Debunking 5 Myths about Eating Disorders

Like many other disorders, eating disorders are often misunderstood. Confusion and misinformation about eating disorders are widespread so it’s important to learn how to spot false assumptions.

What are some common myths about eating disorders? Keep reading to find out!

5 Common Eating Disorder Myths

woman with an eating disorder eating chips
Myth 1: Eating disorders are “just a mindset”

This myth stems from the idea that disordered eating is simply a choice: it can be turned on or off with ease. However, as with other disorders, eating disorders are often a result of complex environmental and biological factors. These factors require treatments that are more intricate than asking someone to have a “change of mind” over their eating habits. While society has come a long way in breaking stigmas surrounding mental health we still have quite a ways to go to dispel myths like these. The truth is that eating disorders are serious business and people experiencing them deserve support instead of feeling invalidated by claims like these.

Myth 2: It is easy to spot someone with an eating disorder based on how they look.

It’s a common misconception that someone has to look “thin” in order to have an eating disorder, but eating disorders can impact people of all body types. For example, one study showed that weight-based bullying toward overweight youth correlated to binge eating disorder diagnoses and an increased risk for symptoms of eating disorders. Eating disorders are highly complex, and no one person with an eating disorder will look the same as another. No matter someone’s body type, they deserve compassionate, holistic care.

Woman with an eating disorder looking in a mirror
Man with an eating disorder eating cereal.
Myth 3: Eating disorders are just about eating habits

This is an easy myth to believe,  Because it’s easier to observe the outward symptoms of an eating disorder. But symptoms of eating disorders, such as binging or restriction, are the result of underlying causes. Sure, someone’s relationship with food plays a huge role, but there are more complexities hiding under the surface (such as biological and environmental factors) that can’t be readily observed. Simply encouraging someone to fix their eating habits (while well meaning) puts a Band-Aid on a bigger issue. 

Myth 4: Eating disorders only affect women

Depictions of eating disorders in T.V. shows, movies, and books might lead you to think that eating disorders impact women almost exclusively, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! While women still make up a majority of eating disorder diagnoses, a good percentage of these diagnoses are from men. In fact, one study concluded that 25% of people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are men. 1 in 4 people isn’t a small statistic, but what’s worse is that men have a higher mortality rate from this disorder because they are typically diagnosed at a later stage due to societal assumptions that they can’t (or shouldn’t) struggle with eating disorders. 

Myth 5: I can’t do anything to help someone with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are heavy, hard realities for many people. It can seem daunting when considering how to best help a loved one facing this reality, but there are things you can do to support them. It’s important to create a safe space and comfortable environment for your loved one. The first step in this process is asking how you can tangibly care for them. No matter the ups and downs that lie ahead, extending a compassionate and listening ear and encouraging them to seek help is a great way to show your support. Of course, encourage them to seek help from a registered dietitian. To learn more about how you can support someone with an eating disorder, check out this blog post.

Man and woman sitting at a picnic table

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If you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating please seek help. We would be honored if you'd trust us to come along side you on your health journey.

This blog post is not medical advice, and is provided for informational purposes only. If you have an eating disorder or disordered eating habits, please reach out to a qualified medical professional and a registered dietitian. To book an appointment with someone from our team (online or in person) please fill out our new client form.

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