Eating disorder myths: busted

February isn’t only Black History Month, it’s also dedicated to educating the public about eating disorders.

Many people think eating disorders only affect white, middle class females. Actually, eating disorders don’t discriminate against skin color, socioeconomic status or gender. Eating disorders actually affect 10 percent of males in the U.S. When it comes to binge eating disorders, males make up about 40 percent of those affected. Believe it or not, the amount of men who are being affected by eating disorders is rising. This is because we see that men are manipulating their food and body in unusual ways to fit a certain body structure. We see this in males who wrestle, weight lift, or any sort of sport that requires a certain body type.

People are also convinced that eating disorders are just about food and appearances and blame the media. Eating disorders aren’t just about food or about the appearance of the body, and it certainly isn’t the media’s fault. When we look at individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder, we look at them through a biological, psychological and social lens. Oftentimes these people have a history of trauma, family problems involving the parents being too controlling or they have a history of substance abuse. These individuals are using food and their body to help cope with emotional distress that they find overwhelming. They usually learn to cope like this through parents or by seeing friends cope in similar ways. It isn’t about the food, it isn’t about their body and it certainly isn’t entirely the media’s fault.

Eating disorders are not lifestyles that you choose, they usually start as a reasonable way to get healthy or lose a few pounds but can quickly go too far. They start off as a simple way for an individual to gain control over their life, but soon become out of control. A number of different factors usually lead to these gateway behaviors. The bottom line is that no one chooses an eating disorder.

The truth is that not many people know or understand eating disorders. The stigma that surrounds them can be broken. Education is one of the most powerful tools we have against stigma involving mental illness.

For more information, check out 100ReasonstoRecover’s video.