Ellen and her sister sit at a table while her mom stands

A lot of people within the eating disorder community, I think, have heard about Netflix’s new movie, “To the Bone.” It is a movie that depicts the struggles Ellen, a 20-year-old young woman, and takes us on her recovery journey. While there was a lot of talk about it before it came out, I decided I would reserve my judgments until I had seen the entire film. After all, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and it can be hard to tell a lot about a film based on the trailer. The result of the film, however, was worse than I imagined.

While I can admit there is plenty the makers got right in regards to depicting a young person with anorexia: the behaviors, habits, calorie counting and over-exercising — there was so much I thought they got wrong in regards to eating disorders and eating disorder recovery as a whole.

One of the most frustrating parts for me was that Ellen had been to three other inpatient therapies that “didn’t work,” but the one that did was the one where she developed a love interest. It couldn’t have been because she found reasons for herself to get better. It couldn’t have been that she got better so her sister had a better role model, or she had the drive to get better so she could have a better life and could thrive. No, her inspiration was the boy in the group home.

I understand that it’s just a movie and it’s not supposed to be completely realistic, and they want to have a “heart warming” story in there, but I just feel frustrated that it had to be a love story.

When I went through recovery, I worked hard for my recovery. I worked hard on my recovery for myself. I worked hard on my recovery so I could have a life beyond my eating disorder. I worked hard on my recovery because I wanted to believe life could be about more than just food, calories and how much weight I could lose in a week. I worked hard because I wanted a future, because I wanted a life and I wanted to live it.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Yes I relapsed, and yes, we saw Ellen relapse. I think that’s important to show because it happens to everyone. I fell and I fell and I fell. And you know what, every time I got back up again. I got back up for my life.

I will be entirely honest, I was not expecting to see my story in this, because mine is not an anorexia story. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, since they had such a diverse group of characters, they might show a little bit more of their stories. I was hoping that maybe they would show what it’s like to struggle with bulimia, beyond the one liner of, “Hey do you purge?” with the reply of, “No, I tried it, not my thing.” I understand they can’t put every disorder in one film, but they could have done more with it.

In light of this, I’m going to say what many other people are saying. If this is a story that you feel represents you and your struggles, that is awesome. I think it is so important that we are starting a conversation about eating disorders in general. However, from my own perspective, I feel like this is the narrative everyone already knows about eating disorders. The pretty, skinny white girl has an eating disorder — and that eating disorder is anorexia. She’s obviously underweight, because if she’s not, is she really anorexic? And this is coming from the pretty, skinny white girl who developed an eating disorder.

The problem with this narrative is that it can make people think this is the only struggle that matters — that this is the only real eating disorder — because with bulimia, “At least you’re eating, right?” Also with bulimia, you’re less likely to be underweight, so that must mean you are “healthy.” And of course, you have people with binge eating disorders who are so underrepresented because, “All they have to do is eat less, which is easy, right?”

I wish they would have had more diversity in “To the Bone.” Diversity meaning: more people of color, characters of different sexuality and different age. Eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect anyone, of any race, ethnicity, sexuality, background or age.

If you feel like I do, that this is not a story which reflects your struggles, I assure you, your struggles are real and valid. Your eating disorder is real. Your story is real and you are entitled to get the help you need. You deserve to thrive in this life, just as much as anyone else. You deserve to feel well. Your eating disorder is not a joke. It is not you being overly dramatic. You are not taking away resources from people who “really need it.” You need those resources and deserve those resources just as much as anyone else does. You can get better and you will get better. But, it might not be easy. There might not be a person who “saves you.” You have to want it for yourself. You have to work hard for yourself. You can get better. You just have to work for it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

 Screenshot via To the Bone

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Telling stories is human nature. It’s how we make sense of our own reality. But what if your story involves an eating disorder (ED)?

As someone who has fought the valiant, brutal battle against food and body image, I have often looked to others who have faced the same demons to better understand my own narrative. I was excited, and hesitant, for Netflix to release “To the Bone,” a film that follows the journey of Ellen, played by Lily Collins, who is living with anorexia nervosa. The trailer for the movie was met with a lot of mixed emotion from the eating disorder community about whether the film would be helpful or harmful.

