Time To Debunk The Myths: What an Eating Disorder IS And ISN’T

There is something I want to clarify with anyone who is unaware of what an eating disorder is and what an eating disorder isn’t.

First of all, anyone that suffers from an eating disorder wants you to know this:

We would never wish an this disease on ANY one. But it would be wonderful if the non-disordered eating population could understand a few key things.

So with that goal in mind, let me get started…

What an eating disorder is and isn’t

Isn’t: An attempt to get attention from those around us

Is: A mental illness that is all consuming

Isn’t: An attempt to lose weight

Is: An innate fear of food that is secondary to a deep down hurt/trauma/ pain

Isn’t: Strong willpower or lack of willpower towards food

Is: A learned behavior over time that has become a way of numbing out any emotion

Isn’t: A glamorous act

Is: A traumatically terrifying way of living in a hell on earth on a daily basis

Isn’t: A disease that can only be determined by weight

Is: A disease of the mind that can come in any way, shape, or form- it does not discriminate

Isn’t: A selfish act

Is: A deep feeling of lacking self-worth

Isn’t: An easy fix

Is: A long road that takes time, money, professional support, possible medication and hospitalization and sheer grit and tenacity to overcome

Isn’t: A choice

Is: A disorder, a mental illness that can be explained by the phrase “nature loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”

Isn’t: Widely understood

Is: Made light of or praised because often society deems disordered behaviors as healthy

Isn’t: Understood by most medical professionals

Is: Often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to lack of knowledge and training on professionals’ behalf because it is a very subjective disease. There is no accurate cookie cutter definition/test to diagnose eating disorders.

Learn the facts about eating disorders at the School of Recovery!

Click HERE to learn more ?

Isn’t:  A thin, privileged, white girl problem

Is: Experienced through all sizes, genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds

Isn’t: “Just a phase” or “normal” or “no big deal”

Is: A disorder that without treatment can end in short term and long term physical and mental harm and in many cases, death.

Isn’t: Easily treated

Is: On average a 45+ days in very expensive, not all insurance covered, hospital stay. Often includes partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient hospitalization, years of therapy, and support groups to boot.

Isn’t: About food

Is: About control

Isn’t: An option to eat or not eat, run or not run, purge or not purge, etc.  …

Is: Survival… every second in an eating disorder mind feels like survival with symptom usage as the only means to live

Isn’t: Living life to the fullest

Is: A living hell for those who suffer and those who love the sufferer

What can you do to help?

For someone who has never suffered from disordered eating, and eating disorder, or mental illness, the solution may seem simple.

Yet those of us who have been in or are in the trenches of an eating disorder know that simple does not always mean easy.

So what are you to do? Ask questions, care relentlessly, and love unconditionally.

And know that the Warrior in your life is fighting is the battle of a lifetime for their freedom.

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  1. says: Shauna

    Wonderful article! Wish this would of been published thirty years ago. It would of helped people be more understanding when you have a ED instead of anger and frustration. I still don’t talk about it and still feel alone but this website helps.

  2. says: Brooke Heberling

    I wrote it after having coffee with a young girl in the beginning stages of anorexia… she was convinced that she was selfish, not sick, and a burden. Broke. My. Heart. Believe me- I wish this was around 16 years ago. Glad we have this forme and community for validation and support. Xoxo

  3. says: Maddie

    This is the BEST article I’ve read in a long time about the stereotypes and stigmas around eating disorders. I even raved to my therapist about how amazing it is – I’m bookmarking it for future reference when my ED tells me I’m not worthy of recovery. Taking care of my mental health is NOT selfish!!

  4. says: Brooke Heberling

    It is absolutely NOT selfish- it is the exact opposite!! Everyone who loves you And the world will benefit from you fighting for your recovery. Keep it up, Warrior !

  5. says: Meg

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this. This speaks exactly to my experience. I felt like this was the first time that someone has ‘got’ me. Thank you.

  6. says: Katie

    Thank you for writing this – I find it so difficult to put my ED in words and this is something I feel I can share with loved ones to try and help them understand how I’m feeling… Which is something that has always felt impossible… Thanks so much for putting it into the words that I couldn’t find myself.

  7. says: Brooke Heberling

    I am so glad this helps you, Katie. I wish every one who has suffered or is suffering could have it to help explain to those who don’t understand…

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