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As you read last week, I was recently ranked as the Number Three Best Eating Disorder Recovery Blog of 2019 by HealthLine, one of the top health information providers. And so in the spirit of that recognition, I thought it would be timely to debunk some of the most common myths about eating disorders.
Here’s the thing about eating disorders: they are so misunderstood. They are so often the butt end of insensitive jokes. There are deep seeded stereotypes that cast this shadow of shame over the sufferers, myself included. And all of this misinformation and harmful preconceived notions surrounding them, makes it truly difficult to offer meaningful and productive support.
So let’s just dive in, shall we? And debunk some of the most common myths about Eating Disorders.
TO WATCH THIS AS A VIDEO: CLICK HERE
It’s a rich white girl disease.
Let’s face it: when people envision in their minds, a person suffering from an eating disorder, it’s always a teenaged, pretty, affluent, white girl with crippling perfectionism and an acclivity towards self absorption. Which, let’s be real — yeah, that’s definitely a large population of eating disorder sufferers. But not all. Eating disorders don’t see race, gender, economic status, nationality, creed – it is a mental illness who’s impact spans all backgrounds and communities.
From personal experience, I can tell you that at the inpatient treatment facility where I spent three months, there were all types of women there. From different backgrounds, countries, socio-economic statuses. There were women who came in heavily addicted to drugs, there were people who’s families had to refinance their homes to be able to afford inpatient treatment. There were all different ethnicities present. Were the majority of women from “financially-comfortable” caucasian families? Yes. But not all.
It’s a diet gone wrong.
This mindset about an eating disorder is so harmful because it makes it seem as though it’s a phase or just a “brush off” episode of teen angst. When the reality is that it’s never about a diet at all. The diet merely is a manifestation of the internal brokenness that is the source of the eating disorder.
She can just “snap out of it,” because ultimately, it’s a choice.
Like the previous myth, this mentality that she is choosing this “lifestyle choice” and that she needs to just “snap out of it.” This is by far, the most destructive and most distorted mindset about eating disorders. They say that an eating disorder is not about the food and it’s not about the weight. And from an outsider’s perspective, that seems the most illogical and most counterintuitive. But it is precisely the situation.
As much as loved one want to just “snap her out of it,” believing that her destructive behavior and harmful actions are a choice she’s making, the reality is that those behavior and actions are merely symptoms and manifestations of what’s going on inside. Deep inside, she believes to her core, “The Lie” that is influencing these destructive behaviors. The Lie is different for everyone, but it always falls in the vein of: Not being good enough; Being a burden; Being unloved; Not being worthy of love; Being worthless.
And to her deepest core, she believes it. It’s this demonic tape that plays over, and over, and over. Berating her, morning and night. It is the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up, and last thing that taunts her to sleep. And sadly, try as you might, no doctor, no parent, no friend, no therapist, no priest can just “snap her out of it.” The only person who can do that is her. She’s got to silence the Lie. She’s got to renounce that Lie and muffle its incessant clamoring. And the only true source of strength for breaking free and silencing that Lie…is Jesus.
She is obsessed with her looks/vain.
I’m going to tell you something that may surprise you. Eating disorders, though they seem from the outside to be the result of “extreme self absorption” quickly and severely switch to the perverse opposite.
Maybe I should share some of my own personal history with this one: During my anorexia, I was so ashamed of my body. I hated it. I thought that my emaciated, skeletal, 78 pound frame matched the interior darkness and ugliness of my black soul. And I felt I deserved to be so hideous. (Again, tying into The Lie). And all I wanted to do was hide my body. So that’s why you will see girls with anorexia hiding under layers of baggy clothes. Yes, because they’re always cold, but mainly because they want to disappear into the background and hide away their shame, that they are literally embodying.
Only girls can get eating disorders.
This is absolutely a myth! Though most ED sufferers are women, roughly 10% of sufferers are male. And that number is on the rise recently. With hyper focus on Instagram, and dramatic diet fads, men and boys are also vulnerable to body dysmorphia and eating disorders.