But curiosity gets the best of us, and because Netflix is so accessible, it’s almost certain that many people in different stages of eating disorder recovery will be watching, regardless of how “ready” they are, and regardless of the potential harm. And I know when you’re in the throes of an eating disorder, hearing cliches and simply being reminded to practice “self-care” isn’t always going to cut it when you feel triggered, especially if you don’t even realize you’re being triggered in the moment.

So as someone in recovery, I wanted to write the guide for watching “To the Bone” I would need — for pieces of myself at every stage of my journey.

So, here is the realist’s guide for watching “To the Bone” for anyone in any stage of their eating disorder:

1. Reflect on where you are in your own journey.

I get it, this sounds silly. In the earlier stages of my recovery, reflection was not something that came naturally. My ED voice was my voice. And my ED voice thrived off of finding ways to grow. It can be quite convincing, I know.

Even now, as someone who works in the eating disorder sphere, the decision not to watch the movie when I feel like most of my friends are going to may leave me with a serious case of FOMO. But, you have to do what is best for you with where you are at. Really take the time to think about if this movie would be helpful or harmful, regardless of what others are doing. The movie will still be available to watch a week from now, a month from now or a year from now if you decide to change your mind. As hard as it may be, use your voice to make the call.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

2. Compassion, not comparison.

I tell myself this all the time: when I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, driving my car down the street, grocery shopping or endlessly watching the latest TV show I’m into. It’s been challenging to look at another body and not make a comparison to my own size and shape. The temptation to compare my own ED story to those of others in a negative and unproductive way constantly looms over my head. But I fight back, because I deserve self-compassion.

I’ve often found the most brilliant thing about many people who struggle with ED is their innate ability to be introspective and aware of what is going on within themselves and the world around them. We are curious by nature and are often deep thinkers. We will probably be drawn to watch “To The Bone” for this reason, even if we may not be ready for the mental or emotional consequences of our actions.

But just remember, before you hit play, turn off the comparison switch and turn on the compassionate switch. Remind yourself that you are worthy and deserving of love, and that you and your story matters, because I know that is what I will be telling myself if and when I choose to watch it.

3. Reach out.

If you have any hesitation, but have decided that you still want to embark on the two-hour long journey that is “To the Bone,” reach out!  Watch the movie with a friend or family member who is a good, solid support. It’s been more helpful for me to face my fears when I’m holding someone’s hand verses going it alone. That way, I have someone to bounce my own thoughts off of rather than getting swamped by possible ED triggers that may come up along the way. Sure, talking through a movie can be annoying, but it’s for a good cause.

And if you decide to watch the movie alone, reach out before, during or after to people you trust if you start to feel overwhelmed, or feel the comparison switch turning on. And I’m not talking about the people who might enable your behavior, but to the ones who will listen and give you honest feedback. I know how difficult it can be to be open about the thoughts and feelings my ED brings up, especially because most of them are what I would consider embarrassing and shameful, which in turn, usually makes me want to dig myself deeper in to the trenches of my ED. But I’m telling you this now, you’re not alone. And if you don’t feel like you have a solid support system, I’ve listed some awesome resources below:

4. Have some honest check-ins with yourself along the way.

Do you ever watch a movie or read a book and when it ends, you’re just left sitting on your couch, with way more feelings than you know what to do with? I urge you, and me, to prepare for that. Have some honest mini check-ins while you watch “To the Bone.” Are you feeling diminished and invalidated? Or maybe you’re actually validated by this experience. Did you come across scenes that made you want to throw yourself deeper into your ED? Are you happy or feeling uplifted? Does this family dynamic make you mad or does it feel relatable? Are you feeling lonely?

It can be hard to pinpoint what exactly you’re feeling or even what to do with that. But whatever is going on between your ears, remember that it’s OK to turn the movie off at any point in time. It’s OK to really enjoy and relate to the movie, while realizing others may not feel the same way. It’s OK to have a heart-to-heart session with your journal the day after. But what’s not OK is letting this movie make you think less of yourself and more of your ED — because the world needs more of you! Remember that this movie was created to draw awareness to eating disorders, so advocate to tell more stories, even yours

5. Remember, this movie doesn’t invalidate your journey.

I am not Ellen. You are not Ellen. Only Ellen is Ellen. And even though she is loosely based off of one person’s experience, this story is one amongst many.

The thing about eating disorders is that each one is so personal. We are all fighting demons in different forms that shift and change as time passes, each with different triggers, symptoms and coping mechanisms — but we often forget that. 

