[x] It's not about weight.
"Lose weight, lose weight, lose weight, I look fat, I'm fat, I should lose weight..." Okay, we've all heard it. But hear me out, more often than not, it's not about weight. That is what you find on the surface. An ED is more likely to be a manifestation of a deeper problem. It is a coping mechanism, not about vanity. Even if we say we want to be beautiful, how can you say it is vanity if we take it to lengths such as starving ourselves to a childlike size? Vanity that the scale judges the success of you as a person? It's not about weight, or vanity. Using ED methods to lose weight to look good for the summer season is an extreme diet. Not an ED. An ED is continuous, a constant thing on your mind. It rules your life more than any diet could ever do.
Many individuals with EDs struggle with life in one way or another. Many may have been sexually, physically, verbally and/or emotionally abused. Many may feel out of control and lost in life. And yes, there are those out there who feel neglected and thus, yes! Yes, people can use Anorexia as a way for attention. Neglect is a serious issue and when a child's only way to attention is to not eat, of course he/she will refuse food if it means getting the attention, love and care it needs. Can you blame a human being for being human and wanting love? I think not. While there will always be exceptions to this, people who have EDs developed purely out of vanity, I can bet you right now, it is not a large majority. That is part of the reason why EDs are not cured by telling someone they're not fat and here, have a cookie. There are underlying issues which must be dealt with or which the individual must feel ready to face without the shield of the ED, before recovery can be complete. So whatever the reason an individual has to develop an ED, don't assume that it's to look like celebrities. Which brings us to another issue...
[x] We're not stupid!
"I can't drink water, is there calories in toothpaste? I can't be near food the calories are seeping through my skin and making me fat..." Yeah, okay. Those things? Irrational fears stemmed from an ED. An ED is often a battle with what is logical and what is not. This does not, however, translate to Eating Disordered individual equals stupid. People with Eating Disorders are often high-achieving perfectionists, often A-students. We're not just "stupid bimbos", thank you very much. The view of ED equals stupid can be easily explained by the fact that stupidity shows. Which means that the face outwards that EDs get, are the side steps. The things people notice and find hilarious. Of course they won't focus on the quiet, secretive majority, when there are people who they can use to get a better story, more readers. An Eating Disordered person is often misinterpreted in media. A recent case of that is Johnny Giovanni, who participated in a documentary about Orthorexia, only to become very disappointed with the outcome being completely different than what he had been told.
EDs distort the mindset, When an Eating Disordered person says something that you think is just stupid and illogical, don't write it off as the person being stupid. Starvation or malnutrition of the body has effects on the mind. Even if a person is really smart, with a high IQ, an ED can make him/her believe distorted things, because of it being a psychological disorder. But that's it. It's a disorder. It doesn't change that underneath it there can be a person that is just as smart, logical, and thoughtful as you are. Don't look at what the disorder says. Look at what and who the person behind it is, before judging.
[x] Thinness does not measure pain.
"ED? But you're not thin." Thanks a lot, jackass. Take a look around next time you go for a walk in a public area. Do you think you can spot us? You might notice the sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa. But that is not the only ED there is. The majority of us live in silent, unacknowledged pain. Let's see, the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa is amongst other things a BMI below 17.5. So what... if you're above that you're fine and dandy? Not really. You can be overweight and have an ED that is just as serious. Yes, it is not Anorexia Nervosa, but it is an Eating Disorder. An ED at any weight is an unhealthy body and mind. Bulimia Nervosa, characterised by excessive binge eating and then purging it through methods such as vomiting, over-exercising, laxatives, and alike. Not serious because you're not thin? Induced vomiting done wrong once can kill you. It is also very harmful to your heart and organs, just like all other EDs. What else is there? There is COE - Compulsive Over Eating. What's that? Not a disorder? So it's not a disorder to sit and eat amounts that are unhealthy to your body and not be able to control yourself, not being able to know when to stop, how to stop. Right. You know what, it is. Binge eating but not purging it is also an ED. I could go on about this for ages, but I'll sum this part up by saying even EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is a serious ED that is painful for the one suffering. Eating disordered behaviour, in any form, in any body shape, is an eating disorder and should not be taken more or less seriously depending on the sufferer's body weight.
[x] We're dying.
