Welcome to your Barbie-free ED Awareness Week Zone

I’m guessing most of you have realized that it is, once again, Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Although I think the idea is great, I kind of dread this week. Most of the stuff written about eating disorders makes me cringe, and now I have this massive, week-long onslaught of misinformation that makes me want to scream.

Image credit: JeepersMedia/Flickr

Image credit: JeepersMedia/Flickr

Because I was looking for a Barbie-free zone during this week, I thought others might be, too. Realizing the truth of “If you build it, they will come,” I decided to create one. Here.

Yes, you can talk about eating disorders without talking about models and Barbies and (even!) bad moms. I figured that if no one else was going to do it, then I should step up to the plate. Because one thing my readers have taught me is that I’m not the freaky weirdo I think I am (or at least, I’m in good freaky weirdo company). If I’m sick of the Barbie talk, then others probably are, too.

So for eating disorders awareness week, I’m going to do at least daily postings on EDs- some research, some ranting, some miscellaneous stuff.

What I want to hear from you is what you would want to see discussed on ED Awareness Week. What do YOU think people need to know about EDs? What kind of information out there is plain old wrong? What do you wish people really knew?

Share in the comments and you just might see your ideas in an upcoming ED Bites post.

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66 Responses to “Welcome to your Barbie-free ED Awareness Week Zone”

  1. Oh, the list that goes on & on… I’d love to see more on the hidden face of ED; the ED-NOS & older age groups rather than it always being about AN in teenagers! Anything out there about healthcare professional attitudes to ED patients? Because there is so much stigma/discrimination from staff

    • Yes, I would also like to see more diversity in research and reporting about the faces of people with eating disorders. Almost every article I read says somewhere that teenaged girls are the primary cohort for EDs, and now the air time is all about the average age of admission dropping. Well, there are men and boys, people of colour, older adults (I know – I am one) and all kinds of cohorts out there and the silence in the literature and research often translates into treatment systems that are poorly equipped to meet our needs and we remain largely isolated in our recovery efforts.

  2. I’ve been told so often, by “well-meaning friends”, who didn’t know any better, that this is all about “control” i.e. parents over-controlling their kid. They couldn’t have been more wrong, but it seems to be a commonly-held viewpoint.

  3. Thank god. As you know, my issues have never had anything to do with Barbie, body image or anything stereotypical that will be touted this week. It’s OCD. It’s anxiety. It’s manifested in overexercise and over control of my food, routine, etc. I look forward to the different topics you might tackle, a voice of reason this week 😉

    • Amen! No two eating disorders are the same.

      After five years in and out of treatment for AN, I was finally told that I should be in treatment for anxiety/OCD instead of eating disorder.

      Switching the treatment focus from the food to the real issue has made all the difference.

      • My therapist diagnosed me with Asperger Syndrome a year and a half ago. My treatment team has shifted their focus from focusing on my ED to focusing on my spectrum issues, and I have finally seen real progress and maintenance of progress. Yes- finding the real issues is the key.

  4. Well…to echo another comment, dispelling the myth that media images cause EDs. And older women and EDs.

  5. More about pre- and co-occurring conditions (anxiety, depression, etc). And that, just because someone with an ed looks ‘ok’ on the outside, that doesn’t mean that they are ‘ok’ on the inside! Reference to the constant struggle they may be experiencing and phobic feelings towards food. Also, it would be good to give reference to the huge impact an ed can have on carer’s and loved ones lives… Thanks!

  6. More about adult women with anorexia, the hidden struggle of high functioning anorexics, and like others said, the profound interplay between anxiety and eating disorders!

    • YES to all of this! As an adult with a demanding and supposedly prestigious career, it’s hard not to feel that I ought be able to just get over this. At the same time, any group based treatment (inpatient or otherwise) has left me feeling like an outsider since I’m neither a teenager nor someone who has lost her education and/or career to anorexia.

      • I have demanding and high powered job too, I can handle the stress well, I have no relationship problems but I do have BED and exercise addiction…..more women like me?

  7. I ditto Abby. For some people, what looks like restricting AN is actually OCD: without body image concerns. So nice to have a kindred spirit 🙂

  8. A lot of my peers think that the cure to EDs is telling everyone that they are beautiful and not fat, but it’s important for people to know that EDs are not about appearance. Along the same vein, media does not just cause EDs to develop… They can trigger/ aid, but they do not cause.
    And more on what is disordered. Like bulimia is not just binging/purging; it can be fasting, exercising, etc.. Obsession with healthy foods is disordered (orthorexia) (which it seems the entire country has sometimes).
    Lastly, more on BED. It’s a real thing. All EDs are dangerous and deadly.

    • I completely agree. I can’t tell you how many times people have found out about my eating disorder, from family to friends to strangers, and the first thing they say is something along the lines of “oh honey, you don’t need to do that! you’re beautiful!”. I know this is meant to be comforting, but it tends to do the complete opposite; it makes me feel like a joke. I think people need to realize that eating disorders are a reaction to an underlying problem, not a diet to look like some life-sized barbie doll.

