Friday, 19 October 2012

Eating Disorder Myths Dispelled

I think like a lot of other mental illnesses eating disorders are misunderstood
Throughout the years I have come across many people who have a very strange idea of what anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, compulsive overeating really are
So I thought I would do a post dispelling the myths from my point of view
Please feel free to agree or disagree

Eating disorders are a choice
This is just not true. Although an eating disorder may start out as an innocent diet, you can not choose to have an eating disorder.
In my own case, I think my eating disorder had been silently developing since I was a child.
For the first few years I had no idea that I had anorexia.
Yes I choose to continue the behaviours but I didn't choose to be this way, I don't know why anyone would.
Like other mental illness genetics play a part but you can not choose to have an eating disorder any more than you can choose to have any other mental illness like depression.

Only teenagers are affected my eating disorders
This myth is probably out there because most sufferers are under 20 but an eating disorder can affect anyone at any age.
Sufferers are getting younger and younger.
Last year in the UK 47 children aged 5 -9 years were treated for eating disorders.
I have always had issues with food but it wasn't until I was 19 that I developed full blown anorexia.
When I was in treatment there were people of all ages there so it's not just teenagers.
Another myth is that anorexia is a 'rich white girls' illness. This is also false. Eating disorders do not discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, race.

You are not sick until you are emaciated
I think a lot of us fall in to this trap and don't believe we are sick because we are not thin enough. But the reality is that only a small percentage of people with eating disorders reach the state of emaciation often portrayed in the media. The common belief that a person is only trult ill if they become abnormally thin compounds the affected individuals perception of body image and not being 'good' at being 'sick enough'
As I have said before, I was just as sick at my highest weight as I was at my lowest weight.
I'm sure a lot of sufferers don't seek treatment because they think they are not sick enough but remember this is a mental illness with physical side effects. It's more about the behaviours we are using rather than our weight.

People who are normal or overweight can not having eating disorders
This is completely false.
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, from the emaciated to the obese and everything in between.

Eating disorders are not life threatening
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illness.Even if death does not occur they can cause permanent physical and neurological damage. Every eating disorder can be potentially life threatening if not treated in time. Complications include heart disease, ruptured oesophagus, diabetes and stroke.

Laxatives prevent calorie absorption
Although this is widely believed to be true, it is false. People use laxatives in an attempt to rush food out of the body before it's calories are absorbed. In reality they begin their work in the body's colon where calories can not even be absorbed. They only assist in draining the body of it's necessary fluids and can cause colon problems. I've done my time with laxatives and although the numbers on the scale may go down the next day, it is water and not fat we have lost and the next day the weight will return and really mess with our heads.

Compulsive eaters have no self control and are lazy
False. For most compulsive eaters food is used as a way of coping with stressful situations or overwhelming emotions. Just like any other eating disorder compulsive eaters need assistance.

It's impossible to have more than one eating disorder
This is false. Many people have more than one type of eating disorder. For those people who have more than one type or who do not specifically fit the criteria for one, they may be classified as a separate type of eating disorder. This is known as EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).
My own initial diagnosis was anorexia nervosa but like a lot of people I went on to develop bulimia so I tend to describe my eating disorder as anorexia/bulimia. I jump from on to the other.

People with eating disorders are vain
This is completely false. While an eating disorder may start out as a diet, they are much more than an act of vanity. Often eating disorders are coping mechanisms used to deal with stress, anxiety, self hatred, control issues and shame. Eating disorders are not about vanity but rather a distraction from the problems of life.
For me my own illness has nothing to do with vanity. what is vain or beautiful about having grey skin, lank hair, dead eyes and a child's body? Not much.
Eating disorders are a complex medical/psychiatric condition and little to do with food, eating, appearance or beauty. This is indicated by the continuation of the illness long after the person  has reached their initial 'target weight'. Eating disorders often exist as part of a 'dual' diagnosis of major depression, anxiety or OCD.

All bulimics purge by self induced vomiting
False. Being bulimic myself I also purge by over exercising, fasting, using diuretics and laxatives.

You can never exercise too much
False. While in most cases exercise can be beneficial, too much exercise and not enough calorie absorption in the body is harmful. Excessive exercise can be very unhealthy causing problems such as stress fractures, chronic pain, osteoporosis, menstrual dysfunction and even death.
I tend to go through phases of over exercising and I'm in one right now. I feel that I can't relax until I have a certain amount done and feel guilty if I don't complete it. At the moment I'm walking my dogs twice a day for 45mins and also use a stepper for 2 - 3 hours a day. I have to do for a bone scan next month so I'm hoping everything will be ok.

