Proud2Bme | New Study Reduces the Stigma of Eating Disorders

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New Study Reduces the Stigma of Eating Disorders

By Pooja Patel--When we learn, we create habits—whether we know it or not. We create these habitual circuits and take part in them every day. My sister has a habit of opening drawers and then leaving them open so that when I walk around I often hit my hip on one of them (ouch). My friend Sarah has the habit of swaying gently when she’s talking to someone who makes her nervous. While others, as seen in a recent New York Times article, have anorexia, which is now being connected to habit rather than willpower.

For those with anorexia, this might seem obvious. Of course it was never willpower; willpower implies some type of control and those plagued with the disorder know that being anorexic is like being controlled by something that isn’t really you.

Studies like this help to reduce stigma and increase understanding of eating disorders. While eating disorder prevention has become more prominent, stigma and lack of understanding are still prevalent. There are people everywhere who think that an eating disorder can be “cured” by “just eating.”

The study not only discusses the underlying factors of anorexia, it also discusses the difficulty of recovery: “In the case of anorexia, therapists often feel helpless to interrupt dieting that anorexic patients pursue. Even when patients say they want to recover, they often continue to eat only low-fat, low-calorie foods.” Talking about the difficulties of breaking such a strong habit lets others know that the problem does not just solve itself with weight gain. It lets people understand that recovery is a process.

Think about it: let us say you are a chronic nail-biter. Your mom is always telling you to stop, and one day you decide it’s a bad habit and agree to quit biting your nails. But even though you have decided to stop you still find yourself biting your nails, regardless of whether or not you consciously thought about it. It goes without saying that anorexia is much more serious and complicated than nail biting, but it can be difficult to explain to other people why it’s so powerful—this study offers a new lens through which to view anorexia, and a new way to explain its power to others.

To keep learning more about the underlying causes of eating disorders like anorexia we need to keep striving for conclusive research and demonstrating the detriments of mental disorders via sites like Proud2Bme and organizations like NEDA. The more questions we ask, the more questions will be answered!

Share your thoughts about this new study in the comments below!

About the blogger: Pooja Patel studies neuroscience and philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. She does research at a CU neurobiology laboratory, which emphasizes anticipation behaviors, circadian rhythms and biology. She has interned off and on at the National Eating Disorders Association for about two years. Pooja enjoys reading, dancing, watching mindless TV and keeping up with fashion trends.

Also by Pooja: 

Dress Codes Are Body-Shaming and Sexist

Lauren Conrad Bans "Skinny"

Lena Dunham and the Body-Positive Workout Selfie

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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.