Iman Kalo says she lost control and didn’t know she had a problem until she ended up in the hospital
Stress from school life and insecurity about her body image led to anorexia for Iman Kalo, who was 15 when the eating condition first affected her.
Now 20, the Canadian felt unable to cope with the pressure of exams, and slowly the gnawing tensions escalated to an eating disorder.
“I felt out of control, which led me to control my food intake as a way to gain more control. It slowly escalated as the eating disorder voice grew louder and my weight dropped,” she said. “However, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 17, when my parents took me to Camali Clinic [in Dubai]. I was still in denial that I actually had a problem at that point and didn’t want to get any help because I thought I didn’t need it. It wasn’t until I was admitted to the hospital for hypoglycemia that I realised that I wasn’t actually in control of my body and that I needed help.”
Ms Kalo, who now lives in Ontario, Canada said that casual comments about looks can have a negative impact on those who are vulnerable to eating disorders.
“Comments about looks in general definitely affected me. Even if they weren’t targeted at me, I’d developed an idea of how a body ‘should’ look, which buried me deeper into my eating disorder,” she said.
“I believe that societal expectations of what people should look like are nothing but destructive. It’s never helpful to hear negative comments about yourself, especially when someone is already prone to developing an eating disorder.”
Images in the media play a huge role in shaping how young people think about their bodies, added Ms Kalo.
“When the air-brushed images of unhealthy models are casually consumed by society, it is no wonder so many people are unhappy with the way they look. It is like chasing a mirage; you can never get something that does not exist. Although, I do think we’ve come a long way in terms of body-positivity in the media, I still think we have so much work to do.”
Ms Kalo has beaten her disorder but the fight gave her an interest in mental health and she is now an honours psychology student who plans on working with young people struggling with mental illness.
She has some advice for others who are in the situation she was in: “I completely understand how hard it is to leave your comfort zone and dive straight into what you might think is the ‘unknown’. The first step is always the hardest. But the good news is that the more steps you take in the right direction, the easier it will get for you to continue.
“If you think you have a family member or a friend who is struggling with an eating disorder, do not address the issue in a confrontational manner. The last thing you want to do is drive them away from getting help.
“Let them know that you love them, and that you are there for them. This will make them more comfortable with the idea of getting help, and they will know that you have their back when they start doing the hard work of confronting the eating disorder.”