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Eating Disorders Are Not a Fear of Being Fat

Here's the thing: eating disorders are not about a fear of getting fat. The weight gain is not fueled by the number on the scale, but by the feeling of perfection at having maintained self-control.
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As I was reading the comments from my last post titled "I Will Have this Eating Disorder Until I Die" I realized that I obviously was not properly describing what an eating disorder is, and according to Stanton Peele, PhD, who published an article in Psychology Today titled, "Addiction in Society," he further elaborates that overcoming an eating disorder is harder than overcoming such addictions as cocaine, heroin, Valium, alcohol, and cigarette smoking.

To someone on the outside looking into the life of someone with disordered eating issues, ingesting something as common and even mundane as an egg yolk should not even be worth the words used to explain how this harmless act can wreak psychological distress to the person in question. I agree. If I wasn't the one filled with self-loathing at my lack of restraint, I too would think an egg yolk is harmless in the scheme of the food consumed by someone without this disorder. As it was pointed out to me, eating the yolk of one egg will not cause one to gain weight; it will probably not even affect the caloric outcome and the nutritional values in the course of an entire day of healthy eating. The writer expanded by concurring that eating 10 egg yolks might contribute to the increased calculation of daily fat grams, but for someone who does not even have any weight to lose; this should not be a concern.

Here's the thing: eating disorders are not about a fear of getting fat. The weight gain is not fueled by the number on the scale, but by the feeling of perfection at having maintained self-control. As another commenter so thoroughly explained, "It's about perfectionism and punishment for failing to meet that standard."

As someone who has been dealing with an eating disorder since I was 14 years old, I did begin my journey down this sick, lonely road when a friend of mine and I played the game Let's-See-Who-Can-Lose-the-Most-Weight-the-Quickest. At 14, neither of us had any weight to lose, but as someone who had spent a lifetime feeling like I regularly failed to please parents, teachers, and friends, when I realized how skilled I was at starving myself; at getting up before school to jog two hours before classes; while at the end of the day I hid behind my bed and did 1,000 sit-ups before finally feeling the winner of some imaginary prize that was still unsuccessful in making me worthy of anyone's love, I would lay in my bed thinking how I could outdo myself the next morning.

Disordered eating was finally something I was very good at. In a matter of weeks, I had mastered this sickness with such ease that when my mother pointed out that I should stop this "anorexic bullshit," it only further served to fuel it, as it proved she had noticed my talent.

Eating disorders are not about a fear of being fat. They may begin that way, but to the souls who suffer from this, all of which are comprised of different body types and weights; the starving, the bingeing, the purging are the weapons with which we fight off the demons of inadequacy who grab us by the throat daily, look into our vacant eyes, and tell us we are nothing until we've proven that we are the conquerors of our destinies, which sadly, revolves around an ability to control a disorder meant, in the end, to kill us.

I never look at women who are overweight and think, "She could really lose a few pounds." Rather I admire their ability to simply place food in their mouths and not feel like they've failed at the game. Because they aren't playing the game. It's like Jumanji, only in this case giant spiders and the earth opening up beneath me would be far preferable than the feeling that one mouthful of the cake in the staff lounge means that I've lost. It means that I will drop down that pitch black hole of despair where nobody can reach me; my fingernails gripping into the cold, damp walls of failure; trying to stop the descent into madness.

The co-morbidities of an eating disorder are post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, OCD, and self-harm, but to name a few of those that I personally struggle with. If I could be fat -- not even overweight, but fat -- and not feel the psychological torment of the failure I feel every time I take a sip of chocolate milk or a bite of toast, I would proudly wear a sports bra and booty shorts, and run down the street with the confidence I see reflected in the proud faces of other women; women who catch my eye as I see them trotting to the beat of their iPod; women who don't know that behind the window of my car, "I'm saying out loud, 'You go, girl!'"


Spotting The Signs Of An Eating Disorder