I think this is also such a common misconception – just like we’ve previously learnt that eating disorders aren’t a choice, eating disorders also are not just about the food. Or the number on the scales. Or the thigh gap that may or may not be more prominent than it was last week.
It’s one of the ED’s tricks actually. It tries to fool the struggling individual and all those witnessing the individual crumble that the ED is ONLY about the food, or the weight. So thus the solution seems obvious – feed the anoretic a hamburger, and quickly! Coax them into eating, tell them that they’re absolutely tiny, point out how much bigger you are than them, offer them food constantly out of sheer desperation – but let me tell you this: none of it will work.
Why? Because eating disorders are much, much more complicated than that. Yes, we need to get the anoretics and bulimics eating correctly again, but we also need to avoid giving the ED too much attention as it takes the focus off the real issues.
Individuals suffering with eating disorders often have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, have a need for control, have experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse or have had an unstable upbringing or lived in a dysfunctional family. Mary Anne Cohen, the director of The New York Centre for Eating Disorders reports here that between 40-60% of her patients turned to eating disordered behaviour after experiencing physical or sexual abuse. Dare I be bold and suggest that I suspect this is the case not only in America, not only in the UK, not only in Australia, but a worldwide issue? Oh hey, I just did.
Let me be blunt: the longer we try to help an individual suffering with an eating disorder try to eat properly again, or the more we attempt to make them gain necessary kilograms without working on the real issues behind the eating disorder, the longer the eating disorder will go on. And the longer the eating disorder goes on, the worse it will get. The more ill the individual will become. The thinner, weaker and more frail they will become.
The eating disorder is only a symptom of a much deeper issue. Don’t be fooled.