Let’s exorcise those demons and bust those myths! I wanted to shatter these myths that get flung about, against the truth. I hope to help you or your loved ones recover by highlighting the truth.
In order to help yourself understand eating disorders, or for you to help your loved one recover from an eating disorder you must first distinguish from the myths that are whispered around the topic of eating disorders and where the real truth lies within them. If you learn what is a myth and what is the truth that you can look more positivity on the possibilities of recovery, especially seeing as one of the most popular myths is that you can’t recover from them.
Anorexia is not an illness of the body, but an illness of the mind that impacts the physicality and well-being of your body so it cannot be cured by treating the physical symptoms alone. The mind must be treated. Mental illnesses are called ‘Mental’ illnesses because that is what they are mental.
ANOREXIA Myth 1: If an anorexic gains weight, they are recovering.
Truth: Anorexia is a mental illness, like depression. The sufferers mental progress can’t be measured numbers on a scales. While there are physical symptoms, anorexia is a disease of the mind. Also, anorexics are expert tricking wizards, water-loading and holding stones in their pockets or bras will show weight gain on the scales but may not be true. So, remember if you treat the mind, the mind will treat the body. It is hard to trust an anorexic, so simply don’t until they have exposed to you their desire to get better rather than just following orders of “being weighed”.
ANOREXIA Myth 2: Anorexics have ultimate control over their body.
Truth: A lot of suffers refer to their anorexia helping them to feel, ‘in control’ of something because this is how it appears to them. However, this is totally the opposite. They have in fact lost control completely and are wrapped so tightly inside an eating disorder that sometimes they can’t control what they do, say or think and have no power over their daily lives.
ANOREXIA Myth 3: Anorexics always try to conceal their weight loss.
Truth: While some anorexics will wear baggy clothes in a bid to conceal their weight loss. Others (like myself) try to draw attention to their skeletal frame, wearing only tight or minimal clothing. In fact the majority of anorexics only begin to wear baggy clothing when they start to gain weight, in a bid to hide their weight gain rather than weight loss, read more about this in Bad body image prison: Prison break chapter ?. ß what is the point here.
ANOREXIA Myth 4: Anorexics only eat salad.
Truth: Possibly the truth that annoys me the most is that anorexics must live on salad. An anorexic will restrict their food intake, they will have fear foods, (what are fear foods?) they will limit themselves to certain foods but the food they choose to eat is irrelevant; it is the restriction and starvation that is the important abnormality in anorexics.
ANOREXIA Myth 5: Anorexia only effects teenage girls.
Truth: I was only a girl in my teenage years when I developed anorexia, this is when the majority of people develop anorexia. It is usually brought on by things such as puberty, beauty images consumed through the media and added pressure to grow up. This doesn’t determine when or who will develop the illness. Anorexia targets anyone who is vulnerable, man or woman, at any age. It is is most commonly found in teenage girls, but no way does this exclude men and the elder generation.
ANOREXIA Myth 6: It is impossible to recover from anorexia.
Truth: The most important truth to this myth buster is right here! Evidence, people, the recovered themselves. While recovering from anorexia is a tough and long journey, it is also a beautiful journey that has beautiful results. However impossible it may feel or look like, never forget that it is possible. Look to role models and recovered anorexics as proof, because it is there, the proof is there.
BULIMIA Myth 1: Bulimics are underweight.
Truth: Bulimics are often overweight rather than underweight or tend to be a normal weight. Bulimia cannot be diagnosed by the weight of the sufferer but instead their behaviours in particular purging.
BULIMIA Myth 2: Someone can be bulimic and anorexic.
Truth: Bulimia and anorexia are two distinctly different illnesses. While they may borrow specific behaviours from one another, like an anorexic purging or a bulimic restricting, the manifest themselves in two totally different ways, physically and psychologically.
BULIMIA Myth 3: Bulimia is ultimately about losing weight.
Truth: Bulimics might be labouring under the false idea that purging will lead to weight loss, BUT what bulimia is ultimately about is their feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame, and self-hate. It is these feelings and emotions that ultimately fuel the disease rather than the goal of weight loss.
BULIMIA Myth 4: Bulimia is less dangerous than anorexia.
Truth: While anorexia does statistically have a higher mortality rate than bulimia, they are both just as dangerous as another. Bulimics won’t die from their weight but most often bulimics will die from heart attacks from having a weak heart, which becomes weaker from the strain vomiting places on the heart. Self-harm is also more common in bulimics than other eating disorders which results in the percentage of self-harming and suicides to be greater in bulimics.
BULIMIA Myth 5: Bulimia is about vanity.
Truth: Bulimia is in a simple context is self-harm. It is developed as a coping mechanism for the sufferer’s difficult emotions as a way of them trying to handle them. It is fuelled by low self-esteem just like every eating disorder. While bulimics may act confident it is simply that, an act.
BULIMIA Myth 7: Bulimics enjoy the food they binge on.
Truth: Bulimics often don’t know what they are bingeing on, it is the habit of bingeing that drives their bingeing rather than the food they may be bingeing on.
In a society where mental illness is becoming more prevalent, we all need to play a role in making this society inclusive for everyone. One of the smallest ways we can do that is by knowing what is true and what is false in regards to mental health. Hopefully, this will information will aid your interactions with people battling with anorexia or bulimia.
By Margherita Barbieri