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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

In the United States, at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders can be hard to understand as someone from the outside looking in, mainly because of the number of myths surrounding them. The thing is, it’s the existence of these myths that make a problem that’s already hard to admit to 10x harder to acknowledge. For that reason, I want to use this article to debunk these misconceptions.


1. “Eating disorders only happen to girls.”

Credit: pjadallah.wordpress.com

Eating disorders affect everyone, male, female, trans, queer, etc. While it is true that the majority of the population who have eating disorders are female, by no means is this related to their gender. Rather, it’s related to external pressures and issues of self-worth, which is a state of mind that doesn’t discriminate against who it affects.


2. “You can tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.”

Credit: theodysseyonline.com

The first picture of someone with an eating disorder that pops into your head is an emaciated figure, with thinning hair and visible bones. That’s an example of the most extreme case. In truth, someone could have an eating disorder for years and never be underweight, or anything other than perfectly healthy by outward appearance. Eating disorders are a disease of the mind that affects the body, not of the body that affects the mind.


3. “Anorexia and bulimia are the only two really bad ones – everything else doesn’t really count.”

Credit: ictp.uw.edu

Anorexia and bulimia are the most well-known eating disorders, but are by no means the only ones or “the worst.” Binge-eating disorder, ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), orthorexia, pica, and EDNOS are all types of eating disorders that can pose serious dangers to mental and physical health but aren’t as recognized and subsequently are more easily dismissed as just being “eccentricities” of the individual.


4. “Eating disorders are a choice.”

There are so many things wrong with this statement yet it’s one of the most common things to hear. Eating disorders are a psychological issue, not a spur-of-the-moment life decision. Oftentimes, if you have one, chances are you were already genetically predisposed to develop it.


5. “Eating disorder behaviors focus only on food.”

Credit: theatlantic.com 

The behaviors that people exhibit concerning their food (restricting, purging, etc.) are behaviors that usually affect all aspects of someone’s life. For example, people with anorexia nervosa typically are considered perfectionists and fear any sort of failure. People with bulimia are typically considered impulsive and likely to act erratically when facing problems. Food is merely the method of expressing deeper issues, not the source of them.


6. “If you want to recover, just eat more.”

Credit: facebook.com

Recovery is hard, not because it’s hard to want to recover, but because it’s never as easy as simply “eating more.” Recovery means having to remind yourself every day that your perception of yourself isn’t how you really are. It means having to make conscious efforts to avoid triggers that might send you back to a relapse, and it means waking up to a new battle against yourself every day, because the thing you’re trying to beat isn’t what’s on your plate, it’s what’s in your head.


Like I said before, eating disorders are hard to understand when you’re on the outside looking in. I hope that by clearing up certain misconceptions, I can help to make them a little easier to understand, and hope that to anyone who suffers from these issues, you know you’re not just the crazy case in the world.

Lastly, I just want to end with a cute message I liked:

Credit: positivequotesimages.com

“Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you’re worth the trip. (You are.)”


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Maya is currently a junior in Sargent College at Boston University, studying Human Physiology.
Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.