But why? What are the dangers of allowing negative body image to perpetuate? We all know the stereotypes, but what is real and what is fiction when it comes to eating disorders?
Below, we have compiled a list of seven busted myths so that you can be in the know!
Myth #1: Having an Eating Disorder is a Choice.
Contrary to popular belief, the manifestation of eating disorders is not always a conscious choice. Eating disorders can be the product of psychological, environmental/social, and even genetic factors. Mental health disorders, bullying, diet culture, diabetes, body dysmorphia, trauma and even having a close relative with an eating disorder are just a few of the risk factors that can lead to an eating disorder.
Myth #2: Only Teens and Young Adults Get Eating Disorders.
Another common assumption is that eating disorders only present in teens and young adults–this is false. Eating disorders are nondiscriminatory; they can affect people of any demographic, including age. Disorders such as anorexia have been found in children of kindergarten age, and other disorders, such as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), have been found even younger.
Myth #3: If They Aren’t Purging, It’s Not an Eating Disorder.
You don’t have to purge to have an eating disorder. Purging is just one possible symptom, but it barely scratches the surface. There are so many disorders beyond anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating (not a purging disorder)--all with different symptoms–even if you’ve never heard of them!
Myth #4: Men Don’t Get Eating Disorders.
Remember how we mentioned that eating disorders don’t discriminate? This also applies to gender. While the general stereotype of someone living with an eating disorder is usually a young female, approximately 1 in 3 of those who suffer from an eating disorder is male.
Myth #5: Eating Disorders Make People Lose Weight.
Eating disorders are often characterized by weight fluctuation, but the idea that an eating disorder is the answer to rapid weight loss is dangerous and false. Having an eating disorder can actually lead to weight gain; beyond binge eating, even cases of other disorders can see a period of weight gain as your body adjusts to the loss of routine nutrition.
Myth #6: Food Habits Are the Only Signs of an Eating Disorder.
While food habits may be the most easily distinguished signs of an eating disorder, they are far from the only indicator. Eating disorders can have a variety of signs and symptoms, including extreme body insecurity, excessive exercise, gastrointestinal difficulty, dental issues, dizziness, dramatic weight loss, impaired immunity, and more.
Myth #7: Eating Disorders Aren’t Serious Illnesses.
Eating disorders are far more serious than many people understand. They have sometimes been dismissed as something a person will outgrow; having an eating disorder is viewed as a phase, or at most a slightly concerning issue that can easily be addressed and stopped. This kind of thinking is incredibly dangerous, as these illnesses when left to their own devices can lead to lifelong health consequences or even death. Eating disorders, like other mental health disorders, typically require professional intervention and treatment to achieve true recovery.
If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.