiting for:
Life is more than the calories.
Did you know that calories are over or underestimated by 40 percent on food labels? Crazy, right? Even crazier, what if I told you that our body doesn’t really understand what a calorie is. On a macromolecular level, it understands the language of carbohydrates-fat-protein instead of a Google search featuring “how many calories are in a pancake” (Google is probably wrong, by the way. Sorry). Our bodies are designed to use the fuel that we take in to repair, maintain, and function as a system of organs comprising a living thing – us. It doesn’t understand pancake calories. It only knows “Oh, that’s a lot of carbs I can use to make energy and focus better!”
While we do eat food for functional benefits, our meals are also a huge part of human sociology, behavior, culture, tradition, and so many other things. So, you’re not just losing your health with an ED: you’re losing your life, too. For my own self, I sacrificed a lot of valuable time with my friends and loved ones as I was afraid I’d be made to eat something or lack the willpower to not eat something. I lost my passion for my hobbies because my body was using all the energy it did have to remain in balance. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t squat a barbell, and everything in life felt like it didn’t matter. I gave up integral parts of myself (as well as my health) for a “perfect” body that would probably never happen. I based my suffering off of chance.
So, what I will tell you is enjoy the burger. Go out to DQ at 11 p.m. because imagine the polaroids you can get from that. Eat your mom’s French toast because she cares about you (even if she doesn’t always express it in the best way). Remind yourself that it is okay to exist as yourself and not someone else.
Recovery can be annoying. It can be happy, sad, tears, frustration, trying to pay attention in class while your brain screams at you for eating chips with your sandwich instead of salad (I eat the salt and vinegar ones, by the way). However, even though I’ve shed enough tears to fill a bucket or two, it’s worth it to be where I am now. Each battle – won or lost, big or small – is worth something. They teach you things about yourself, about your disorder, and you can use those experiences to move forward as an individual at the pace that suits you. However…
Recovery is not linear.
Humans have never been static. We change constantly, and it’s so weird how we expect ourselves to just bounce back with things without any trouble – especially things such as mental illness. Mental illness is still an illness – it’s as though your brain has a cold or the flu, and with that, I’d like to impart the advice of treating yourself as if you’re physically ill if you’re not in a good headspace. This may or may not include:
Warm blankets and food (this helps the nervous system calm down)
Sleep, but not too much of it. Remember to not be a dorm dweller, or if you don’t feel comfortable going out, invite a friend over. I promise that they’re not lying to you when they say that they like hanging out with you.
Put the protein bar down. Get yourself something real to eat: a dense salad (meaning that it’s not just lettuce and dressing), a good sandwich with your favorite veggie dip for baby carrots, a favorite sweet treat that reminds you of your childhood. Anything but a protein bar.
Lots of positive influence.
Unfollow the fitness influencers off your phone for a while. You can always refollow them.
Pinterest has a lot of encouraging quotes, sayings, and practices for eating-disorder recovery. However, remain conscientious of if you like these practices or not or how applicable they are to you as a person: do they impact you positively, neutrally, or negatively? If they don’t help, you don’t have to do them even though others may be.
Reminding yourself that what works for someone may not work for you.
You are your own human being, not someone else. If you start working with alignment with yourself, magical stuff happens, dude. It allows you to grow as a person without initiating some “canon events.” Please get that reference, I’m begging you.
Overall, the main takeaway I want to present to you all is to treat yourself with grace regardless of where you are on your personal journey. My therapist has this huge thing about “treating yourself like you would a friend.” And, honestly? It works. (Just don’t tell her I said that – my pride will not allow my survival). Treating yourself with compassion, with patience, with genuine gentleness instead of the “WHATEVER, WE BALL *chugs a Red Bull*” attitude, things actually may get a little better. But I don’t know, maybe caffeine adds a sparkle to your life that I don’t know about.
It certainly does to mine. And probably the long line of Starbuck-ers in the Bergami Center.
Whatever the case, please do the things for your mental health that help you best. This could include the things I mentioned, or things like playing Crossy Road for an hour. Whatever floats thy boat. I know this week (as well as last week) has been an onslaught of midterms and maybe some homesickness for all of you, but I promise you if you can survive a college October, you can survive almost anything. With that, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions, comments, or blog ideas.
Take care everyone, and see you in the next one. Peace, love, and peanut butter.