The Reality of Eating Disorders
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
It still baffles me to this day that there is still so little knowledge surrounding eating disorders and mental health. Honestly, we’re probably all dealing with some sort of mental health issues, low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, negative thoughts- you name it. We’ve all got our shit. But the ignorance that still surrounds eating disorders and what people think they are continues to surprise me. Let’s get with the program people! There are so many more people dealing with body image issues/anorexia/bulimia/binge eating than we know. We need to start being more mindful about the things we say regarding diets, weight, calories, etc. We’ve all got much more important and interesting things to talk about than our latest fav diet or how many calories we’re in your breakfast sandwich this morning. News flash- I don’t care. I’d love to hear how delicious your breakfast sandwich was and that maybe we should go to breakfast together next time and share funny stories and bond over astrology. But otherwise, I’m not interested.
*Disclaimer- I am writing based on my own experience and my own knowledge of eating disorders. These are my opinions and are not affiliated with anyone/organization. I do not intend in any way to contradict/invalidate other’s experiences, perception or feelings towards these topics.*
One of the biggest myths surrounding eating disorders, specifically anorexia is that people don’t eat. Like at all. This is a huge misconception, and I’ll try to give the simplest and shortest answer:
Those suffering from anorexia or related disorder are most of the time ashamed of their thoughts and feelings and behaviors they are engaging in, and try to hide their behaviors from friends and family. This is potentially out of fear that others will find out, and they want to put up the facade that everything is normal and their behaviors are “normal” in order to follow their eating disorder’s “rules” or restrictions. So although one is suffering from anorexia or on that dangerous path- they still may appear to consuming a typical amount but secretly drastically restricting their calorie intake.
Along with this- eating disorders are extremely manipulative, which makes them very dynamic illnesses.
It’s important to note that many people think eating disorders only occur in young females. This is completely untrue. Anyone could be suffering from an eating disorder- they have no boundaries in regards to age, gender, race, environment, socioeconomic status, etc.
Think about it- we all live in a society where we are bombarded by appearance ideals. The perfect beauty ideal might have a different meaning to the person sitting next to you, but we still all have this notion that we need to attain a certain look other than our own. Despite the fact that there is research out there that links biology to eating disorders- environment plays a huge role, and we all live in an environment where appearance is everything. Our biological history might load the gun for an eating disorder, but our environment pulls the trigger.
Another misconception that people have is that they feel by telling those with an eating disorder to “just eat” don’t realize it’s not that simple. It’s not simple at all. Like I said- eating disorders are so complex, have many layers, and for most it’s so much more than just their relationship with food. Asking someone struggling, “why can’t you just eat?” is probably one of the worst things you can say. Again, eating disorders are manipulative and eating disorder thoughts have created rules and restrictions on what one can/cannot do and eat, and challenging those disruptive thoughts and behaviors is a huge uphill battle within oneself. It takes time, patience, therapy, and work to remove and deconstruct these rules and behaviors.
Lastly, one does not have to be a certain weight to be suffering from an eating disorder. A person could be at a perfectly healthy weight, but could still be dealing with eating disorder thoughts and behaviors of restriction and weight/calorie rules and mentally, be a very dangerous risk to themselves and completely submerged in anorexia. On the other end of it, if someone’s body type is petite, it’s completely possible they could still be struggling with binge eating and desperately need treatment and therapy as well. Eating disorders have no boundaries!
I personally dealt with anorexia, so a lot of my knowledge and examples may stem from personal experiences but that’s not to say that other eating disorders are not serious or complex. I love discussing mental health and next week will be writing about how to approach a friend or family member dealing with an eating disorder or showing signs of one! This one is so important because it can feel so isolating and scary when you’re having such dynamic thoughts and feel completely stuck in your head.
For further resources- go to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org the National Eating Disorders Association website.
For immediate help you can text ‘NEDA’ to 741741 or call their hotline at 1-800-931-2237