NEDAW Smorgasbord: Week in Review

Now that the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is over, I'm starting to mull over all of the news coverage on eating disorders this week. Most of it was kind of disappointing. It tended, by and large, to perpetuate the myths about eating disorders. Among them:

  • That you need to resolve underlying issues before you can recover. (Although, to be honest, this article did highlight the need for more ED/chemical dependency treatment programs)

  • That all people with eating disorders are obsessed with body image. This is as much a side effect of starvation as it is a cause of eating disorders. Then again, our whole society is obsessed with body image, so go figure. My issue is that articles like this make people with EDs sound like a bunch of vain nitwits with nothing better to do than obsess about how they look.

  • That glamorous celebrities are the cause of eating disorders in older women. I can't claim it for all women, but most have had some sort of disordered eating prior to the onset of a full-blown ED later in life. Some times, an eating disorder in youth was never properly treated. But that doesn't matter- no amount of Desperate Housewives reruns will give you an eating disorder.

  • That anorexia sufferers don't eat- they just live on 15 cups of coffee a day. People with anorexia do eat; it's the amount and types of food that are strictly, rigidly, and obsessively regulated. Second of all, you're not living on 15 cups of coffee per day. You're dying on 15 cups of coffee per day.
On the other hand, there were some decent articles. One looked at how overly-stressed women were "courting anorexic-like behavior." Malnutrition -- any form of malnutrition, whether from stress, dieting, illness, etc. -- is the number one trigger for eating disorders. This is the same phenomenon they called "stressorexia," a name I hate, but it's a very real risk factor for eating disorders, especially because the personalities of people prone to this type of behavior already puts them at a higher risk for an eating disorder.

I hope you enjoyed your smorgasbord this week. It's back to your regular programming, kids.


Anonymous said...

Carrie, I read that article with the 15 cups of coffee. . .

It was confusing becauss I couldn't figure out if it was supposed to be supportiing recovery, or if she still was drinking on 15 cups of coffee a day. . .

Yes, even at my sickest I still ate something. I find this claim hard to believe :P


Carrie Arnold said...

I mean, that's a whole freaking lot of coffee. I can see how it might work very short term, but one stunt like that landed me in the ER with dehydration and heart palpitations (oops...)

And you're right- that's not recovery. Obviously, you struggle in recovery. But still...

Dreaming again said...

Second of all, you're not living on 15 cups of coffee per day. You're dying on 15 cups of coffee per day.

ouch been there ...rather recently ... only not there because I got stuck on high dose prednisone ... because of what not eating and what 15 cups of coffee was doing to me ... which, I guess, was actually slowly killing me.

isabella mori said...

thank you for this!

the "you have to do A first before you can do B" myth is one that always gets my hackles up. yes, there are a few situations where that applies. more often than not, though, it's a cookie-cutter, disempowering mindset.

regarding the last article - you say it's the food restriction, not about not eating - i would add that eating disorders are also about how we think and feel about food.

i'd say that people who eat normal-ish (say 1500 calories a day) but spend the whole day thinking about it, worrying, counting, etc. may not be in the thralls of physical anorexia anymore but are still very much in it in their heads. what do you think?

midoriliem said...

"Diane fights a constant battle to keep her weight around the eight-stone mark."
No, I think she's quit the fight. Left the ring. Down for the count. I understand it's a struggle...but I just wanted to smack her and feed her a Scandishake!

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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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