Body positivity is necessary for recovering.
This is an unpopular opinion, but I am not on the “Body Positivity Train.” There are some camps of people in recovery that preach the Body Positivity “bible” but I am not one. Mainly because, when I was truly recovering, and weight restoring, “loving” my body wasn’t even on my radar. I still hated my body. And in order to fully recover, I had to see myself as more than my body. I was a soul in a body. I had to see the divine purpose of my body: as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. My body became my act of worship. I didn’t recover because all of a sudden I woke up one day and decided to “Love My Curves” or “Love Myself.” No ma’am.
You cannot recover without going to inpatient. (Minnie Maud)
There is a camp of recovery warriors who adhere to “MinneMaud.” It’s an evidence-based recovery approach, who’s name comes from the Minnesota ((Minnie)) Starvation Experiment, and the Family Based Treatment — aka MAUDsley Protocol. The guidelines are simple: eat a MINIMUM of 3,000 per day, (you’re encouraged to eat way more), no food is off limits, no restricting, no weighing yourself, and absolutely no exercise. It has a rabid, cult-like following online. And many people swear by this “at-home” style of treatment.
And unpopular opinion alert: I have a few qualms about it. To put it simply:
1) ReFeeding syndrome is a real, potentially fatal condition. To go from a state of severe starvation to putting on weight is a very delicate thing that needs to be monitored. Just think about it: the malnourished girl’s heart is so compromised because as a muscle – the starving body has been using its own muscles as fuel to keep the girl alive. So the deteriorated heart is doing everything it can just to stay alive. So to just all of a sudden overload it with a massive influx of calories could send it into cardiac arrest and be fatal. So there is a strategic method to trickling in — initially — the calories. This was why, at inpatient, I had to sleep at the nurse’s station for the first 2 weeks, and get my vitals monitored around the clock, to make sure I wasn’t entering refeeding syndrome. So to attempt to navigate that scary water without proper medical supervision — that’s a no from me, dog.
2) Secondly, I don’t like the MinnieMaud method because it puts parents in the role of “Food Police.” It is not the parents’ job to be the Bad Cop in regards to food, as counterintuitive as that seems. But ultimately, it creates this nearly-irreconcilable relationship around food. During recovery, parents should be there to love and support their child through it — not being the Food Police — that is the job of the nurses at an inpatient facility. Because real talk: the eating disorders cause girls to be sneaky, manipulative and deceptive – and they all have “tricks” to make it look like they ate, or cleaned their plate or what have you. Boy, do I have some stories from inpatient. But that is territory for a stern nurse that will draw a hard and firm line. Not a parent that is, frankly, easily manipulated.
3) Lastly, with how entrenched I was in my disease, I simply would not have been able to adhere to the 3,000 calorie guidelines, nor would I have branched off of my “safe foods.” And let’s face it: you can’t reach the calorie goal with diet yogurt and dry oatmeal.
OK THIS IS GETTING LENGTHY — TIME FOR SOME RAPID FIRE:
Athletes can’t get eating disorders.
Absolutely false. In fact, at inpatient, I was with a professional swimmer, former professional figure skater, and there were two gymnasts in the program as well. Sports that are so hyper focused on body mass and size in general, are breeding grounds for eating disorder. Especially when it comes to exercise addiction.
Starving yourself is the only “real” eating disorder.
Nope! Anorexia Nervosa is what people most commonly think of in terms of eating disorders. But there’s also: Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) and Compulsive Exercise. For more indepth information, visit NEDA.
You have to have a feeding tube in order to recover.
Nope! Though many do, not all choose to. I didn’t use one!
You have to be emaciated to have an eating disorder.
Again, definitely not! EDs come in all shapes and sizes.
Once you’re weight restored, you’re “healed.”
