"No thanks, I'm not hungry."

"I'll just eat this and skip dinner."

"I don't think I can go out today."

With many people in the world struggling with an ED, and many others trying to recover from an ED, and others who don't even know they have an ED, it breaks my heart to see a world that still sometimes thinks it's not "real". Apparently, peer pressure and society both play a large role. They are partly why over 50% of teenage girls take unhealthy weight control methods like laxatives, fasting, vomiting, or skipping meals. And why there have been 20 million women in the US alone suffering from a clinically significant ED, and why anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. 

While many are unaware of the problem, many also choose to turn away from it. In my country especially, the term "eating disorder" isn't even a familiar context. In this post, I'm not going to elaborate on whether or not I have experienced it; I'm not being pretentious, I just don't think I'm ready to share that story. But I've listed some ways people always seem to think wrongly when it comes to the issue.
  1. People with disordered eating = people who are extremely skinny. // Anorexia is a real thing, and yes, when someone is severely malnourished, they will appear to be very skin-and-bone or weak. But that is only one end of the spectrum. When someone tells you they might have an eating disorder, please don't believe them any less just because their arms don't look stick thin or their hipbones don't show. So do avoid saying "but you don't look like you have an eating disorder!" because that would just create more unwanted pressure regarding their appearance.
  2. "If she had one, I would've known." // Even though it's very likely that when a person is struggling, it will show through their behaviors around food, it's also still very easy for a sufferer of an ED to hide it from everyone else, including the people closest to them. My advice is, don't assume. Ask. 
  3. It's only about "dieting". // Diets taken to extreme measures are one of the major causes for  long-term eating disorders, but disordered eating is a complex term. It revolves around one's fixation on food, but it could also involve issues surrounding self-esteem, peer pressure, and even depression. Labeling eating disorders as just "strange diets" or "girls who just want to lose weight" is an extreme, extreme insult to those who have lost (or nearly lost) their lives, or have suffered actual consequences to their health. 
  4. They're just thirsty for attention. // To this I should emphasize: the reason why so many people with mental health issues choose not to come forward is because of this stigma. I'll just ask, what part of a girl trying to throw up in her bathroom alone is "attention-seeking" to you? Do consider that some people are genuinely struggling, not fishing for pity. It shouldn't be taken lightly, and people should not just casually say they have an ED without doing proper research and self-introspecting. But it doesn't make it right for you to imply that they're self-absorbed.
  5. It only affects your eating. // As much as we wish it only affected our eating patterns and nothing else, an ED can affect much more. Hormonal imbalances in the body caused by this unsteady stream of nutrients and fuel can cause damage to many metabolisms. I won't get much into it, but it takes a toll on everything; your skin, blood sugar levels, reproductive health, and especially mental health. (You can read more here.)
  6. It can simply "go away". // Again, we wish it could. But it's not as easy. It's not like a cold, where some dosage of medicine can guarantee you a nice exit out of it. When dealt with, they can take up a lot of time. Recovery can't happen overnight. Instead, it can take up to months and years, even longer than the time they were suffering from said ED. The fact that some keep it concealed, and don't seek out treatment/help, also makes it worse. Even as you are recovered, you'll find that the thoughts will still try to creep into your head, affecting you again and again. I hope for those of you who can't seem to move on, feeling like this is already a part of you, the key is to have compassion for yourself, and to learn to live with it and try your best. Slow progress is still progress. With time, you can and you will overcome.
I'd often thought of writing about this, and in fact, the idea crosses my mind nearly every day. But I'll be honest; I don't deem myself that brave. Today, I am in no way less scared, but I'd decided that if there was an open issue that was still happening, that I could write about and then bring to discussion, why should I stay silent? Even as my heart is racing as I type in the contents of this post?

So I could only list six misconceptions so far, but a second post will be up if I ever come across anything more. For more references, you can also read tips on staying in recovery (and overcoming fear of relapse) or why eating disorder jokes aren't cool.

Hopefully (truly, truly, truly I hope) this has helped speak for any person reading this. And for anyone who happens to be here, and if you're struggling, in whatever stage you are in right now, I hope this reminds you that you are never alone. Please be kind to yourself. My comments section (or social media links) will be open for any form of questions or stories that you might have. Let's build each other up. I'd love to hear from you.

See you around.