  9. This is a very specific question, but what about EDs in Indian women (or Asian women)?

    And eating disorders in fraternal twins?

  10. I think the whole “good enough” issue is really worth an explanation.

    • Could you explain what you mean by that? How people with EDs usually don’t feel “good enough” at their disorders? Thanks!

      • I guess what I mean is that people with EDs can find it a struggle to feel as though they are “good enough” just in general. Whether it comes to school, being successful at their ED, successful at recovery, or as human beings in general. A person needs to remain ever-vigilant, and often they are, but even in what others might label success it can be difficult to ever really feel “good enough”. Even when they are the nicest people you’d ever wish to meet.

        People might simply label this “low self-esteem”, but buzz-terms like that seem to be sell the matter short.

        • Intrigued by Bob J./AndThen’s comment. I am in full agreement that “low self-esteem” does indeed “sell the matter short”.

          Entering in-patient the day after tomorrow…I am already paralyzed by (as perceived by myself) potential exclusion because of my age and by NOT being the “thinnest-in-the-room” this time out…not being perceived as “worthy” of treatment. I say this because in the past, I had noticed much of the attention going to the “young ones”…who developed almost “guru/disciple” relationships with the psychiatrists. I am fearful of not being “good enough” to be seriously considered by professionals…This needs to be addressed as well.

  11. Can’t wait to read your posts! I’d be interested in hearing more about comorbid conditions and eating disorders. I was always told that once I dealt with my ed, it would be much easier to tackle my depression. But I am not finding that to be the case at all!

  12. I wish, wish, wish the physiological process of recovery was better understood. I have gained a LOT of weight in recovery, and have been made to feel like a freak by doctors (and some family actually), and actually told by GP to diet. I am proud of my progress!

    • First time on this blog, I’m compelled to reply to your comment Zara, as I too gained much weight in my re-feeding /recovery from borderline AN 2 years ago, and now I’m just plain unhappy, with nowhere to go. Now I am less restrictive and stressed out about food, Everyone else in my life is happier now that I’m “over my ED” but with a much chubbier silhouette I feel powerless to make or do anything different about my body, including like it. I appreciate it, but I intensely dislike it. Plus, as a fitness professional, it doesn’t make sense to me how come my body is still chubby even though I get plenty of exercise and I’m not restricting food anymore like i used to.

  13. Thank you for this! I love the suggestions that people have posted, and I wanted to add more to the co-morbidity issue. For example, my PTSD is my biggest ED trigger, as others have mentioned OCD, anxiety, etc. Managing two complex diagnoses can be a real challenge, and there often isn’t a lot written about that. I couldn’t care less about Barbie and models for my own anorexia–mine is more using something to escape the constant fear and flashbacks. Looking forward to reading!

    • Ditto and thank you to Alie’s suggestion. I’ve heard so much lately that the ED must be treated first and foremost, but so much depression and anxiety is wrapped around my young adult daughter’s ED. I know weight restoration is important…but without treatment for the other co-morbidities, it seems that relapse is almost inevitable. Would love to hear what you have to say about this.

    • I have had discussions with my therapist about how we sometimtes put the cart before the horse with comorbities, perhaps less so with depression, but often with PTSD, where it is less comorbid to the ED but rather the ED is comorbid to PTSD. Treating the Ed without also treating comorbidities is an exercise in futility, yet many of us in Canada live in systems which only treat one at once and sometimes see systems attempting to “offload” care from one treatment stream to another, usually resulting in abandoning us to another interminable waitlist.

  14. how about weight isn’t a good indicator of whether or not someone has recovered? (i.e. just cause your a healthy weight doesn’t mean you aren’t still “in” your disorder)
    or something about relapse not being a sign of failure…or perhaps relapse being more difficult than initial diagnosis…
    or how some of us are REALLY tired of being categorized and defined by our diagnosis in the treatment community…
    too much? sorry–super tired of having to educate people who think you should just ‘go eat a cheeseburger.’ 😉

    • Kate ,

      You are so right about all of this ! I think most people with EDs know that the diagnostic criterion are seriously flawed and need a total revamp if they are going to really encompass what EDs are. It would have been nice to see that happen in the new DSM-5, but the range of politics surrounding mental health seem simply too strong for the profession to make the changes that we all know are needed. The new OSFED category may be a step in the direction, but after all this time it seems more like a band-aide than the real changes that are needed. Those who set the criterion will need to be bold if we are ever to see those changes, but boldness does not seem to be a quality that’s rewarded much in the current professional climate.

  15. I would really love to see some posts about recovery. So much about ed awareness week is focused on prevention (either by promoting positive body image or providing scare info about the dangers of eds- neither or which are likely to be particularly effective…) but, even saying this was effective, the focus on prevention can be somewhat depressing for those of us who have missed that boat and already have eds. I would love to see posts focused on recovery and demonstrating that FULL recovery is possible!

