Eating disorders are a very complex and dynamic mental illness and there are some common myths around them. There is no quick fix, and in fact many people with eating disorders will spend much of their lives recovering. Because of this, it is important to have an understanding of some of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, as well as to provide a continuous support network.
And just like with everything else in the world of nutrition, there is overwhelming amounts of misinformation on the internet about eating disorders. Check out these 4 common myths below:
MYTH 1: Based on appearance, you can tell if a person has an eating disorder.
TRUTH – Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and do not discriminate. Making an eating disorder only about the weight can perpetuate the eating disorder behavior itself.
MYTH 2: Eating disorders are a choice.
TRUTH – Eating disorders are a diagnosable mental illness, and while they are many precipitating and perpetuating factors that trigger eating disorders, they are not a choice! Acknowledgement, empathy, and open communication are all key in providing a positive supporting role for a loved one with an eating disorder.
MYTH 3: Eating disorders are in females only.
TRUTH – While the incidence of eating disorders is significantly higher in females, eating disorders will affect about 10 million males in the United States at some point in their lives… and that is only capturing reported eating disorders! As the gap between “socially acceptable standards” for body image and actual body shape/size grows, the rate of disordered eating and eating disorders in both males and females will continue to grow as well.
MYTH 4: Disordered eating and eating disorder can be used interchangeably.
TRUTH – An eating disorder is a clinically diagnosable condition, whereas disordered eating is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a “wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.” However, disordered eating should be addressed and treated as early on as possible.
By Liz Fox, LD, RD, CSSD