What if I kinda wish I had an eating disorder?
But first, a disclaimer: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for individualized medical on mental health care. It does not constitute a patient-provider relationship.
When people tell me: "I wish I had a little bit of an eating disorder . . . "
I often think to myself, with so much love and compassion and support, "you probably do." Because wishing you had a serious mental illness in order to be thinner is disordered.
So ok, if you’ve ever thought this yourself, I’m not mad at you. The honest truth is most celebrities, influencers, fitness models, etc. are engaging in disordered dieting or exercise behaviors in order to maintain their “ideal” bodies:
Has anyone seen that Mark Wahlberg documentary? Where he’s working out at 3am instead of sleeping? That’s disordered.
Or Kim K’s detox teas and appetite suppressant lollipops? Disordered.
Or J-Lo’s 10-day carb cleanse? The one where she can’t even eat pickles? (Pickles are not high in carbs!!!) Definitely disordered.
And what about all the fitspo and weight loss transformation accounts you’re following on social media? What about your friend who’s “so good” on her diet she brings her own food to parties? These are more subtle, more ubiquitous, and more socially acceptable examples of disordered eating. And because they're harder to recognize, they're harder to dismiss as obviously problematic.
If you’ve wished you had a little bit of an eating disorder, that makes sense. Because that’s what you grew up with, that's what’s been marketed to you, and that's what you've learned to accept as "healthy".
It’s easy to confuse disordered behaviors with health behaviors in a culture that continues to value thinness above all else.
So when you can’t “will power” your way to thinness (because your body is doing her job and protecting you from starvation) you start to wish you could control, manipulate, and overpower her.
So yes, I totally get it.
And I totally support you.
AND I hope you’ll keep these considerations in mind:
First: Eating disorders are extremely serious, life threatening diseases. They have the highest mortality of any mental health illness. You cannot tell who has an eating disorder by looking at them. People in all sizes can be struggling with extreme restriction, bingeing, or purging behaviors. Please do not say “I wish I had an eating disorder” out loud to anyone other than a mental health professional. You never know else is struggling or the impact your words could have.
Second: Wishing you had an eating disorder is a sign that something is amiss. Thoughts like that don’t come out of nowhere and likely indicate that you’re already struggling with restricting, binging, over-exercising, or negative body image. If you notice these thoughts, take a second to examine them. What’s triggering these thoughts? How can you talk back to these thoughts? As in, “Wow, wishing I was sick in order to be thin? No, that’s NOT what I want!”
Some of the most important work you'll do on the path to healing your relationship with food and body will be to recognize, accept, and evaluate your thoughts. You can start that work now by challenging the thought that an eating disorder would somehow enhance your life. I promise. It won't.
If you’re struggling with disordered eating, please know you aren’t in this alone! There is plenty of support available in online communities, self help literature, and one on one counseling. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need.