Misperceptions & Eating Disorders

assume-dontI think it’s safe to say that most of our community here is aware that you don’t need to be skinny to have an eating disorder.

Likewise, most of our community here  knows that someone who is thin doesn’t necessarily have an eating disorder.

Yet these (like my post yesterday about race and EDs) are misperceptions that are out there, misperceptions that run rampant in the media.

Because the stereotype for an eating disorder tends to be someone who is stick-thin and bony, many women are ignored by their doctors or therapists because they’re “too heavy” to have an ED.

Hell, it was only a year ago that I even learned what “ED-NOS” (eating disorder, not otherwise specified) was.

And when I realized that I certainly fell into that category, it was a real wake-up call.

Call me narcissistic (or pathetic), but when I began blogging, I used to wonder if people who found my blog and then saw a picture of me thought, “Well she’s not skinny, she can’t possibly have a problem!” or “She can’t possibly spend hours upon hours at the gym! She’s not even thin!”

And sometimes I still wonder if there’s that element of surprise when people who know me (in real life) find out my “secret” (which isn’t so secretive anymore, clearly!) … that you don’t have to be thin to be a disordered eater. Or an over-exerciser.

The thing is, I know better now. Perhaps most importantly, I know it’s narcissistic to think anyone really cares … but I also know it’s wrong to make assumptions about EDs/DE issues, period.

I know now that roughly 60 percent of women struggle with disordered eating.

I know now that adjectives are just that: descriptors. Some women with EDs are bony, some are skinny, some are thin, some are fit, some are athletic, some are average, some are chubby, some are overweight, some are heavy, some are obese.

Yes, some people are genetically more prone to fall victim to the disease. But ultimately, just by looking at someone, one can’t really classify an individual as having an ED or not having an ED.

This is why I really appreciated Monica Seles’s book, Getting a Grip. You can read my review here. She helped squash some misperceptions out there, and shed light on binge eating disorder: something not too often talked about in the public sphere. She’s a professional athlete, and even she wasn’t spared from disordered eating issues.

How about you? What misperceptions do you have about people with EDs? Has there been anyone in your life you’ve been surprised to discover battles an ED/has DE issues? If you are the one battling or recovered from an ED/DE issues, were people surprised when they found out?


19 thoughts on “Misperceptions & Eating Disorders

  1. I know what ya mean! Even when I was deep into my ED people didn’t seem to notice all that much. Now, when I tell people I’m recovering from an ED they’re surprised because I’m no longer super thin (I’m now a healthy 120+ from an unhealthy 97lbs). It’s crazy how much we as humans, base our opinions of others (and ourselves) on outer appearance. Maybe one day this will change…

  2. 60 % suffer from ED?! I guess I was one of those people who assumed if you were thin you had an eating disorder. Wow, I’m not alone.

  3. I was never “diagnosed” with an eating disorder, but I know that I definitely have one, and struggle with it still. I had a combination of a binge eating disorder, and starving myself, but it usually wasn’t as excessive as anorexia. I was very self-absorbed with food, and had a lot of food issues.

    1. Lori, it’s so frustrating when there is no clinical diagnosis but you know you have a problem and want to work through it. It’s hard when you’re still struggling, but it sounds like you’re working through it. One day at a time!

      1. Amanda,Thanks so much for your costum template. I just updated my site with your template (and costumized it of course)…looks so much better!Keep up the great work.JimGLuxe.net

  4. People told me I had an ED before I realized it (or admitted it to myself) because I had lost so much weight. I just brushed it off as they were “jealous” or over-reacting. But as more and more people voiced their concerns I was forced to confront it and admit it to myself and others.

    I was suprised to find out a friend was buillimic. She was a bit heavy but never talked about her body or weight as most women do. I always assumed she was comfy in her skin (and admired her for it) but then found out she had dealt with purging for years.

    1. I was told that, too, Lara … not so much for the weight loss in my case, but for my behaviors/compulsions — it takes a while to see it in ourselves, ya know?

      It’s sad to me when I hear stuff like that; just goes to show, you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.

  5. I see this misconception all the time — that having an ED means you’re skin and bones. Um, no. There are times I’ve felt “more anorexic” at a higher weight. It’s a mindset. Attaching moral judgments to food, worrying about food, planning/counting obsessively… that is eating disordered and I don’t care what weight is attached to the person with those thoughts. Part of the struggle for me is remembering that recovery from anorexia isn’t just about gaining weight. I really WISH it was that easy. It’s a whole mindset.

    The misconception that bugs me most is that eating disorders are driven by vanity. While our culture may be triggering and provide ammo for someone already into ED thinking, I don’t think eating disorders have much to do with vanity. I’m well aware that I would look BETTER if I gained weight. And, at my healthy/pre-anorexia weight, I was considered “thin.” I think eating disorders are much more complex and have a lot to do with self-esteem and feeling in control of one’s life. They’re not viewed that way in the media though. I think that’s why there’s so much stigma. One of the main reasons I don’t tell people of my struggles is that I think they’ll assume I’m just trying to look like a model. Yeah right!

  6. When my friends/family knew I was anorexic, they voiced their concerns to me all the time. I guess I took this to be because I was bony and gauntly thin. But when I gained the weight back and became bulimic, the concerns weren’t voiced nearly as often – if at all. It’s as though people saw me at a normal weight, and assumed I was just “okay.” When actually, I was being incredibly destructive to my body.

    When I was first diagnosed (10+ years ago), it was all about anorexia/bulimia. But I think people forget about binge eating disorder, and I’m glad to see it’s gaining more attention lately. I see so many people struggle with this (myself included!), and yet because they maintain a “normal weight,” it goes overlooked.

  7. Hey, I might have told you already(?) but on your recommendation I read Monica Seles’ book. It was a great read so thanks for posting about it!

  8. this is an excellent post lissa. EXCELLENT! age is another misconception. when i first sought treatment for my ED i was 24 years old. the doctor said, “arent you a little old for anorexia? isnt that mostly a teenager thing?” i did not go back to that doctor, needless to say. the past 4 years, ive heard a similar phrase 3 or 4 more times from other doctors. hideous!

  9. So interesting about age being a discriminating factor, too, Clare. It’s amazing how people buy into stereotypes–even docs. I hope after all your efforts, you found someone who believed you & listened.

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