This one is really really important. In my humble, non-medical doctor, non-therapist, non-dietician opinion, once you’re weight restored, your true recovery has only just begun. And dare I say it: the mental recovery from an eating disorder is much harder than the physical. And that’s coming from someone who had over 30 pounds to gain! Because in order to truly recover, you’ve got to silence that Lie. You’ve got to silence it and replace it with the Truth, or else it will just manifest itself in other ways again and again and again — if not in ED relapse, then in your relationships with others, or alcohol, or codependency, or you name it. Just like the eating disorder isn’t about “the weight” – neither is the recovery. Yes, it is necessary to be weight restored, but the internal restoration is equally – if not more – vital for healing. And to that end — recovery is a way of life for the rest of your life. You will always have to choose to listen to the Truth and silence the Lie. Every. damn. day.
If you relapse, you’ve failed.
This might be an unpopular opinion, and let me preface by repeating my non-medical, non-therapist, non-dietician place in this world, and say: that recovery is a long and winding road. It is truly a journey, and for many, if not most — myself included — relapse is part of that process.
There will be days, perhaps even seasons, where “The Lie” can slip in here and there, and perhaps even regain control. But the important thing is to use everything – good and bad — as an opportunity for growth. And to wake up every morning and rededicate your life to living in the Freedom of Recovery.
You can’t be vegan and “truly” recovered.
This one is tricky because you have to look and see where the motivation is coming from. If she’s vegan because it’s just another way to exercise her eating disorder in a “socially acceptable” way — then absolutely not. You’ve got to root that demon out by the gonads. But, yes, it is possible to be truly recovered and vegan. But you’ve got to really examine the motives and stay diligent in your recovery.
Eating disorders are caused by insensitive parents
Last but certainly not least, this myth is false, false, false. So if you’re a parent and reading this — feeling like you’re out of options, out of hope, and carrying around this crippling guilt of “What Could I Have Done Differently?” — I want to just pause, give you a hug, and tell you to just let that go. Truly, take a deep breath and let it go. Because just like you can’t “snap her out of it“…you didn’t “snap her into it” either. Eating disorders are influenced by a number of different both biological and environmental factors — having EDs run in families, or family history of mental illness, or other food-related diseases…like in my case: Ulcerative Colitis, where it physically hurt to eat at times.
But other risk factors that influence the development of an eating disorder, are things like perfectionism, bullying or abuse, depression. And even still – societal pressures – through advertisements, or social media. Magazine covers or conventional “beauty standards” all influence the development.
Yes, “father hunger” is a real and very strong commonality among many sufferers of eating disorders, insensitive parenting does not “cause” an eating disorder.
So there you have it. I hope that this may have been helpful or illuminating. Eating disorders are about so much more than the number on a scale or the food on a plate. And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can offer compassion, love, and effective support to those who need it most.
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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109 responses to “Debunking the Myths of Eating Disorders – VIDEO!”
That was valuable.
Maybe the disease the REST of us need to be cured from, is Need to Be the One to Say Something-itis. Why are we in such a rush to diagnose causes or offer solutions when God knows far better the labyrinth of the soul involved? Shutupandlisten-myacin is a good prescription for this, followed quickly by calling the Great Physician next week in prayer.
(And I’m really bad about those very things, so don’t hear me acting superior to anyone on this.)
Thanks so much Brandon. That’s a great point. Love your play on words too! He’s truly the best physician!! Hugs and love xox
Thank you friend. I appreciate you stopping by! 🙂 Hugs and love xox
I like the specific way you handled the myths here. It was helpful to read them all, and I don’t mind that it was longer than usual.
Hi Melissa, thank you so much for taking the time to read – I really appreciate it. You are a beautiful soul – understanding is so important for compassion! big hugs xox
Thank you for this very eye opening post. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I have Bipolar 1, and wow the similarities and what you had to do to get well sound a lot like what I have been through. Including the stuff about shame, needing professionals to help you, as well as all of the myths and stigmas surrounding it.
