Let’s Get Real

(Originally posted on Feb. 26, 2018)elp0165_orig
Today is the first day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The Let’s Get Real movement is about busting myths surrounding eating disorders. Here’s a few things I want people to know about eating disorders, based on my own experience.
1. Eating disorders are a mental illness, they are not a choice. Who would consciously want to feel that they weren’t allowed to eat or if they did then they would have to throw it all up or run for 10 hours? It’s a mental illness because it disrupts normal brain functions and day to day decisions.
2. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Just like with any other mental illness, it is not exclusive to any particular group. Mental Illnesses are not a separate life form that consciously decides who is going to get it. So it would be silly, to think that only one type of person could have one.
3. Just because someone is skinny doesn’t mean they don’t eat and vice versa
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been accused of being anorexic just because I was skinny in high school. Body type has nothing to do with eating disorders. Someone being skinny, normal weight, or over weight, doesn’t diagnose them or their eating habits. Someone who is skinny could be perfectly healthy, while someone who is normal weight could struggle with eating habits.
4. Certain activities or sports doesn’t decide eating disorders
Another thing I have been asked a multitude of times is, “Eating disorders are very common in ballerinas. does that mean you have one?” This happened again once I started doing pageants, people would ask me if a lot of the girls starved themselves for the swimsuit competition. I’m not saying that no pageant girl or ballet dancer has an eating disorder, I’m just saying that being a ballet dancer does not automatically give someone an eating disorder.So there you have it. There are innumerable myths out there, but these are just the ones I run into the most.

What eating disorder myth is pressing on your mind?

Much love and support,
​Maria Jo Stephens

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