Is having an eating disorder a choice?

I always get these ideas for blog posts while I’m doing something seemingly random. Like washing my hair. Or baking friands, or walking around the city barefoot or sitting on my jumper on the train feeling sorry for myself because I slipped down a flight of stairs at Town Hall Station. The worst part it, I generally tend to forget the idea. And then later I’ll try to rack my brain and search for it – but it becomes forever lost in a labyrinth I like to call “Rebekah’s Brain’.

Hope that was a captivating first paragraph.

Anyway – this idea I have managed to remember, because I immediately came downstairs after washing my hair, warmed a friand, poured a cup of coffee and sat down here and started typing. I had no chance to forget. So here we are.

I think often there’s a misconception floating around that eating disorders are a choice, and I just want to clear that up. I don’t think there are many anoretics or bulimics or compulsive eaters who walked into this mess thinking “hell yes, I’m going to lose me a stack load of weight and end up in a hospital bed and have a generally crap life and potentially die as a result. How good would that be?” Let me assure you, we do not think that way. There is a group of individuals however, who may think being anorexic is “cool” or “the thing to be doing” – like it’s some lifestyle, or diet. And I think anyone who thinks this way is perhaps even more ill than someone who really is suffering with an eating disorder. Perhaps that is even a form of eating disordered thinking itself.

Back in my early eating disorder days, I started exercising. It was a good stress release. But after a while (and losing a few unintentional kilos) I realised losing weight was something I was damn good at. So good at, in fact, that I didn’t know how to not lose weight. And then the fear of certain foods soon followed. The thing is that an eating disorder is a means of somehow being in control – but essentially it results in the opposite – with the individual feeling out of control because they can’t stop eating / exercising / binging / purging / restricting no matter how much they would like to.

We are responsible for our own actions. We can decide we would like to get better from an eating disorder and pursue doing so, but that doesn’t mean that it happens overnight, nor that it is an easy task. Or that we won’t have setbacks. You can’t just “snap out of” an eating disorder.

Please, don’t be so quick to judge someone who has an eating disorder and think that they have gotten themselves into this mess: it’s not true. It’s something that slowly, oh so slowly entered into their lives and quickly spiralled out of control. And it can happen to anyone – we become obsessed, addicted, hooked in … and it’s not that hard just to give it up.


7 thoughts on “Is having an eating disorder a choice?

  1. Bek,

    I think anyone who believes that people with eating disorders choose to be that way are just as sick as those who want to be Size -4 and get blown over in a light breeze. Aside from the health issues, self-worth and self-confidence are so important…and that’s what I am starting to see from you, Bek – self-worth…which is good, cos we all knew your worth years ago πŸ™‚


    • Paul,

      I reckon you’re right! Though I think a lot of people who have eating disorders don’t sayyyy “I want to be a size minus four!” They just want to be “not fat” or invisible. Which turns into size minus four.

      Sometimes I recognise my self-worth. It’s a nice moment.

      • Bek,

        I was referring to those “models” and wannabe hippy-chic Size -4 people, not those with genuine ED’s.

        You should have more of those nice moments…they are worth it!

  2. THANK YOU. If I hear one more person say “why don’t they just eat a hamburger?” in reference to someone with anorexia I think I may scream. Or assuming someone with bingeing issues is just greedy or self-indulgent. I didn’t binge because I was hungry; I binged because feeling sick was preferable to feeling worthless – and I’ve only realised THAT since I stopped doing it, so telling me at the time to “just stop eating when you’re full” would have been nine kinds of pointless.

  3. You’re ridiculously cool. People can be so ignorant eh? I couldn’t outright say that in this blog post though. People might think I’m a hypocrite then…

  4. Some people are ignorant because they truly don’t understand. These people are usually happy to learn. Other people are just IGNORANT, and refuse to believe that their comfortable little pre-conceived notions might not be correct. Surely we’re allowed to mock those people on our blogs?? Okay, maybe not. (Hmmm… What Would Jesus Blog? πŸ˜‰ )

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