It’s time to talk about it.
Not only is that the tagline for this year’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week), it’s true. I’m kicking off the week with myths about eating disorders, how they impacted my recovery, and why they’re myths.
Myth: you have to be thin to have an eating disorder.
I didn’t know I had an eating disorder when I was first diagnosed. I didn’t say the words “eating disorder” and definitely not the sentence “I have an eating disorder” for the first month that I was in a program for people with eating disorders. I was living in heavy denial because all I knew about eating disorders was thinness. I thought, in order to have an eating disorder, you have to be emaciated.
I’ve learned since then that my eating disorder was trying to keep itself alive in that way. The truth is, you can have an eating disorder at any weight. I was just as sick at my lowest weight from restricting as I was at my highest weight when I was actively bulimic. Eating disorders do not have a body type, they are a mental illness.
Myth: I’m not sick enough to get help.
I used to say this regularly when anyone in my life expressed concern about my eating behavior. It was highly based in the fact that I didn’t think I was thin enough to have an eating disorder (that first myth is very pervasive). My eating disorder convinced me that other people had struggled more for longer, and therefore I was fine and justified in what I was doing.
Of course, this is never true. If you’re thinking that you aren’t “sick enough,” you’re already sick. There is no part of a healthy person that desires to be ill. At any stage of struggling with food, body image, or literally any part of life, you deserve to get help. If you are struggling with something you do not have to struggle alone and you do not have to let your body show your struggle for you. Let me repeat: if you’re struggling, you deserve to get help.
Myth: Eating disorders are about wanting to be thin.
When my eating disorder started, I was dealing with a lot of things I had never really talked about. Notably, at the time that I was first put in a program, I had realized I wasn’t straight but didn’t feel like that was acceptable. I wanted to disappear so I didn’t have to deal with it. I took my emotional issues out on food, I took my issues with myself out on food, I took my relationship issues out on my food. The food was never the problem and being thin was never the solution, the problem was myself and the solution was punishment.
People have eating disorders for so many different reasons, and there are so many different types of eating disorders. Not only does this invalidate the complex nature of eating disorders, and reduce them to a point of vanity, it invalidates any eating disorder that doesn’t result in being thin. There are eating disorders other than anorexia and eating disorders are never only about being thin. Each person has a reason that they are dealing with an eating disorder, and no reason is invalid.
NEDA has a screening tool on their website if you think you, or someone you know, may be struggling with an eating disorder.
I’ve watched so many wonderful people die from this illness. If you want to talk about it I am always here, because it is definitely time to talk about it.