Achieving normal weight means that anorexia is cured
This is a big one and it is completely false. Although weight restoration is essential to enabling a person with anorexia to participate in a meaningful way in further treatment, weight gain alone does not mean a person is recovered. In the last year I have regained some weight but my mind is still so very sick and far behind my body. Even though my body has started to recover, my mind has not.
People presume that if you have regained weight, then you must be recovered. But there is no such thing as recovered, recovery is an on going process that needs to be worked on every day. Like any other addiction there is no magic cure, the illness will always be there but we learn how to manage it.


  1. I agree. I like researching and learning facts and others opinions on such topics. It helps me understand my own behaviors.
    These topics are so taboo, thanks for taking time to separate the facts from fiction.
    Hope you are well xx

    1. Thanks Melrose, it helped me to write this too.

      Hope you're well too x

  2. Great post!
    I think this can help a lot of people.

  3. I completely agree. These facts need to be known by more people. The myth which has affected me the most is that 'you have to be seriously underweight to have a serious eating disorder'. I still don't feel like there's really anything wrong with me because I've never been underweight. When I admitted everything to my friend, she agreed I wasn't 'thin enough' to be in danger. I've passed out on the bathroom floor after purging before, and I still don't feel like I'm in danger because I'm not underweight.
    I wish more people understood that these are just myths and they aren't true.

    Have you ever thought of publishing a book or anything about your life? You're an amazing writer, and you're so so inspired at educating and helping others. I should be an educator.

    Love you, hope you're okay.

    1. I know exactly where you are coming from. My doctor didn't take any real action with me until I was emaciated. I have regained some weight now but I know I am still quite sick.
      It's so sad that we feel we are not sick enough, bulimia although invisible is just as serious as anorexia.

      To answer your question yes I have thought about writing a book. My brother is a writer so I'm hoping he will help me.
      If I could help others it would be amazing.

      Love you too sweetie x

  4. Brilliant post Ruby dearest!

    Absolutely spot on, are mental illnesses genetic? or have a genetic component? I never knew this but the thought scares me.

    I am glad you wrote this post, very insightful and honest.

    Love you loads x

  5. Thanks darling Rayya

    Love you to bits and pieces x

  6. That is so truth, I completely agree with previous comments, well done for making it clear.

  7. *Wild applause*


    This. Was. BRILLIANT!


  8. Thank you dear Peri, all in a days work for this messed up girl! x

  9. I loved this post, thank you!

  10. On eating disorders not being a choice: my aunt is anorexic/bulemic. 5 ft5in and 80lbs (American, sorry for the llack of conversion). She lives/grew up in Australia. She had a daughter when she was 16 and my grandparents made her give her up for adoption.
    We all knew of aunt Tammy's anorexia/bulemia and her daughter, our cousin we never knew.
    Last year I looked up records for Tammy (her daughter was adopted out in the US where my grandparents live[d]. They had her come here during the pregnancy to hide it- different times - and presumably she'd be in the US). After looking forever and dealing with all the craziness it takes to find an adopted child I looked her up and met her. Her family is great- loving and supportive, and she has 2 other adopted siblings.
    She is bulemic.
    Only her. Her siblings come from similar origins (adopted young into this family) and do not have this same issue.

    It intrigued me as my own sister is bulemic and is recovered, but I always look out for her to be safe- I was the only one who noticed when we were growing up.
    My mother is an addict - she is a hoarder (if that's not a thing in the UK, there's a disgusting show about it in the us you can look up). My father an addict - alcohol and gambling. My older sister has drank and taken so many pills she killed her kidneys, she is only 2 years older than I and has 10% function in her kidneys at 30 years old.
    My grandfather on my mom's side died from his alcoholism. On my father's side my grandmother is addicted to morphine, which used to be easier to get when they were young nurses wayyy back.

    So much addiction, was I spared?
    I have ADHD (hyperactive type) and my attention span is too low to get into anything for any long period of time (much to the dismay of my friends who like certain shows or games, I will be in on it at first but then BOOM no longer interested)...
    They (doctors, teachers, etc) try to make me take medicine for it (some kind of upper) but lo-and-behold how the f do you think you're going to get someone with ADHD as bad as I have to consistently take a pill? Lol
    Though I tend to alienate and irritate my friends with my annoying hyperactivity or lack of focus, I always try to look at it in the positive light- I can't get addicted to anything because I lose interest too quickly!
    So there's that...

  11. Wow, thank you for sharing that.
    I can identify a lot, addiction is rife on my fathers side of the family. And in my own immediate family there are 6 of us and 4 of us are addicts. It definitely seems to run in families.

    You are so brave to deal with all this, so strong,
    I hope that you find happiness,
    Reach for your dreams

    Sending you lots of love x

  12. Hey my friends I tell you some tips. As you may know, I am now a recovery coach here at Bulimia Help. My recovery inspires me every day to continue sharing the message that a lifelong recovery is possible and within your reach. In order to accomplish this, you have to let go of those thoughts and false beliefs that are holding you back.


Thank you for leaving some love x