I really appreciate you sharing your story like this. <3
thank you so much for sharing your story and for taking the time to read this. I’m so glad this resonated with you. You’re right – we need to share the truth! big hugs to you x
Yes – sharing our stories is how we end the stigmas, plus it is very healing and helps others who are struggling.
Hugs to you too!! 🙂
that’s so true!!!! amen! xox
Wow you open me up with thoughts I quit Pepsi six months ago that was my addiction and working on the chocolate I do water aerobics and eat less at least trying to I have big eyes for food being bipolar doesn’t help because I can’t fast so I’m eat veggies and small amount of food and yes people aren’t always nice good job explaining the trouble of eating disorder
thank you friend, keep your eyes forward and keep fighting. thanks for sharing your story. big big hugs xox
Hugs to you also
🐈🐕my joy is my cat and dog they help me allot keep up the good job
that’s awesome – furry friends are truly gifts from above! 🙂
Yes they are
Thank you so, so much for sharing these! This is so informative and will help so many people understand eating disorders better!
Again – I appreciate this so much!
Hi Nyxie! Aw thank you so much, so glad you enjoyed the piece. I appreciate you taking the time to read it! Hugs and love xox
Very informative post.
thank you so much 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to read it. big hugs xo
You’re welcome. I enjoy reading your posts. Big hugs to you, too xo Mary
✨💛✨ have a great night Mary 🙂
I Love this post! I’m gonna share it on my counseling FB page. I love that you debunked the myth that it’s a female disease. I’m currently reading a novel, “The year I Didn’t eat” and it’s about a 14 boy with anorexia. It’s really good so far https://amzn.to/2DsNrro.
Hi Johnzelle! Oh I would be honored if you shared it! Thank you so much. Wow – sounds like an interesting book! Hugs and love xox
[…] https://beautybeyondbones.com/2019/04/22/debunking-the-myths-of-eating-disorders/ […]
Hey Tonya! Thanks for the link up! Hope your week is off to s great start! Hugs and love xox
While your focus was on eating disorders, a lot of those myths affect addictions and different kinds of emotional illness. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Michael, I appreciate you taking the time to read it. There are definitely some overarching themes that hold true for sure! Hugs and love xox
The black ravens linger;
sent to be a ringer
They flap and caw;
Against the natural law
Sent to incite, to invoke, and to choke,
to declare ‘I am still here’
The shadow of your flesh
Thanks Ben for sharing this poem. Thought provoking ! Hugs and love xox
It’s finished.. Check it out. Somehow, I went to comment about your recent post, and this churned out. Born from your attack@planned parenthood, and the relentless spiritual attacks of this day
… Which formed the storm- THE RAVENS ARRIVE.
Oh wow – that is incredible
“The diet merely is a manifestation of the internal brokenness that is the source of the eating disorder.”
Wow… that’s deep. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you friend 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to read it! Hugs and love xox
Praying for you, dearest Caralyn! Way to let God use you!
And congrats on your # 3 spot! May the Lord continue to bless your blog.
Hi to mom! 😉
Thank you Gail, that’s so kind of you to say. And yes! I will tell my mother hello!! 🙂 thanks for being awesome. Hugs and love xox
Thank you for this extremely informative post. I once lived with an anorexic and she was vegan too but when she cured herself she stopped being one.
Thanks Athena, for taking the time to read. Yeah, veganism can be tricky when it comes to recovery, because many use it as an “out” to continue living a restricted life. Glad you stopped by. Hugs and love xox
I have a friend while not anorexic eats a vegan Keto diet.
Yeah that’s certainly tough!!
Back in the 50’s I used to go shopping with my mother. There were different shops. like the butcher shop the veg shop the bread shop. And buying food was a routine, you knew exactly what you needed to buy and in what quantities, for the week. Supermarkets have taken away those small special shops where you would buy what you need without being overwhelmed by the big indulgency of the supermarket sell, I miss those little shops.
