Oh yeah, I used to be anorexic too

“Oh yeah, I used to be anorexic too”

I’m sorry, but no. You didn’t.

I’m not trying to be mean. I’m not ignoring the prevalence, severity, and potential danger of extreme dieting and disordered eating habits. But society seems to have a huge misunderstanding of what an eating disorder actually is. I’ve had people say things to me like “I used to be anorexic, but then I realized how unhealthy I was and I turned it around.” Or “I had an eating disorder for a couple months, but then I decided to stop.” I realize that comments like these are said with the intent to inspire and encourage, but honestly, it’s insulting. It’s like telling someone with brain cancer that you understand what they’re going through because you had a concussion once.

I could show you numbers and statistics. I could show you the research and argue my point. But that’s boring and I’m not a scientist or a psychologist. (If you’re interested, just head over to edbites.com). I can just say from my own experience and research, that eating disorders are a lot more uncommon and a lot more serious than people think.

First of all, there’s disordered-eating, which is actually very different from an eating disorder. Disordered eating can be a reaction to trauma, an attempt to control stressful circumstances, or the result of poor self-confidence and body image. It’s widespread in today’s culture. It’s why girls start dieting at 8 years old. It’s why people skip meals in order to keep their weight in check. Disordered eating can and often does include fasting, binging, purging, and obsession with body image…all the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia…but it doesn’t mean the person has an eating disorder.

Eating disorders look a bit different. An eating disorder is a mental illness that causes serious physical harm and is potentially fatal. Unlike disordered eating, someone with anorexia or bulimia does not choose to engage in such behaviors. Eating disorders aren’t about control, or family issues, or whatever else Dr. Phil has told you. Eating disorders are about trying to silence the noise in one’s head that gets increasingly louder in reaction to food.  In order to keep anxiety at bay, the patient will withdraw from social activities, hide food, and develop rigid “food rules.”

Here’s another way to look at it: many people drink alcohol. But not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.

Similarly, not everyone with disordered eating habits has an eating disorder.

However, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two; disordered eating can look a lot like an eating disorder. In the end, I know an eating disorder when I see one.

Both issues are important. Both issues deserve attention and action. But it’s well, hurtful, when someone believes that their extreme diet plan is equivalent to my best friend’s 6-year long battle with this illness. Preventing disordered eating, particularly in young girls, is something I am seriously passionate about. But I’m also passionate about shedding light on the world of eating disorders and giving sufferers the treatment they deserve.

9 thoughts on “Oh yeah, I used to be anorexic too

  1. That is one of the best posts yet! I absolutely agree and it needs to be told. You’re amazing and beautiful:)

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. This is so true! I don’t understand why people are constantly trying to diminish the severity of eating disorders. They are so much more than people realize and I really think it takes a past sufferer to really understand another. Great post!!

  3. Dear Sarah, I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through the hell of anorexia. I really can’t. I admire you and your co-sufferers for the strength and courage it takes to fight against that voice in your head and chose life. I agree with you that eating disorders are different from disordered eating. But I want to make one point clear: someone, who’s eating habits are disordered, can’t just quit these habits and start eating “normal” again. These people do suffer as well. I’ve had messed up eating habits my whole life, even as a kid, when I didn’t care about weight and stuff, I refused to eat when other people where watching me and felt like I had to throw up when I got to full. I’ve been surrounded by skinny girls with the weirdest eating habits at my figure skating club that really affected me. I’ve started to restrict and binge, weigh myself up to 10 times a day, cry in front Of the mirror. But I never developed a “real” eating disorder (thank god!). I don’t want to insult anyone or diminish the severity of anorexia or bulimia, but I want to point out that disordered eating is dangerous as well. At least the mental aspect. My social life is basically gone, because I avoid occasions where I have to eat with my friends. No, I don’t starve myself at home (most of the time), but I like to stick to my “safe” foods. I get that this is in no way as bad as what you’ve gone through and still are, but people like me feel so lost as well, because we aren’t taken seriously. I know I’m talking weird stuff and I have no idea, if I got my point across. Anyway, I hope you will succeed in recovery more and more so you can have the gorgeous life you deserve. Stay strong!

    1. Anna, thank you for your encouragement and for sharing your story. Everything that you described about your life sounds like a full-blown eating disorder to me, and I would really recommend that you get help from a doctor/nutritionist and a therapist. Remember that an eating disorder does not mean that you starve yourself all the time; an eating disorder is a mental illness and there is a huge range of severity as far as what people with eating disorders eat. What you described sounds just like me when I was sick, so again, I would really encourage you to get help. And if you want to talk more please email me 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing your post. I agree disordered eating is different from a eating disorder. Disordered eating seems to be temporary and seems to be something someone is making a conscious decision about and controlling. Whereas in my experience I did not even noticed I was having a eating disorder until people told me comments like “Hey Tina eats so little.” “She doesn’t eat much” etc… rather I became self-conscious of eating less. I experienced anorexia when I was 12-14. Some family members told me I looked chubby and my close cousin whom I hung out with a lot of naturally thin and therefore I was compared to her a lot. I started limiting my eating and exercising a lot at home. I started doing a lot of sit ups and just eating less and soon it became a habit and lifestyle. I just didn’t feel hungry anymore and I started feeling self-conscious eating in front of other people. I became very very thin and all during the period of time when I was suppose to be growing. Therefore today I am not very tall, but since then I have recovered and eat more normally. People started commenting on how I didn’t eat and my family physician commented on how I wasn’t growing when normally girls my age are growing at that point. I learned about anorexia beginning of high school, started researching on it and noticed I had the symptoms. I started observing other people and how they ate and Slowly, I started forcing myself to eat more. It was definitely forcing myself and felt un-natural at the time. Even today, when I’m 25 whenever I am stressed I eat less, I skip meals, it is almost a sense of control. But whenever that happens, I’m scared I will revert back to anorexia. . . it was definitely unhealthy. I had no energy, I was depressed, sleeping all they time, low body self-image, it was just dark times. But even after recovery, life can still be scary because there are moments that I feel worried I would slip back although it was many years ago. I wish people could talk about that as well, the moments after recovery when you need the strength to remind yourself how to not treat your body.

    Thank you for you post again!

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