We can take two hours to see what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but at the end of the day, we are the ones coming home to ourselves. So, like I mentioned earlier, show yourself some compassion. Just like you would want to validate the stories, emotions and feelings of friends or family members, make sure you do the same for yourself.

Also remember: although this is a big movie, it’s not the only representation of eating disorders out there. If you’re looking for more narratives about eating disorders, here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives” by Aimee Liu
  2. This Impossible Light” by Lily Myers
  3. Holding Up The Universe” by Jennifer Niven
  4. Dietland” by Sarai Walker
  5. Shrill” by Lindy West
  6. Hunger” by Roxane Gay

Telling stories is human nature. We cling to others’ stories of ED to help understand our own. With that being said, I hope you take “To the Bone” with a grain of salt, remember that your story is just as powerful and know that although we are each fighting our own personal demon, we must all rise out of this illness together.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Screenshot via Netflix.


Editor’s note: This piece contains spoilers about “To the Bone,” and could be potentially triggering for those who live with eating disorders. You can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

I’ve been excited about seeing “To the Bone” since the news broke that there would be a true-to-life movie about a woman with an eating disorder. I’m in eating disorder recovery myself, and there aren’t really any recent films about eating disorders, just a few documentaries. I knew Lily Collins would be playing Ellen, a young woman with anorexia, and while I was excited, I was still a bit concerned. The media is known for only representing the “white/young/anorexic” story, and I wondered why they chose to portray this already engrained narrative.

However, after reading that it was based on director Marti Noxon’s story, it made sense. She was young, white and had anorexia, and while that is the narrative people already know, I understood why she wanted to make a film loosely based on her own experience.

However, I don’t know if the average Netflix viewer will read up on the movie as much as I did. Maybe they’ll just think it’s about another girl starving herself and scroll past. But in my opinion, it did end up being more than that. In fact, in many ways, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s what the movie got right:

1. It shows “recovery” often takes more than one try.

The movie does a wonderful job showing complex parts of the eating disorder and treatment process an average person has likely never seen before, like how sometimes treatment can take multiple attempts — something that is common to many people with eating disorders. Many people think a person with an eating disorder goes to treatment and comes out “fixed.” However, the reality is, many people are not ready when they first seek treatment, and it often takes multiple tries and years of work to get the momentum going.

Typically, when we see eating disorders represented in 30-minute sitcoms, the story arc goes like this: a girl looks in the mirror and suddenly dislikes what she sees, and she starts using unhealthy behaviors to lose weight. But then, by the end of the episode, the issue is seemingly resolved, and she has come to some nicely wrapped revelation about her self-worth and body image and it is never mentioned again.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Even when the person has gotten on the recovery road, there are so many things that come up. Years after my last time using behaviors, I still have disordered thoughts about food and urges to use behaviors. The difference is now I don’t act on them. How I would have loved if my eating disorder was something I could have fixed in a week with the help of a couple pep-talks.

2. It highlights eating disorder behaviors besides restriction.

The other issue that “To the Bone” gets right is that it highlights other behaviors common to eating disorders besides restricting, which is the most common behavior people know. But there are so many people with eating disorders who don’t restrict at all. There are many other common eating disorder behaviors — such as cutting food into small pieces, grouping foods, eating very slowly or very quickly — that should be taken just as seriously as restricting. However, “To the Bone” highlights behaviors common to bulimia and binge eating disorder, along with lesser “textbook” behaviors.

3. It highlights the real issues that surround an eating disorder, such as complex family dynamics.

The movie makes huge leaps and bounds just by showing the familial stress that can trigger Ellen’s eating disorder. They even show multiple family discussions and arguments around the disorder. It becomes clear quickly that her mom doesn’t want Ellen to live with her, so she sends her off to her non-present father and step-mom.

Her sister also delivers an extremely emotional and realistic speech in a family therapy session, where she cries and tells her how the eating disorder affects her, too. These feelings of desperation and helplessness in the support system are true to many people’s recovery stories. It tells parents and families, “It’s OK. See? This family didn’t know what to do either. You are doing your best and rocking it.” And I love that.

I was also pleased to see there was no focus on anyone in the the house encouraging unrealistic beauty standards, as many narratives do to simplify the reasoning behind an eating disorder. This will go long ways in smashing the misconceptions people have of eating disorders.

