Believe It Or Not, There’s More To An Eating Disorder Than Just Eating…
So, here we go: the post that explains why people with eating disorders (with the focus on restrictive eating disorders) cannot “just eat” after being asked to by you, a person whom is not experienced in this particular mental illness category.
Throughout my experience with an eating disorder, I have been told these words countless times. And it upsets me. It feels like the individual speaking these words is being ignorant. Yeah, I know that isn’t really the case. People don’t understand what’s in my head – why would they? HOW would they? Plus, they are frustrated and hurt and stressed by the fact that I am sat in front of a plate of food and I just can’t finish it. That being said, my hope that people stop using this phrase continues.
Eating. Seems like a simple task – after all, people do it everyday with no problem. But for someone with an eating disorder, it can be one of the hardest things in the world. Because to us, it isn’t just eating food. It instead may be seen as gaining tons of weight, losing control, feeling weak and causing the voice in our heads to scream at us loudly and harshly.
The fears we have around food are irrational. Yep, we’ve been told that. But it doesn’t always make it any easier. It’s a fixed belief – we have had it for a while now, or maybe we’ve felt this way very strongly and passionately. These fixed beliefs are hard to get rid of, regardless of how many verbal reassuring comments we are given.
A lot of people with eating disorders hear a ‘voice’ in their head. A voice that is loud and constantly present, that tells us what to do and when to do it. Sometimes it’s friendly and comforting, sometimes it’s abusive and horrible. When we are faced with a meal or snack, this voice is louder than ever. It often takes over our minds and makes us feel like eating that food is the worst possible thing we could do, ever. And sometimes, we definitely believe it.
Another trait that some people with eating disorders have in common is that we feel immense guilt after eating. This may be because we feel like we have done something ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’, because we have lost control over being able to say no to consuming food, or because we think that we are now going to gain lots of weight. Or simply, because we didn’t listen to the voice in our heads (aka our eating disorder) and it is now making us feel like complete and utter shit for it. The guilt can be really high, intense and hard to deal with. Often, we fear this guilt and the way it makes us feel, and so we try to avoid feeling it – by not eating as much as we normally may.
An eating disorder is often talked about in the same way as an addiction. Because restricting your food intake can become addictive and you can become obsessed with cutting food out of your diet, such as by eating less and less each week. As with any addiction, it’s psychologically extremely hard to stop. “Just eat” = “just stop smoking” = “just stop drinking”.
That being said, of course recovery is possible. Of course we, as eating disorder sufferers, can survive and recover from our eating disorders. We can start to have a healthy relationship food and learn about which thoughts are disordered and which are reality. There is no doubt in the fact that it is achievable, I promise you (oh, and it’s really quite awesome once you realise there IS a life beyond your eating disorder and it’s well in reach for you to grab!).
But in terms of this post, I simply really wanted to get across how the phrase “just eat!” is not always helpful or applicable to those suffering from eating disorders – eating, for us, can sometimes be more of a battle than an action.