"I'm fine." Yeah, no, not really. All EDs are harmful to our health. It doesn't matter if you're so thin you can't lie down without being in pain, or so overweight that you can't get out of your chair. Every day of ED behaviour does harm. Anorexia Nervosa in particular has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses. This is no joke. Left untreated, one in five sufferers die due to related causes. And as earlier noted, in Bulimia, you can die from vomiting wrong, just once. Or you can eat so much your stomach will literally rupture. But these things aside, ED sufferers often have weak hearts and organs. More prone to heart attacks. The chance is high for osteoporosis in an age as early as maybe, in their twenties or even earlier. Osteoporosis means you have a weak skeleton, much like old people. It means that if you fall, you are more likely to break your bones, as your bones are brittle. It can also be painful. And whether you're underweight or not, malnutrition can kill you. You can be technically overweight and die from poor nutrition values.
It's not that pretty, is it. Add to that brittle nails, hair falling out, teeth rotting (they rot from malnutrition too, not just from stomach acids), skin problems, dizziness, confusion, stunted growth, lanugo (growth of fine hairs covering all your body)... You may become sterile, not be able to bear a child or in a man's case become impotent. Your immune system gets weaker, and in extreme cases you can die from the flu. You damage your metabolism. Whoever said it's glamorous is a liar.
Not to mention, an ED is very tough to deal with, mentally. Suicide rates are high.
[x] Body Dysmorphic Disorder
"If you're fat, I must be obese!" Please. Don't even go there. There is a common misconception that all people with EDs go around thinking everyone normal are fat. This is wrong. You'd be surprised at how many there are out there who are actually, fat positive. Just not in themselves. Hypocrisy? Let me introduce you to a frienemy of mine: Body Dysmorphic Disorder, in short BDD. While not all people with EDs have BDD, it is not uncommon. BDD means that you cannot see your body as it truly is. Your own view of your body is in one way or another deformed. Therefore, it may hurt very much when people roll their eyes and tell an Eating Disordered individual to get over it, they're not fat. Because that might be just what they see. Fat. And it is not vanity. This is a distorted view of the body, which comes in various degrees. A person with Anorexia Nervosa, for example, may look at a normal weight person, compare themselves to this person, and feel like the normal weight person looks perfect, but he/she herself is fat and distorted. Don't brush this away as an exaggeration. Some people with BDD avoid mirrors completely in fear of seeing themselves, while others check their appearance compulsively. BDD is not vanity.
[x] We do eat.
"But I've seen her eat..." Yes. Newsflash: We do eat. Just not always in healthy amounts or healthy ways. The human body does not physically survive without food, so the body craves it and needs it to function. Different people have different eating habits, and that includes people with EDs. Some eat as little as possible, others eat a lot and purge or make up for it by fasting, exercising, etc., while others restrict. An ED can be about eating too much, as well (it's in the mindset). To shun Eating Disordered people because of the sheer fact that we're human and have natural instincts to eat, does not make things easier. The urge to binge after heavy restricting is a natural survival instinct. Then there are people that eat regularly, almost like a normal person in volume, but volume does not always equal high calorie. You can be eating under the starvation line and still appear to eat normally, or at least semi-normally. Again, an ED is in the mindset, not the weight or current plate of food.
[x] Why not recover?
"If you hate it so much, why don't you just recover?" If it only were that easy. Then there would not be a mass of ED people that all wish they could recover. And obviously, if it were that easy, all that have recovered would not testify how hard it is. Of course not... Oh but of course it's hard. It's not an on-and-off switch. You can't suddenly decide one day that oh, hey, I'm going to be fine with food and myself again. As of now. Yup. ... Get real. Oh, it is possible to recover. And achievable, with hard work. But only if the person is ready and wants it. Then recovery is the best thing they will ever have. Though recovery in itself is a lifetime commitment. I'm not going to type more about recovery because I am myself not a good spokesperson for it, but yeah. Recovery is not a one-day trip to normalcy. It takes work. Don't expect us to go be able to eat a cheeseburger without guilt on the first day.
Questions or opinions may be commented. Though I'd like to remind that there are always exceptions to the norm. This goes both ways. If I have written something in a hazy or strange manner, it's probably because my blood sugar was low that day, but I had a few hours so I tried. Apologies in advance if something came out wrong.