4. It highlights the role the internet can play in eating disorders.

Another element I personally connected to, and something I thought accurately represented having an eating disorder in the 21st century, is when Ellen creates triggering artwork depicting her eating disorder and posts it on Tumblr. The internet can provide such wonderful communities for healing, like The Mighty, but often is a place where those in the throws of their eating disorder can find the wrong kind of connection. Ellen’s artwork has clearly made her well-known and liked in that community, and you can see how this has an affect on her identity.

5. It emphasizes that no one can “save you” but yourself. 

I was nervous when I saw that there was a potential romantic interest (Alex) in the trailer, but it ended up being my favorite plot line in the movie. It could have been another “girl falls in love with boy, boy ‘saves’ her, girl wants to get better for him” story, but that’s entirely not the case. There is an element of romance and maybe that’s what most people will see, but I saw so much more in their relationship. More than a love interest, Alex represents hope in the house. Something that Ellen seemingly didn’t have before. Though he is in the same setting the others are in, he’s motivated to recover and encourages the others, too.

6. The movies shows hope does exist in those early stages of recovery.

When I went to treatment, I thought it would just be a bunch of sad people sitting around all day waiting to leave. Oh, how I was stunned when there were people really, truly recovering there. When I got there, I was shocked and immediately intrigued. How did they get there? How did they do it? I was there because I recognized the huge space my eating disorder was taking up in my life, but I had no clue what I was actually going to do about it. I just knew it had to stop. I was fascinated, and a small part of me started to want the freedom from food other’s were beginning to have. Right in front of my eyes, I was seeing it was possible. Seeing someone “do it” can be a powerful force in recovery.

My favorite scene was when Ellen says to Alex, “How do you do it? How do you eat?” It’s the first spark of curiosity, and even hope, that Ellen has about recovery — and it’s beautiful. Everybody wants freedom from their eating disorder, but there is so much fear that goes along with letting go. I saw this as her acknowledging the part of her that knows this can’t be her life. I hope everyone has a moment like that, and a person to share it with.

All that being said, it was by no means a perfect movie. So to people wondering, is this going to be triggering and unhelpful? My answer: it depends. As seen in the trailer, there were mentions of weights, calorie counts, bones and behaviors. However, these elements weren’t nearly as prevalent in the actual film as the trailer led me to believe they would be.

However, when I was new to recovery, I would have been triggered by any mention of weight or calories — and a door would have been quickly opened for eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. As I’ve gotten further in my recovery and fully integrated back into the “real” world, where weight and calorie counts are often mentioned, I have learned to reframe or talk back to the thoughts that tell me these should be important pieces in my life again. This has taken a lot of work, and I would be lying if I didn’t cringe a bit when they mentioned numbers. If you are new to recovery, or even just feeling on shaky ground with recovery in general, I suggest maybe staying back from this movie until you’re feeling more steady. It’s just not worth the risk. If you feel at all hesitant about watching the movie, I would advise discussing the manner with your treatment team and making sure you’re getting support.

And for Netflix viewers, I hope you understand that eating disorders are not one person, one thing, one reason, one race or one age, but a global issue. There are many people out there like Ellen, and many people not at all like Ellen, that also have life-threatening disorders. I hope this is the first of many films highlighting one of the many experiences a person could have with an eating disorder. Who knows, maybe you’ll make the next one about your experience.

To end, we all have that voice, the one that tells us to engage in our eating disorder, to harm ourselves, that we’re bad at our job, that we’re a bad parent, that we’re a bad student, or that this is a bad life. And to that I say:

“You know what to do.”

“Fuck off, voice!”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Screenshot via Netflix


I am a vegetarian, and I am ready to eat meat. I am not an animal activist, though I play the role well — rather, I am in eating disorder recovery. Animal products are my biggest fear foods. I have overcome many others — bread, pasta, soda, sweets — yet this one lingers on.

I have hidden this fear of mine for six years: six years of treatment, relapse and deceit.

But every secret has its expiration date.

Last week, I sat down in with my best friends and attempted to fight my number one trigger: bacon. We had made bets and my dearest friend challenged me to face this fear head on, with three inviting incentives on the line. This comrade was only vaguely aware of my desire to move away from my restrictive diet, so this opportunity became less about meal support and more about bragging rights — about who could break the vegetarian first.

I had been avoided taking this first step against meat for many reasons more than just eating disorder fears. Vegetarianism has become a part of my identity. If I’m not a vegetarian, who am I?

