Proud2Bme | 6 Harmful Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

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6 Harmful Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

By Jeanette Suros--While in recovery, a lot of people have said, “I understand what you went through. I have been on diets and have struggled with my body.” I would become frustrated as I struggled to explain how EDs and disordered eating are related, but not the same thing. People with eating disorders use their bodies as a way to gain control, mask their emotions, hide from pain, etc.  Eating disorders are diagnosed by professionals and need treatment specifically for eating disorders to combat the disorder. There are many misconceptions with eating disorders, such as:

1. If you have body image issues you have an eating disorder.

Struggling with body image does not mean you have an eating disorder. Media and society affect the ways we think about our bodies. Body image is how you see yourself in the mirror and how you see yourself in your mind. With eating disorders, the media and poor body image can be triggers, but not the cause.

2. People with eating disorders did this to themselves.

Honestly, this is like telling someone with any other illness that their illness is their fault. Eating disorders are never brought about on purpose. You don’t wake up one morning with it and wake up the next morning without it. Eating disorders develop gradually over time. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier EDs are to treat.  No one can make themselves have an eating disorder.

3. People struggling with eating disorders just want attention.

Most of the time, it’s just the opposite. People with eating disorders often try to hide their illness. For many, it’s their secret and they want it to stay that way. They use their eating disorders to hide; for me it was to be invisible. The disorder can often be used to mask emotions. It is their way of feeling better by not thinking about the deeper issues.

4. “Just eat.” As if it’s that simple.

Eating disorders are complex and for someone with an eating disorder it is not that easy. It is not about the food. Yes, food is what the eating disorder takes it out on but it’s more a way to gain control. It is a way to avoid thinking about the painful things; the eating disorder has you focused on the food and weight. So it is much deeper than not wanting to eat food.

5. It’s just a phase.

Eating disorders are not just a phase. They are not something that you just go through and grow out of. When people don’t take EDs seriously, it makes recovery harder. Eating disorders are serious, often deadly disorders. Sometimes medical professionals even minimize EDs. That’s also why it is so important for someone who is suffering to have healthcare professionals who specialize in eating disorders.

6. Once you leave treatment you should be “fixed.”

Once you leave treatment, your recovery truly begins. You are no longer in an environment where you are watched. Now it’s up to you to make your own choices. Recovery is not easy but it is worth it. Having an ED isn’t like having pneumonia. When you leave the hospital, it doesn’t mean you’re all better.

The more we spread the awareness, the more we can combat these misconceptions and fight EDs on a global scale. 

About the blogger: Jeanette Suros is 3.5 years into her full recovery from anorexia. She is an advocate for healthy body image and eating disorders and wants to show others that recovery is possible! Jeanette is proud to spread awareness of the Be•YOU•tiful Me project.

For more on body image, check out:

Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

Tips for Fostering Body Positivity in Our Communities

Tinder Body-Shamers: Just Don't

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.