Hi friend, thanks so much for sharing that. How interesting. Yeah that sounds like an ideal way of life! Hugs and love xox
Great article. This was very informative for me. Thank you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to check it out, I really appreciate that. Hope you have a great week. Hugs and love xox
Always insightful and informative. Thanks dear for sharing as always
Thank you Austin, I really appreciate that. Hugs and love xox
Thank you for shedding the myths!
Thanks Gerry! I surely hope so!! Glad you stopped by 🙂 Hugs and love xox
Great Post! We all have vices in our life and it shows our strength and will when we are able to overcome these negatives.
Thank you Byron, you’re so right about that. Thanks for taking the time to read! Hugs and love xox
Really informative post. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us because I feel like I learned so much from it.
Thank you so much Raney, I do appreciate you taking the time to read it. That’s what our stories are for! To share with one another! Hugs and love xox
Yess! Congratulations on being recognized as a great eating disorder recovery blog. This is great information. I always enjoy reading your blogs <3
Hi Rachel, thank you so much for your kind words – I appreciate you taking the time to read! hope you have a great week! hugs xo
I feel like in Christian circles there’s another version of the “snap out of it” myth that says, “if she just read the Bible more/had more faith she’d be fine.” I had a friend in college who had struggled for years with anorexia. She was finally trying to get help for herself through the Emily Program, but two of her guy friends, who obviously don’t understand eating disorders at all, told her she didn’t need all that; she just needed to read the Bible more and have more faith. I’ve heard the same thing directed at me about my struggle with depression and anxiety, and it’s sad. It’s pretty much the same thing as saying that if you struggle with a mental illness, you’re not a good enough Christian, which isn’t true and just feeds into the lies of shame and perfectionism and self-hatred.
Hi Hope, thank you so much for sharing you thoughts on this! you’re right – there are a lot of misconceptions around it. And you’re right- the two are not congruent! There needs to be more compassion and support for sure. thanks for stopping by! big hugs oxx
Yes, yes, yes. My favorite points: body positivity is NOT required for recovery and weight restoration does NOT equal healing. These two have been so pertinent for my recovery process. Bringing my soul to recovery has been so much more important. I have been weight restored for a while, and in fact this has only led to MORE challenges in recovery not sudden healing.
THank you so much 🙂 You’re right! bringing the soul to recovery — i love how you put that! amen – so important! Way to go, warrior! cheering for you in your recovery! hugs xo
I checked this out on insta the other day. you’re super powerful and relatable when you’re speaking on camera, especially when you’re passionate about the subject. let us know when the talk show deal comes through ya
Oh my gosh Nathan, you’re so kind for saying that. i am seriously smiling from ear to ear right now. Thank you for watching. big hugs xox
You have a way of presenting material that makes sense. You are more that any man could hope for.
As a side-bar,
I have a problem with girls who have photos of themselves with another woman. Who knows, they may offer a directed thought to the photo-mate. This is not critical, just an observation. You are the best.
Thanks so much, I really appreciate you watching! and thanks for such kind words. hugs xox
Having read your blog from the beginning, I had a leg up on this article. Still, it makes a great refresher for me and a wonderful primer for those not familiar. Well handled throughout! I can see from many of the comments that this was much-needed. Keep up the great work, my friend!
Hey Jeff! Thank you so much – yeah you’ve become well versed in this! thanks for the encouragement – yeah I pray that it falls into the hands that need it. hope you and Julie had a beautiful easter! hugs xox
We did. I hope you enjoyed yours with family, eh?
Oh good! Yes! I did! I’m actually still in Ohio with them! Hooray!
There’s a reason why this blog received that important recognition – and this post is proof. I have never learned so much from just one post. God bless you for the many lives you must have saved and will continue to.