I fought this question for a long time before realizing what I was truly asking myself: If I’m not sick, who am I?

Every time I chose vegetarian options over the traditional ones, I was quietly reaffirming my eating disorder’s presence. Every time I opted for a salad without meat, a veggie burger or shaved ice instead of frozen yogurt, I was telling my eating disorder I would remain quietly faithful. Veganism and vegetarianism became a convenient pledge, one that wouldn’t be questioned by family, friends or even professionals. It was a secret I safely held on to — a loophole in recovery.

My first bite of bacon threatened the bond between me and my eating disorder. That first bite screamed independence and demanded a separation. My eating disorder came alive in that moment and pleaded acknowledgment and recognition. Think of the calories, the fat, the chemicals! If you give in to bacon, you’ll give in to everything. Your arteries will clog, this is the first step towards obesity! I heard these screams, took a deep breath and took bite two.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Bite two proved I wasn’t making a mistake. With bite two, I listened to my healthy self, not my eating disorder’s lies. With bite two, I accepted the loss of a huge piece of my identity.

I am Lindsey, a transitioning meat eater and I am not my eating disorder. I am a writer, an avid reader and an artist — and I am truly ready to be free.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ElenaMedvedeva.


For five years I have struggled with an eating disorder. I’ve struggled with the loneliness, the exhaustion, the sadness and the hopelessness that often comes with it. I lost more than just weight — I lost friends, shopping trips, movie nights and parties. Anorexia can break people, and can even take people out of this world all together. When I first entered treatment, I was told that after four weeks of therapy I would be back to my normal, happy self. Four years later after having been transferred from one treatment team to the next, my eating disorder was labelled as severe, complex and chronic. I was told I would have to live with my eating disorder for the rest of my life. I watched people enter treatment, get the help they need and then move on with their lives, while I just stood at the sidelines and watch them come and go, wondering why it wasn’t me. Hell, I could do the best motivational speeches of them all, and make everyone feel better, except myself.

See, I’ve always wanted recovery, I’ve always wanted to be happy and get better. I didn’t picture myself in 10 year’s time still living under the wrath of an eating disorder, yet for me there has never been “a light bulb moment” when I could just start eating again and leave the disorder behind. It’s followed me around wherever I go, despite countless attempts to shake it off and make peace. I’ve been on more medication than I could count on two hands, and I’ve had all different kinds of therapy — CBT, DBT, mindfulness, family therapy… I’m the perfect “recovery student.” I can make lists of pros and cons of recovering, make goals and construct the steps to get there, write lists of why I want to recover and yet when a meal is put in front of me, I cannot bring myself to lift up the fork.

It has taken me a long time to begin to comprehend what I was doing wrong, what I was missing. The answer in short? Nothing. Because sometimes you can have all the medication in the world and be in therapy for years, yet still not feel recovery in your heart. Sometimes it takes more midnight chats, more hugs from friends and more time in the sun. More homework to do, more movies to watch, more hands to hold. Because sometimes when you fall apart, it just takes a little time to put yourself together again. If you’re still in the darkness please listen to me now: things will get better, and not just for everyone else, but for you too. Don’t lose hope. Stay close to the things that keep you feeling most alive. I know, I’m tired too, but sometimes I’m not as tired anymore and sometimes laughing is easy and sometimes I figure out the things I should be doing and it’s worth it — it’s worth recovery. It’s not about forcing happiness, it’s about not letting the sadness win. So please, give it time: just give it a little bit more time.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Lite Productions.


So here’s a little story. Last night, I had a craving for ice cream. So, I went to the store, picked out my favorite flavor (cookies ‘n cream, obviously), went home and ate a bowl of ice cream. Exciting story, right?

Well, for me, it really was a pretty big deal.

I am going to share some of the details of why with you, and maybe when I’m done, you’ll agree. If not, well, I can’t help you.

First, let’s talk about me having a craving for ice cream. For those of you who do not know the ins and outs of the physiological repercussions of having an eating disorder, it does a number on your body. And while the refeeding process can be accomplished within a relatively short amount of time, it takes a greater amount of time for your body to heal. One of those things that takes a while are your hunger and fullness cues. Basically, they get all screwed up in your body’s attempt to survive. Having denied these cues for such an extended period of time, my body really doesn’t trust me yet and I don’t necessarily always trust it. So, rarely do I ever feel hungry at typical, interval times of the day. I will sometimes feel it and sometimes not. It’s a bit…random.

