I suffered anorexia nervosa for over eight years. In this time I was told by various people, some of them doctors, many of them concerned individuals that my eating disorder was a result of me trying to take control. And it was a convincing argument, although rather pseudo Freudian for my liking. People were telling me that restricting what went into my body was a metaphor for trying to control what entered my life. I mean, I could see why one might assume that, but for me it simply could not have been further from the truth.
1. Not all people with eating disorders want to be thin
I certainly did not. I loved my body shape and only ever went on a diet once because I needed to be lighter in order to ride the racehorses at the racing yard I worked at. There is also a growing number of men and women that come forward to be diagnosed with eating disorders that claim no pervious desire to be thin before the onset of their disorder. I was a typical tomboy and never gave a seconds thought to bodyweight before anorexia.
2. The eating disorder controls you, not the other way around.
Anorexia effected every decision that I made, every path that I took in life and occupied every waking thought in my head. I missed parties, I missed holidays, I missed out on four years of university life because I could not eat. That is not control, that is being controlled.
3. An eating disorder will control you to death.
People die from anorexia, I came close. When my Dr told me that if I did not eat more I would die, I really wanted to eat more. But I could not. That was terrifying, I was killing my body and there was nothing that I could do about it. That did not feel like control, it felt like catch 22 in hell.
4. Not all eating disorders are triggered by feeling dissatisfied with life.
I was happy and healthy before I became anorexic, In fact I was whole heartedly satisfied with my lot in life. I was a care free teen with a lot of good friends and a promising career in front of me. I was dissatisfied with my life only after anorexia had taken all my freedom from me.
5. If eating disorders were about control, every person that ever felt disorderly, chaotic or freaked out at some point in their life would have one.
Hands up who has ever felt out of control. …..Thought so… I sympathize with those that tried to attribute a reason why to my anorexia, because it is human nature to try and label, categorize and make sense out of things. However it was the misconceptions and assumptions that kept me out of treatment for so long and made me feel so alone and confused. Anorexia is a severe mental disorder that is biologically based and it is caused by…….anorexia! Not parents, not the media, not a desire to be thin, these may all act as triggers for the disorder but are not the cause of it, that I am afraid is something you would have to ask my genes about.
For more see Tabitha Farrar’s book Anorexia Speaks.
She is also the founder of Boulder Yoga Project, a not for profit organization that teaches yoga to undeserved populations.
Photo credit: daniellehelm