Sunday, February 3, 2008

Help for eating disorders is hard to come by

I don't have a problem with the article itself, since I don't know a lot about eating disorders, other than what I've read on some blogs. What I'm wondering about is that shaded area to the right of the article that is listing stats and information for the various types of eating disorders, this piece in particular:
Eating Disorder or Diet?

· Dieting is about losing a little bit of weight in a healthful way. Eating disorders are about trying to make your whole life better through food, or lack of, and eating.

· Dieting is about doing something healthy for yourself. Eating disorders are about seeking approval and acceptance from everyone through negative attention.

· Dieting is about losing a bit of weight and doing it healthfully. Eating disorders are about how life won't be good until a bit, or a lot, of weight is lost, and there's no concern for what kind of damage you do to yourself to get there.

· Dieting is about losing some weight in a healthy way so how you feel on the outside will match how good you already feel on the inside. Eating disorders are about being convinced that your whole self-esteem is hinged on what you weigh and how you look.

· Dieting is about attempting to control your weight a little better. Eating disorders are about attempting to control your life and emotions through food, or lack of food, and are a huge neon sign saying, "Look how out of control I really feel."

Dieting is not about losing weight in a healthy way for any of the reasons stated (at least not for the majority of fat people, I would think). Why do I say this? Simply because of the way diets are shoved at us. It's not about health, it's about some asshat's aesthetics. They don't like looking at fatties, so they better by gawd do anything and everything to get thin, no matter how harmful it is to your health. After all, thin is healthy, and fat is not healthy, so getting thin can't be harmful, right? Guess again asshats. Not even close, no prize for you.
I don't know if the descriptions of what eating disorders are about are accurate either, since the only disordered eating I've ever done has been to go home and eat a huge bag of chips (or box of cookies or whatever) after people have ragged on me about how much I need to lose weight (and I don't do that anymore, I just tell them to fuck off, my body is none of their fucking business).
Do any of you out there have any thoughts on this? I'm interested in hearing what y'all think.


  1. I have qualms about the healthiness of dieting, too, but I think the points raised in the article are important to highlight the serious nature of an eating disorder. Although dieting isn't healthy for anyone, I think most dieters have healthy intentions - whether these intentions are influenced by healthy motivations or not aside.

    It takes a great degree of hate to do the things to your body that people with an eating disorder do. Most dieters stop short at deliberately and willfully harming their bodies like this.

  2. Rachel, thanks for your perspective. I think this is something that we need to know, and learn about, whether it directly affects us or not. That's why I was questioning the motivations for EDs that were listed in the shaded area. It seemed to me that it was simplifying the reasons a person with an ED does what they do. Does anyone really know for sure why people have EDs? I don't think it's as simple as the article states, and not all of the listed reasons would apply to every person with an ED. Maybe none of them would apply to some people? This is such a difficult subject to deal with, but I think that the more information we have, the more help we can give the people in our lives who suffer with EDs.

  3. My sister is currently in a treatment facility for her eating disorder. This is her fourth in-patient stay. She has been admitted to psychiatric hospitals 3 times in the past year for suicide attempts. She is 22 years old.

    I can't agree with the points. For my sister the eating disorder is a coping mechanism like any other addiction might be - smoking, drinking, drugs - and it has been as destructive as any of those other addictions might have been to her body, her life, and her relationships.

  4. Epiphany Alone - thank you for your comment. I hadn't quite thought of it as a coping mechanism like drinking or smoking, but I can sort of see what you mean. I hope your sister gets the help she needs and is able to recover. This has to be very difficult for both of you.

  5. Hi Vesta,

    I agree that I think that list is a huge oversimplification, if not downright misleading. Nearly every 'contrasting' point boils down to: "dieting is healthy, people who diet want to be healthier" and "EDs are unhealthy, people with EDs just want to get thinner."

    However, as we know, not all diets and dieting is healthy. I've heard horror stories where doctors won't treat patients or give them the meds they need unless they lose 30, 50, 100 lbs. People who are losing that weight are doing it ostensibly to be healthier (so that they actually can be treated). But are they dieting healthily? What's going through their minds when they're dieting, desperately needing to get treated, treatment hinging on the amount of adipose tissue on their bodies?

  6. Big Liberty - Yeah, I don't see dieting as a healthy thing to do. I've known less-fat people who can lose 10 or 20 or 30 lbs and keep it off for years, but to lose massive amounts of weight? Dieting isn't going to do it for most of us. And comparing dieting to EDs diminishes the pain, heartache, and severe health problems of EDs, in my mind. That's not to say that dieters don't have those problems too, but I don't think dieting leads to suicide very often, and EDs can, and do, sometimes (too damned often).

  7. Ok, this is just a side note. On the radio today while I was driving, I heard that Mississippi wants to pass a law that will FINE restaurants who serve patrons who are obese.

    I nearly drove off the side of the road. I mean, come on now....that's carrying fatophobia to the extreme. (ok, I made that word up but I think it makes it's point well.)

  8. Their description of eating disorders doesn't ring true to me.

    First, they're pretty much making the assumption that eating disorder = anorexia (and possibly bulimia). It makes me growl when binge/compulsive eating disorders are overlooked, especially since I'm a compulsive eater myself.

    What epiphany alone said about it being a coping mechanism is true in my case. I eat when I'm bored, lonely, anxious, etc. It's very similar to other addictions, except instead of alcohol or drugs or sex, our drug of choice is food. It's why Overeaters Anonymous uses the Big Book as their primary text. Having gone to OA myself, I can say that much of the Big Book resonates with me.

    Eating disorders are also often about control. From talking with others with eating disorders, this appears to be especially true for anorexia. It's often a way to have some control over a portion of our lives when the rest of our lives feel so out of control.

    I think that eating disorders are caused much more by internal emotional issues than external pressures. I've also gone to Codependents Anonymous in the past, because my thinking is as disordered as my eating. I'd say it's likely not so much that we crave acceptance from others, but that we feel we can not truly accept ourselves unless we believe that others accept us. I'm reminded of my very favorite passage from the Big Book:

    And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation--some fact of my life unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

  9. I've suffered from anorexia for over 10 years, and I'd have to agree that this list is both a gross oversimplification and wholly misleading on both ends. Also, the line between diet and eating disorder is not so distinct as one might like to think.

    There's something about this list that angers me, too. I feel like the author is implicitly insulting sufferers of eating disorders as being foolish and overly absorbed in appearance. My entire self esteem does NOT hinge on my weight. I'd be lying if I said my appearance does not still affect my confidence, but I have many other qualities that make me feel good about myself. Eating disorders are also a pretty poor way to "seek approval," as my exasperated parents and alienated friends over the years can attest. More often, I just wanted to disappear, as if becoming thin enough would erase my existence, and no one would pay attention to me. Hardly the same as seeking negative attention.

    I could go on, but I probably should calm down first...

  10. xnera - I think that what I had a problem with in the article's shaded area was that it seemed like a one-size-fits-all set of reasons for having an ED, and not all of them fit all people. At any rate, I think it's good that we're talking about it, and not making assumptions that if you're fat, you can't have an ED other than compulsive overeating or bulimia. Assumptions don't look for causes or cures, they just place blame, IMO, and blame is not what is needed. Help is what's needed, and getting it is not easy.

  11. ...all this sounds like, to me, is spin control.

    What's "a little bit?" Or "a little better?" God knows the diet industry doesn't ever want you to think that what you're doing is enough. They want you to make your whole life revolve around food, but not EAT any of the food, and feel bad when you DO eat the food. That is a fucking disorder.


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