Thank you so much CaitlynneGrace, gosh what a kind thing to say. Thank you for taking the time to read! Big hugs to you xox
Hugs and love for all you’ve done to recover and also to educate!! God Bless you every day!! xoxoxoxo
Thanks Miguel!! Hope you had a beautiful Easter! Hugs and love xox
I did. We took my daughter to NYC and Boston to visit Brooklyn College and Emerson College. She wants to go into script writing for films and they both have script writing majors.
I was able to go to church on Good Friday. We got home on Holy Saturday just in time for Easter Hugssssssssssss!!! <3 <3
oh that’s so exciting! what an awesome job 🙂 GLad you had a blessed weekend with family! hugs xox
These are SO SO important and I’m so glad you addressed them!!!
Thanks so much Georgia! Big hugs to you xox
so so soo well written & important as always. Thank you for writing this <3
Thanks so much Mackenzie! I really appreciate you taking the time to read! Big hugs to you xox
Nicely done! You are very honest, kind, transparent, and humble. Nice combination. The blog was informative and friendly. Keep us the good work. Faith is a good thing too.
Thank you so much Joe! I appreciate that! Amen – faith is so important! Hugs and love xox
Nicely done! You were informative and friendly. You were honest, transparent, and kind. Good job. Faith is always a good thing.
About the brokenness: broken grain produces bread … broken soil, a crop … Christ uses broken things. x Tony
That is so beautiful – thank you Tony. big hugs xox
Thank you for posting this! I’m a part of that 10% that is male. Honestly, if I had not gone through it myself, I’d probably believe a lot of these myths. But, being on this side of an eating disorder, it’s hard to believe that people can still buy into these.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. So glad you’re enjoying the freedom of a life without ED!!! big hugs to you xox
One week you are heckling women at Planned Parenthood, and the next you are playing the role of someone in recovery. I have a hard time taking you seriously.
Heckling? I never said one word to anyone going in or out of PP. I was simply standing across the street silently praying. If you didn’t look twice you would have thought I was waiting for my Uber.
And playing the role? I’ve been strong in recovery for 11 years from a disease that almost took my life. I was 78 pounds. I nearly died.
We don’t agree on politics and that is fine. There is more to a person than their political beliefs. ThAt is how i choose to love people. I respect you and your views. I have been nothing but civil and courteous. Do the same, Megan.
Very informative and way beyond what I knew before about eating disorders. Your practice has paid off and you have become a very good public speaker. I can see the many hours of practice that went into who you now are. You inspire me to reach higher.
thanks for taking the time to read!!!! hugs xo
Your posts are really great. Very helpful. Thanks!
Thank you again 🙂 youre on a reading roll! hahah hugs xox
You have a very sweet voice. I appreciate how open you are about ED. And informative. I don’t feel like a failure when I binge eat at times. I am disappointed in myself when I do, but I forgive myself and move on.
I started with sneak eating foods for comfort when I was 6. I have been an emotional eater all of my life. Later, I also developed binge eating.
And YES! Lord Jesus is THE only way to heal. Recovery is a long road but it is a road I am thankful to be on. With your strong faith, I believe you will 🙂
I love you and your precious heart <3
Hi Jackie! Oh my gosh, thank you so much for taking the time to watch the video and for your kind words! Amen – He is the only way to truly heal. Cheering for you in your recovery, warrior!! thanks so much for sharing your heart! big big hugs xox
Thank you so much lovely
This was such an eye opener . It’s sad the myths that are out there on this subject . Thank you for clarifying this. Hugs to you🙂
You are seriously a reading CHAMP!!! 🙂 thank you so much for taking the time to read. Yeah, there’s a lot of false preconceived noions about eating disorders. trying to clear them up:) big hugs xox
Thank you! I’ve been wanting to read your post so I’m catching up now . It’s really sad how society focus is how you should look . So out of control. This was such a great post on the myths .
I so agree – understanding is critical for compassion! big hugs xox
Thank you! Also have dealt with an ed. Glad to see this being discussed so openly and thoroughly.
Hi Liz, thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I hope to fight the stigma! big hugs xox