Stereotypes (and Misunderstandings) of Eating Disorders

The last week or so I have spent some time thinking about some of the stereotypes and perhaps misunderstandings that surround eating disorders. I think part of these thoughts have arisen from my own issues in admitting to others that I have an eating disorder.

First, let me say that it’s extremely weird to say that out loud, or even in my own head. It’s weird to think that I have an eating disorder, or to even type it here. Although I have never been officially diagnosed, nor have I ever sought diagnosis, I do exhibit all predefined symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder except for purging. Regardless, whether I have a clinical diagnosis or not, I do know from my own patterned behavior that my eating is disordered.

I remember the first time I thought to myself, “I might actually have an eating disorder”, I paused in reflection, only to look in the mirror and think to myself how absurd that sounds because I am not underweight, I am overweight. I suppose I always assumed that having an eating disorder meant you were malnourished and underweight, but I recognize now that isn’t always the case. In fact, in recent years a variety of different eating disorders have been newly recognized, to include Orthorexia and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID.

This long-held assumption made it difficult for me to tell others about my issues and extremely difficult for me to even admit it publicly, through this blog, because I figured no one would believe me or take me seriously.

In talking to others about my experience and eating disorders in general, I also started to realize that some people tend to forget that even though it is an eating disorder it is still associated with mental health. In my case, food has become an addiction and a vice. I am addicted to it, because I use it to make me feel better about different things in my life. I am also addicted (in a different way, I think… and that will have to be addressed in a separate post) to certain foods, namely those high in sugar.

Addiction to food is a tricky thing. If one is addicted to cigarettes, the ultimate goal is to quit smoking them. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, the ultimate goal is to quit using those substances. We can’t quit eating food though. It is a necessity. And I often find myself wishing I didn’t have to eat or think about or deal with food, because it would make things so much easier to manage. So instead of quitting the substance I am addicted to, I instead will have to find a way to live with it in some capacity that is healthy and not damaging to me.. and that is what I need to figure out how to do.