Not a way to stay thin

Maybe I'm beating a dead horse (and I very well could be), but I also think it just might be a dead horse that needs to be beaten.

Despite all of the research that shows the ultimate biological underpinnings of anorexia and bulimia, it's common for many people to write off these illnesses as a way (however pathological) to stay thin. I won't deny that eating disorders can start off this way- losing five pounds, not eating so many sweets, cutting out soda, exercising regularly. Wanting to look good in a bathing suit. These things can be the final pulling of the trigger. Ready, aim, fire.

Yet both firing a gun and an eating disorder are more complex. You need bullets, you need a gun- not JUST a trigger. The trigger is much easier to see than the bullet and the gun. You can see the aftermath, the proverbial body outlined in chalk. But the ballistics testing isn't as easy to carry out. And neither is research on the neurochemical causes of eating disorders.

So the myth of wanting to be thin and everything running amok continues, in part because of legacy and in part because it's easier to see and understand. Such as this recent article, written by a high school student:

"So, maybe you don’t quite fit into your summer clothes from last year. Staying healthy and fit during the summer is a beneficial way to stay in your shorts from previous summers. Unfortunately, though, too many teenagers resort to eating disorders to maintain their desired weight. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are two unhealthy ways to stay thin. This summer, making the right choices to stay healthy could save your life."

Anorexia and bulimia and binge eating disorder and EDNOS are real illnesses, not "ways to stay thin." By the time you have a full-blown eating disorder, your disordered habits have long ceased to be about anything. They maintain themselves in a vicious cycle of malnutrition and anxiety.

I do understand the misunderstandings- I had them myself when I was first diagnosed. Which is why I think it's important to keep beating the dead horse. Or at least explain why I'm doing it.

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Tracey said...

Carrie you are highlighting some great points, per usual-- it's easy to fixate on particulars within ED's, or whatever may be du jour at the moment. Sometimes over-highlighting one angle and completely missing some other aspect or under investigating another, etc.

Seems to keep ED's pretty cheeky too.

It's important to keep looking deeper, questioning, and examining ALL angles and possibilities-- discuss, critique and further research- everything.

Continue to dispell myth from fact, set some things straight, and improve further the dx tools, treatment strategies and recovery outcomes,as well as relapse prevention modalities and fine tune the way clinicians are trained to treat those suffering as well as their families so the best quality in care is available for treating this illness sooner vs later.

Sometimes I've felt the saying: "You can lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink" applied more aptly for us on our end of the hemisphere. It feels at times like we're waiting for the majority to "catch-up" in terms of getting up-to-date on ED's, etc.

c'est ca


Katy said...

I probably shouldn't beat up on a defenseless high school student who is likely trying to be helpful, but the stereotypes and misconceptions and inaccuracies in that article are too numerous to count. Arrrrg...

carrie said...


I agree with you. He had very good intentions and isn't a bad writer. And at his age, I probably would have thought the same thing. My issue is more with the information that's being circulated rather than one guy who cares. The problem is that this one guy who cares is also helping to continue this misinformation, however inadvertently.

Which is the reason I wrote this post: to provide another view.

mary said...

Just today on Rachael Ray there was mention of how "we" women take "our" diet pills that never seem to work. YIKES! Not me! It was a fashion critic guest that informed us of this. Naturally my ears perked up. How sad that she spoke of this so casually and that her host let her. If she introduced just one person to trying these pills it's one too many. (I know my son used to be triggered to do dumb things when he was given the information)
How are we going to change how we think of this disease if the media is promoting stupid ideas? We have a long way to go Carrie. Using your voice to tell it like it is will help dispel the myths but we are still being told that we want to be thin on a daily basis and that really must stop. It's become a moral code and worse,it's a violation of the human spirit to be who we are and using our gifts for more interesting work.
Hopefully, we will evolve enough to stop the diet talk as it undermines the truths about health and it's misleading. Sadly it is a large part of the confusion and may be responsible for too many unnecessary diets. And we all know that some diets are just the beginning. : (

Anyway, go ahead and beat the dead horse. Then let's change the world! /****

j said...

Given the level of ignorance about EDs that still persists, I don't think that horse is quite dead yet. (It's just resting.)

Sometimes it seems just impossibly hard to convey this message to people who have not had EDs themselves. It's not just in the media or "society at large" that having an eating disorder is equated with trying to get thin. It's also in the minds of many people who know and love ED sufferers. They just can't see past the visible physical manifestations of the disorder. And so even well-meaning parents end up falling prey to the same assumptions as this writer: that an eating disorder is just a diet taken too far, and that once an ED sufferer gains back some weight, it must mean she's cured.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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