Eating Disordered thinking in others

I sat next to a girl in my chemistry class. She looks a normal weight, not that I would judge her on her weight anyway. I said I went horse riding and asked me how many calories does the burn? I looked at her strangely — surely that’s not the first question I’d ask! Despite having an eating disorder I actually have no idea how many calories that does burn (and don’t care, either, as I was preoccupied with having fun).

Then she started discussing about how she weighs x kg, and would like to be 5kg lighter and that she counts calories but that’s not helping her. She quoted calories on bread and on the treadmill.

I tried to educate her, telling her how inaccurate calories on food items are (citing references). She was shocked to hear that I don’t eat diet products and do very little exercise and that I eat dairy products (but aren’t they high in calories and fat??). I challenged people’s misconceptions on nutrition too and everyone was asking me how I know all this stuff.

I ended it by telling her that she is a normal weight and so does not need to lose it, but if she wants to get healthier some gentle exercise might help her.

She said she liked my body and wanted to look more like me.

My initial concerns, followed by my challenges were:

I feel that validates my calorie counting as something normal that non eating disordered people do, so why shall I not carry on counting?

The truth is, I fully know that calorie counting is not an exact science. Not every biscuit is tested in a calorimeter to find out how much it has. And I remember the days of the Excel spreadsheet, and the countless hours spent…counting. Do I really want to waste hours of my life counting calories?

I feel embarrassed that people are looking at my body. I’m at minimum healthy, and am worried that people will no longer like my appearance if I go closer to my set point

Do I judge my friend’s by their weight or their personality and qualities? No, of course not. So if others judge me by my appearance, they are certainly not worth my worry.

I am worried I did not handle the situation in a different way: should I tell people the facts about nutrition/calories or should I just finish the conversation?

That question, I’m afraid I cannot really answer. There is no right or wrong in this situation. Perhaps I should do what just feels best to do at the time

But, on a final note, I feel quite sad to hear that so many women (and men, too) are dissatisfied with their bodies. We should appreciate our bodies for the fact that they allow us to function to do the things we can do. We should be able to accept that our natural shape may not be the ideal, and quit the comparisons which serve to make us feel rotten. As a society, we need to change our views, and as an individual we need to drive that change.  And, ultimately, we need to be careful what we wish for.

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