My Eating Disorder Cost me $4,000 a Year

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The beauty, wellness, and fashion industries are what I like to call a breeding ground for eating disorders and capitalistic takeover. Bear with my anger, I have strong feelings on this topic.

Under the guise of self care, these industries tend to force negative body image and absurd dietary suggestions onto the population.

The health and wellness industry has hit over $200 billion in industry worth from retail sales of nutritional products, food, and beverages. Overall, the industry is a $3.7 trillion market.

As someone with a history of disordered eating and poor body image, I have definitely contributed to this in a heavy way. 

Recently, I began reflecting more intently on the ways my disordered eating has cost me money. I’m doing well in my recovery and have been able to recognize that my finances are better because of it. You may not realize it (I know I didn’t) but your negative body image might be affecting your spending at an alarming rate. Looking back, during the two worst years of my ED I spent roughly $4,000 a year because of it.

Before I continue I am going to issue a brief trigger warning, as I will be discussing some specifics of disordered eating habits throughout the article.

Binge food- $100/month

A malnourished body makes for a malnourished mind. And being in this state led me to some poor, impulsive decisions. Despite the lack of discussion and overall representation, bulimia and binge eating disorder are actually the most common eating disorders.

Binges are commonly planned or ritualistic. It is a compulsive experience and in the moment feels completely beyond your control, as if you’re in a trance-like state that propels you to over indulge and in my case, over spend.

Everyone’s eating disorder is unique, despite inevitable similarities. But normally under the extreme stress of my ED, coupled with periods of restrictive food intake, I would spend money on excessive amounts of food and essentially make myself sick because of it, on a regular basis. 

Gym membership- $15/month

$15/month is not a bad price for a gym membership. But for someone who was using it to burn too many calories or not using it at all and then sulking in the consequent guilt, it was a big waste of money.

Fitness is a specific experience for everyone. Everyone’s body enjoys different types of movement and environments to do those movements. I would constantly get too anxious to enter the gym. despite being a paying member, I was self-conscious and overwhelmed by the large crowd of gym-goers.

My preferred forms of physical activity are long walks, yoga, and sometimes dancing! But I denied myself the enjoyment of these things (things I could do at home for free) because of my eating disorder. 

Appetite suppressants- $100/month

Some people may purchase things like diet pills to suppress their appetite. But there are plenty more suppressants that go unnoticed. 

This $100/month resulted from near daily purchases of coffee, tea, diet sodas, gum, and more “meal replacements” which are essentially distractions from your hunger.

Beauty and Fashion- $50/month

The more I hated my body, the more I tried to change it in the fastest ways possible. While eating disorders are not sustainable ways of changing your appearance, makeup and clothes are a bit more fast-acting. Being dissatisfied with my appearance, I’d frequently partake in retail therapy as a means to improve my body image and hopefully love myself more.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. And usually it made me feel much worse.

Health issues- $50/month

Eating disorder sufferers tend to have higher healthcare costs. Malnutrition alone is enough to worsen your health, but coupling that with the strain ED’s put on your body increases the cost of health issues even more.

During the thick of my ED, I got sick much more often. I was lacking vital nutrients, vitamins, and calories and could barely sleep because of the physical and mental pain I was in.

This made me more likely to get sick and would lead to me needing to purchase things like cold medication and sleep aids to get me feeling slightly strong enough to get through weeks of school and work.

Dieting products- $20/month

I’d usually purchase one random diet product each month. Whether it be a scale, a membership for a calorie-counting app, or a package of weight loss tea that was supposedly the cure to all my problems.

Unsurprisingly, these things were all a waste of money. Though in the moment I could not recognize this. 

The increased financial stress of my ED only made it worse

As I saw this money rapidly leaving my bank account each month, my stress increased, and my ED behaviors worsened. Stress and disordered habits go hand in hand, so this was inevitable. It was only when I began to put my efforts into recovery that I was able to take a step back and make better choices for my mental health and bank account.

Looking ahead…

I’m slowly getting my bearings when it comes to my finances and my disordered eating. It’s a learning curve, but 100% worth it. And part of that learning curve is reflecting on my past amidst my recovery.

Eating disorder treatment comes with a hefty price tag.This doesn’t mean it is out of reach, especially depending on your available resources. Even if you have a budget as tight as mine, it is possible to improve your relationship with food.

I’ve started tracking my spending more thoroughly when it comes to food and any other purchases that may have been linked to my ED in the past. I’m also working on building a mental health emergency fund using a High Interest Savings Account so that I have access to proper tools to combat my mental illness when I’m stressed and it unleashes its wrath.

EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

The EQ Bank Savings Plus Account offers one of the the highest rates with their 2.45%* everyday interest rate.This makes it a great option for developing a mental health fund!

You’re never alone in your eating disorder journey

And honestly this is the biggest thing I’ve learned while writing this and reviewing my disordered finances. Eating disorders affect SO many people. Though many of us won’t realize it.Among different mental illnesses, Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate. Regardless of statistics, many of us go undiagnosed or simply struggle to recognize our behaviors are disordered.

It is crucial to seek the help and recovery you deserve to live your fullest (pun intended) life. Mental illnesses are costly, but I’m happy to be moving forward in using my money to improve my mental health rather than reach its detriment.


*Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.

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