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Why Eating Disorders Can Make People Hypocritical

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Now, at a first glance, you may read the title of this article and think I am about to rant and rave about the “silliness” or “selfishness” of eating disorders. I can assure you this is not that type of article. I myself am a person with an eating disorder. I have been for almost 11 years now, fluctuating between anorexia and bulimia nervosa, relapse and recovery. No, instead I want to address the perceived hypocrisy that most people with these illnesses will encounter at some point in their lives. The classic questions they get like “Well if you think you’re fat, what do you think of me?” and “How come you tell me to eat but never eat yourself?”

The first thing you must understand is that when I, or many other people who struggle with an eating disorder, look into a mirror, we cannot view ourselves clearly. This is commonly the result of struggling with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – the mental disorder where an individual cannot stop thinking or obsessing over one or multiple perceived flaws to do with their appearance which, in most cases, are either minor or not actually true. This can often develop after an eating disorder starts to develop in an individual or could also at times be the cause of an eating disorder (although rarely the sole cause). For me, the flaw I see is based on weight. It is the chubbiness of my cheeks, the roundness of my tummy and the thickness of my thighs. It is the paranoia I feel when I pass every reflective surface fearing that I am fat and everybody around me sees and thinks it too. Despite being dangerously underweight and near hospitalization at multiple points in my life, these “flaws” are all I see. Everything is large and magnified in my eyes.

But this is not a reflection (forgive the pun) of how I view others around me. I am a big advocate for self-love. I believe that every body type is beautiful and that no individual should be ashamed of the way they look. Unfortunately, seldom do I ever believe these things apply to me. I view myself in this negative way, but only myself. Yes, it is hypocritical and I have been asked that dreaded question more times than I can count. But I know so many beautiful people who are different sizes and shapes than me and although I cannot deal with my own appearance, most days I would love to look like any one of them.

That’s the thing though. People ask rational questions about irrational subjects. How can one be expected to have a “real” view of themselves when every reflective surface makes you see yourself as if you’re standing in front of a mirror in a fun house? This hypocrisy that people so quickly judge us for having is based upon both a deep-rooted hatred of our own bodies, for whatever reasons, and the desire for no other person to feel the way we feel about ourselves. Speaking from experience, it kills me to see anybody else criticizing or agonizing over their appearance. So yes, I will be a hypocrite and tell my friends that they must eat and hydrate when I cannot bring myself to. I will do my best to ensure that they have the love for their bodies that I have never had for my own.

Please know that rarely will an individual with an eating disorder ever be talking about any particular body shape or size when they insult themselves or are unwell and trying to lose weight. Instead, it is the fault of the horrible, niggling voices in the back of their minds that criticize them, compare them to others and make them feel inadequate and ugly. What you look like has no effect on the way they judge themselves. I could be 10 clothing sizes smaller than somebody and yet still view myself as larger, inadequate and a failure. When somebody with an eating disorder insults their body it is only their body they are talking about. It is the flaws they see in themselves and cannot ever ignore, as if there were large “X” symbols marking them as targets for self-hatred and destruction. It is a symptom of an illness, not an insult or comparison to the people around them.

Getty Image via angel_nt

Originally published: July 22, 2019
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