Eating Disorder Myths


  • They only apply to one type of person, (female, teenager etc). No – they affect all ages, genders, ethnicities. And each person experiences them differently.
  • Sufferers look like in the magazines, (extreme weight loss). No – with bulimia for example, sufferers are usually around a normal weight. And the damage is often hidden/internal.
  • They’re about feeling ‘fat’. This may be a symptom, but the cause is much deeper. For every anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees someone big, there’s another who knows she’s thin but wants to be thinner. Or maybe they don’t think they’re ‘fat’ but instead see one ‘problem area’ they are totally focused upon.
  • People with EDs don’t like food.  Some anorexics are obsessed with cooking for others/food programmes etc as a way of eating vicariously.
  • You should tell them they’re too thin (for the anorexic this can be an encouragement) or too fat (for someone who struggles with binge-eating, they already hate themselves and feel ashamed: they need encouragement and support) or that they ‘don’t look like they’ve got an ED’ (most EDs are not immediately obvious).
  • One ED is ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than another. I’ve spoken to those with EDNOS -(unspecified EDs) who long for a label; binge-eaters who wish they were bulimic;  bulimics who wish they were anorexic and anorexics who want to disappear. They’re all grim in their own unique ways.
  • If someone gains or loses weight, they’re recovered.  No – EDs start in the brain, long before the behaviours. And in my experience, the emotional progress follows the physical – partly because it takes longer to feed the brain than the body.
  • If you look better you need less help. No. Challenging your ED means losing a familiar coping mechanism – this is when you need more help and not less.
  • EDs are ’caused’ by single traumatic events. Not always! Most EDs are the result of many different factors – and some of these can look entirely ordinary.
  • Those with EDs will always hide their weight loss. Some will, but some will draw attention to it.
  • Binge-eating is just greed. No.  It’s about emotional hunger: food as a reward or a comfort or to relieve frustration or boredom or because you don’t feel good enough or a million others things that aren’t just being peckish.
  • Anorexics will only eat celery.  They might eat all sorts of things – it’s not always about the food itself – it’s how they restrict it.
  • If they say they’re ok, then of course they are.  Denial is a feature of most EDs – and not just anorexia.  it’s common for example, for binge-eaters to adopt a ‘confident, larger than life’ persona to convince others they’re okay.
  • Sufferers can’t be helped.  They can.  It takes time and a lot of effort and tears and support.  But they can.



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