Trigger Warning: The following story contains mentions of eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.
(Elvira Husic. Photo: Elma Adilovic)
In the past, Elvira Husic says she didn’t care about her outward appearance. She didn’t think about beauty standards or spend much time on social media. But that recently changed, when she experienced disordered eating at the age of 17.
According to the Centre for Discovery: Leading Eating Disorder Treatment, all eating disorders have a mortality rate 12 times higher than the mortality rate of other causes of death for teenagers and young adults.
Centre Discovery for Leading Eating Disorder Treatment states that studies show, that every 1 in 5 anorexia deaths is a result of suicide. Without proper treatment, up to 20 per cent of eating disorder cases can result in death.
When her first year of college commenced in 2020, she lost close to 11 kilograms. For Elvira, self-harm came in the form of not eating.
“That was to bring some sort of control into my life because I feel like everything else was so out of control. Let’s just control my body. Have something under my wing that I could control and bring into stability,” she said.
While Elvira tries to enjoy her daily meals, negative thoughts appear.
“I put this into my brain that it’s like, you eat too much, you’re going to puke,” she said.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she continued, “When I know that I love this food. I know I can eat it, but then it just triggers in my brain, and I stop, I spit it out. I can’t.”
When these thoughts occurred in her mind, she would have to remind herself that it was okay to eat.
“I just want people to know that it’s okay to eat food, it’s okay to nourish your body. You need it to live. Screw it, just live your life, eat that doughnut if you want it. Drink the coffee, I don’t know. Eat the cake. Just live a little, it’s not going to kill you, but it will kill you if you stop eating,” she said.
In her first year of college, TikTok was a popular social media app among teens. When Elvira opened TikTok, her feed was filled with popular influencers.
“You watch them and you’re like, omg I’m a pig compared to them. My hair is gross, my skin is really gross compared to theirs. Oh, her bum is a lot bigger than mine, or my chest isn’t as big as hers, you know all of that little stuff. It does get to you,” she said.
That was a period in her life when she noticed a lot of girls and guys comparing themselves to these influencers, wanting to look like them by paying thousands of dollars for procedures.
Elvira is still recovering from the disordered eating that she developed and says that it will be an ongoing process for her whole life.
“The way I look now, I feel that I’m in a healthier space, could be better of course, but I’m getting there,” she said.
It’s important for young people to know where they can get help and access the support they need.
(Founder and Principal Dietitian of Live Better Nutrition, Jeanette Ryan. Photo: Elma Adilovic)
Founder and Principal Dietitian of Live Better Nutrition Jeanette Ryan, specialises in gut health, celiac disease, fertility nutrition and chronic disease management.
A lot of eating disorders develop from social media as teens spend hours on these platforms comparing themselves to modified images, which can cause a negative body image.
“Coming from the body image issue, you have then got the development of disordered eating, restrictive eating practices, and then you get an eating disorder, like bulimia or anorexia.”
You have also got those algorithms within Instagram that are sending that information about self-harm, dieting, and restrictive eating. Pro eating disorder, actively sending it to young people, it’s not good,” Mrs Ryan said.
Mrs Ryan says the earliest signs of someone with an eating disorder may vary. The most common one is that they stop going out to eat with friends and family, avoid eating altogether, and they may start making negative comments about their bodies when they didn’t before.
In the ACT, individuals have access to an eating disorder care plan provided by Medicare. They are entitled to 20 appointments over a year, both to see a psychologist and a dietician. This means they are eligible for a rebate from Medicare as psychologists and dieticians can be expensive.
“People might not go to them, but if they know they will get some money back from the government, it may help them have that conversation with their doctor,” she said.
Mrs Ryan says it’s important for individuals to have a good relationship with their health practitioners who can encourage them to get the support they need.
“If you feel you aren’t getting what you need, find another one. It’s really important to have a good relationship with your health practitioners in this space. Some people do like that first appointment to be with a loved one. Often after they are quite happy to come by themselves,” she said.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder, know that it’s okay to reach out for help. You can access helpful resources here: Butterfly foundation, National Eating Disorders Collaboration and Headspace.