I work with individuals with eating disorders and I often hear loved ones ask “why are they not eating”? An eating disorder is not necessarily about the choice to not eat. Yes you may restrict food but no one wants to starve to death. We tend to stigmatize eating disorder and to assume someone is choosing to be this way.
NO ONE chooses to starve self and obsess about weight and dieting. To starve yourself and obsess about your weight and food is a living hell. You understand the need to eat and recognize it is necessary to sustain life, but eating and food cause an internal war. You are constantly battling thoughts and fears. Your rational self becomes clouded with hatred, fear, and self-loathing. Having an eating disorder is like you have a green monster living inside you. The green monster chose you for whatever reason and it does not want to leave. You are comfortable and cozy and the job of this monster is to make you suffer. This monster is an asshole and yells mean things in your head. It tells you are you fat, disgusting, you are lazy, and that you are a pig. It tells you to worry because something bad is going to happen. It lies and tells you, you are not good enough.
The green monster chooses you, you do not choose the green monster. In other words you did not choose your eating disorder. Let me say that one more time, someone does not choose to have an eating disorder. There are different theories for how and eating disorder develops and I am not discussing those today. The message for you today is that you are not your eating disorder. The eating disorder is causing your mind to lie to you, manipulate you, and convince you of the bad things you believe.
My wellness tip for those of you reading and watching this today is to cut people some slack. Lets not assume people are choosing to feel terrible. No one likes believing they must not eat. Sometimes an individual must choose between eating and being internally punished and berated. Individuals are not choosing to be ill and they want to get better. The eating disorder distorts thinking and this makes it seem like a person is making a choice to suffer and starve.
Rather than judge let’s have compassion and offer to help. Offer to support and guide someone to get help.
* Dr. Stephanie Waitt, LPC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Sherman, Texas. Stephanie works with young and successful women to help restore balance and peace. She specializes in working with individuals with eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, and depression.