If there ever was a Western phenomena, eating disorders would top the list. In what other culture would stick figures be celebrated as beautiful? In what other culture would there be communities (never mind that they’re mostly online) of individuals encouraging each other in their pride of being Ana (anorexic) or Mia (bulimia) Yet it’s a very real disease that plagues our society, claiming around 10-15% of Canadian women. (And those are just the women, and only the ones who are diagnosed or openly sick. We will use female terms throughout although this disease does also afflict men.)
These eating disorders are most commonly routed in a lack of self-esteem. Something is wrong with the way society perceives your body, so you change it in an unnatural way. But you see results. People start liking you. They start giving you compliments. The numbers on the scale drop. You gain a certain sense of pride in your self-discipline. What you don’t recognize is that a mental illness is overtaking your body, and that no matter what the number on the scale, no matter how much the bones pop through your skin in the mirror, you will never achieve happiness. Your view of yourself and the world around you has become utterly distorted.
Finances through the Sick Mind
Initially, an Ana thinks she’s got an advantage over her pocketbook. She’s eating hardly anything, or nothing at all. She’s saving a ton of money on groceries or eating out. When she does spend, many times she will throw most of her meal away, inwardly giggling with delight as someone comments that she should eat more. They’re just jealous of her self-control. There’s no way a human being needs to consume that many calories.
The Mias join in as they shower and apply lotion, realizing that a little goes a long way when there’s less skin to cover. They’re spending less and looking better as their new beauty routine gives them some sense of self-worth and they slide into their next-size-down jeans.
People with eating disorders who do not acknowledge it as an illness, but rather as a way of life, cite that they feel better. They have more energy and feel happier. Money can’t buy happiness, and now you won’t be wasting your own in order to find out. Because in your mind you’ve already achieved it.
Finances in Reality
The reality is you will never be happy. You will always be looking in the mirror, searching for some part of your body that needs an imaginary improvement. And the illness you are refusing to acknowledge will cost you a fortune.
Many women do not realize that what they’re doing now, even if they are young, will affect them for the rest of their lives. Women who have eating disorders frequently lose the ability to menstruate, or develop amenorrhea (sporadic periods.) This makes having children extremely difficult to impossible. Keep in mind that provincial insurance plans do not cover infertility treatments, especially not for women with unexplained amenorrhea (which your case will be considered,) and that the average cost of a single IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) shot is $7,750-$12,250 CAD. (Baby Center.)
Now you’re in your thirties. You’ve discovered you can’t get pregnant or you’ve put yourself in debt trying. Either one could very likely lead to a divorce. The average uncontested cost of divorce is anywhere between $540-1,610 CAD, and if either party contests the price tag goes up to $2,600-18,900 CAD. (Source.) I doubt you were saving that much on shower gel.
The reproductive system is hardly the only part of your body that will take a hard hit. You’ll be paying for constant manicures as your nails become brittle and split. You may eventually have to buy a wig as your hair starts to fall out. Malnourishment and bile cause the erosion of teeth, and unless you have a great third-party insurer, you will likely be footing your expansive dental bill out-of-pocket.
On a very serious level, your body will start to shut down. Your kidneys may fail. Heart failure is extremely common. Bulimia lends itself to erosion of the esophagus. While provincial plans will cover most hospitalizations, it usually does not cover the out-of-hospital care that you will likely require after your departure. Unless you have coverage from a third-party or are on some sort of charity plan, you can forget about getting your prescription drugs covered.
Eating disorders can also lead to hypoglycemia, a disease in which blood sugar levels are disrupted, which leads to type I diabetes. Diabetes can cause a slew of problems, such as blindness, kidney failure, amputations, stroke, heart attack, and even death. After you’ve been diagnosed, there is no return. You must monitor your glucose and take insulin shots for the rest of your life. Continuous glucose monitors are not covered by provincial plans, and many provinces will not even cover your insulin pump if you’re over the age of 18 or 25 (such as Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Saskatchewan.) The initial cost for an insulin pump is about $7,000 CAD, with maintenance costs running $1,200 CAD a year. (Source.)
Eventually, you will die. We all will. But you’ll more than likely make your curtain call long before scheduled. The average cost of a funeral is between $6,000-$10,000 CAD. And that number pales in comparison to the amount of grief you will have piled upon the shoulders of your family and friends. These people love you for who you are, not what you look like. In fact, I’m willing to bet they thought you were pretty damn beautiful before you started starving your body.
Eating disorders are a mental health issue. And mental health is largely under financed in Canada. But there are places you can turn to get help. The National Eating Disorder Centre is committed to helping people in your situation, and recognizes that you cannot do it alone. They list organizations that can help you get to a better mental state so that you can get and keep your body in better physical shape. If you have trouble finding an organization that suits you, you can call them directly for help.
I may have been harsh in the numbers, but it’s only to let you know that finances should never be used as an excuse to legitimize anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder. The figures just don’t add up. Know that you are worth getting better. Know that you can be beautiful no matter what your size. And know that the truest beauty really does come from the self-confidence you will be able to kindle within yourself.
Guest Post Bio: Femme Frugality is a 20-something Pittsburgher blogging about savings and earnings in all aspects of her life, including being a mother, college student, and young adult. She started writing about a year ago, and is enjoying her blogging journey, which includes forging friendships with great writers such as Mr. CBB.
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