  16. + 1 To Kate and Zara regarding arriving at a “healthy weight” as NOT equalling recovery. I tailspun into full relapse after a GP’s comments about gaining a “remarkable” amount of weight in a short time whilst attempting recovery. Family and friends can tend to see weight gain as a sign to no longer consider as having a problem …when the reality can be precisely the contrary.

    Also…I would like to see studies done regarding chronic anorexia being regarded as “hopeless cases” by the medical field..ED specialists included.

  17. One more!…(Sorry)…I would LOVE to see “RELENTLESS COMPARISON” addressed as a key component of anorexia. I find that as anorexics…every facet/realm of life is affected by this. One seems to constantly measure one’s own existence …intelligence…beauty….sense of humor….wealth…constantly comparing oneself to others. Rampant, devastating and joy-sapping.

    • Oooohw, that hits home.

    • Donna,

      No kidding : It’s hard to miss the fact that people with EDs are relentless comparers !! While “comparing” seems to be an essential aspect of being human, and likely plays some kind of important evolutionary role, it would seem that it’s particularly ramped up in people with EDs. My guess is that it’s linked with the whole “good enough” thing, and I suspect you know how people with EDs are about that !

  18. I’d be interested in the not feeling “sick enough” thing too.
    Also, how weight gain happens in recovery (for all those professionals who tell people they gain weight too fast and should cut down on their intake).
    Hunger cues, maybe? (when I let myself get too hungry, I feel really energetic and food starts to disgust me- I wonder if this is common?)
    And finally, misinformed professionals.
    (I was told I had bulimia when I was very underweight and fit into all the DSM criteria for AN, given a book on how to stop bingeing, and told that the support group for people with AN probably wouldn’t work for me but there was a good support group for people with BN and BED about an hour away. Does no one think bingeing might just be a reaction to restriction??)

    • I do think bingeing is a reaction to restriction. But how to stop restricting bingeing circle if you have done it for years?

      • I personally think that it’s easier to stop the restricting (well, easier for your body. Harder for the ED).
        But putting it that way just makes bingeing the enemy, and on some level I realized that bingeing was my body trying to survive. It really hurt to be told that my main problem were the binges, when they were probably also my main (only?) source of nutrition.
        Oh and when I started recovery, I was told to be sure not to go to the other extreme because I had a history of overeating…. Yeah. Right. Like you can call eating during AN “overeating”.
        Anyways, sorry for the rant. But I really believe that restriction is the main problem- now that I’m at my set point weight and have been eating enough (totally unrestrictedly) for a while, I’ve totally lost the urge to “binge”.

  19. Has anyone here ever read Brain over Binge? It is yet another viewpoint from which to look at bingeing…..perhaps an article about alternative approaches rather than traditional therapy for treating EDs? Success stories are very welcome too, I don’t read/hear many and wonder if full recovery is possible. Thanks!

  20. I wish people- all people, with eds and without- would get a grip on the idea of “it’s a disorder not a choice.” I’d like that to be a big takeaway from any ed awareness activity.

    A sufferer just said to me the other day, “I know I’m choosing this- I have to want to get better” and my heart just went out to her- no, honey, you didn’t choose this, and you don’t have to want anything- you just need to get help. Get help because you’re miserable, you’re scared, you’re alone. I felt sad b/c she has obviously heard people say that to her, and has now absorbed it into her person- so that, if she doesn’t “want” to let go of her ed behaviors, then she deems herself in no way “fit” for help or for recovery. How unfair. No one would ever say that to a cancer patient. “You just have to want to not have cancer.” No- no one would say that- they would just say- cancer sucks- go get some chemo so maybe you can be with us longer chemo sucks too- too bad you have to have it. No one would judge a cancer patient for “choosing” cancer, for “not wanting” chemo, any of that shit. But ed sufferers get judged for that all the time, and they judge themselves b/c they keep hearing these messages over and over.

    • I am hugging your comment. Tightly. And then I shall snuggle it tonight next to my usual stuffed moose. 🙂

    • Such a sad, but true observation! My daughter is constantly being told by her therapists that she’s got to ‘want’ to get better, but what she wants is not to feel so anxious, worried, terrified, worthless, ugly, stupid, etc etc (the list is endless), and for her, the restricting initially helped minimize these feelings. I think ed treatment should not focus solely on the food side of things, but should look at the person as a whole being and should recognise the sometimes unnoticed journey that has led to the visible signs of dis-ease.

  21. I love what you guys are up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the good works guys I’ve included you guys to my blogroll.

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  1. Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Useful, Useless, or Worse? | Science of Eating Disorders - March 6, 2014

    […] thing is, awareness is not always a good thing. For one, as Carrie over at ED Bites mentioned, there’s a whole lot of misinformation masquerading as fact. And two, awareness campaigns, […]