I also don’t have much of an appetite. If someone asks me what I want to eat and even if I am actually feeling hungry, I will have no idea what it is I am hungry for, what sounds good or what I am craving. “What are you in the mood for?” is probably one of the most frustrating questions for me right now. Sometimes, I will be hungry and have a craving but have absolutely no idea what will satisfy it. Usually when I was in my eating disorder, I just ignored this. And on top of all that, if I determine what it is I am craving, one of the “rules” my eating disorder had for me was that I never voiced if I was hungry or what I actually wanted to eat. So, big deal #1: Not only was I having a craving for something, I identified what said craving was for and I made it known. I wanted ice cream and I went to the store to get some.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Next, I went to the store and without reading nutrition label after nutrition label to find the flavor and brand of ice cream with the least amount of calories per serving, I chose a flavor based solely on my taste preference (well, OK, I also looked at which ice cream was on sale). I chose my favorite, bought it and brought it home. Boom. Big deal #2: I didn’t ignore my craving or use excuses to ignore it. I gave in! Now, at this point, the eating disorder is screaming at me. I’ve already had ice cream in the past week, I didn’t work out “enough,” I’m feeling super self-conscious, etc.

When I got home, I considered putting the ice cream in the freezer and just forgetting about it. No one else was going to be having ice cream, why should I? That was another rule, if I was going to have dessert, it would only be with other people, never just on my own because I wanted it. That was never a good enough reason. Big deal #3: I ignored the hailstorm of reasons why not to eat the ice cream and I ate it.

There are times in the past, definitely distant past, where if I ignored all the “rules” up until this point, I would be so overcome with guilt and anxiety that I would feel immediately compelled to “correct” my behavior. This would take on different forms depending on where I was, who was around, what I had access to, etc. Very complicated, twisted, extremely disordered thinking. And even if I denied all of that in the moment, I knew the next day I would be battling myself at every meal with this feeling that because I ate ice cream the night before. Are you exhausted by all this yet? I am. So, big deal #4: I did nothing to compensate for my consumption of the ice cream. Though I did think about it a lot the following day, hence, why I am writing this blog post about me eating ice cream.

This is not my first ice cream experience in a long time. However, it is the first time I have done it all on my own initiation and it is the first time I am sharing something so seemingly trivial with people who may not have eating disorders. Those who have an eating disorder could have read the first three sentences and understood why this moment was so important to me. When it comes to sharing it with people who might not get it, I become extremely embarrassed that something so insignificant as buying and eating ice cream takes such importance in my mind.

Those who have spoken with me before about my eating disorder may be wondering, “But Megan, you said having an eating disorder was not about the food? All you talked about was the ice cream.” And you would be correct. I did not go into detail about the anxiety of the entire day leading up to the evening. I did not talk about my extremely negative self-image, both concerning my body image, my character and my “success” in life. I did not list out for you the repeating tapes of things like, “You’re fat and ugly and stupid and crazy and no one really loves you etc. etc. etc.,” that were running through my mind the whole time. Those all get attached to my ability or lack thereof to control if I eat, what I eat, how much I eat and if I do anything to compensate for eating.

And yes, if I deny the craving, I feel more in control of my life and I actually feel better about myself. Calmer. More focused. “On track.” It feels rewarding to deny myself something my body is craving. Just in case you’re not tracking with me, it’s not supposed to be this way…which is why it is an eating disorder. For me, i’s not the food, but the morality, self-worth and value I have come to associate with my food. That is the problem.

If you think this all sounds ridiculous, well, sorry to waste your time. But, for me, this is a big deal, and writing about it and sharing it is an even bigger deal. So, for those who read to the end, thank you. If you know someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, whether that is too much food or not enough, too much exercise, obsessing over fad diets or only eating certain food groups, etc… it’s probably not about the food. It is about someone who if struggling with their own self-worth and value, someone who is desperate to gain some kind of control in life, someone who is hurting and just doesn’t want to feel that way anymore. Don’t ask them why they aren’t eating or why they’re doing this or that. Tell them you love them, that you will always love them and that you will be there to listen when they need to talk and hold them when they need to cry. They may need professional help, but unless you are a healthcare professional, you only have your heart to offer. And trust me, in most cases, that’s better than any professional advice out there.

And F you eating disorder “rules.” That ice cream was fabulous.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via RossHelen

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