Last week I watched the premiere of “Addicted to Food,” the new ED show on OWN. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a show that follows some people through an inpatient treatment facility for eating disorders. All eating disorders are covered, although out of the ten or so people, only one is anorexic and only one is bulimic (laxatives). The rest are compulsive overeaters. For me, it’s bearable to watch BECAUSE there is only one anorexic. If there were more, it would trigger me too much and I would be unable to watch it.
Anyway — I’m not here to talk about the show specifically. I want to talk about the sanity of an anorexic vs. the sanity of a compulsive overeater.
DISCLAIMER: The following my offend you if you are a compulsive overeater. My intentions are not to offend anybody, but you have been warned.
As much as I say all eating disorders are the same, there are huge differences. The root may be the same; we all have EDs because we need them to cope with something, whether it’s pain, insecurity, loneliness, anger, bitterness, sadness, etc. But there are differences, and not just in the fact that one eats and one starves, or that one is emaciated while the other is obese.
Watching “Addicted to Food,” I’ve come to the realization that I think those who suffer from anorexia are mentally sicker than those who suffer from compulsive overeating.
Going solely on the show, the compulsive overeaters behaved relatively normal. Aside from the fact that they all wanted to lose weight, they acted sane for the most part. They interacted with each other, they were open about their experiences, and they were eager to rid themselves of the addiction to food. But the anorexic was different. Right off the bat she was hesitant to let go of her eating disorder, she was deceptive, she was manipulative, she was judgmental, and she was paranoid. Even the treatment facilitator commented on how she was the sickest one there, and I don’t think she meant physically.
Going off of Melissa DeHart , the 60-pound anorexic who chronicled her eating disorder on The Maury Povich show, anybody who followed her would know the strange things she would do while in her disease. Her food rituals were bizarre, and while in treatment she was arrested for stealing another patient’s jewelry.
Going off of when I was in treatment myself, there was a severely anorexic girl who would steal other people’s food and mix unrelated foods together to eat it. There were other food rituals as well. She would lie consistently and her behavior was just strange in general. She wasn’t “normal” and you could tell she was not all mentally there.
In general I think anorexics are more secretive, they lie more, they are more manipulative, more deceptive, paranoid, delusional, irrational, etc. That’s not to say that compulsive overeaters don’t lie, or steal, or hoard, but it all goes back to the disorders themselves and what I’ve said on the site before:
Anorexics have to gain, compulsive overeaters get to lose. Compulsive overeaters would do anything to be rid of their eating disorder. Anorexics would do anything to keep it.
Why do anorexics do weird things with their food? Why do they mix foods together that would taste horrible? Why do they cut their food into tiny pieces? Why do they puke in bags and save it? Why do they load up their food with condiments? Why do they HOARD condiments? Why do they have to eat clockwise, or counter clockwise? Why do they have to count their chews? Why do they have to not let one food touch another food on their plates? Why do they have countless other food rituals?
I’ve never met a compulsive overeater who has done such things with their food. They binge. Sometimes they puke. And that’s it. I’ve also never met a compulsive overeater with a mental disorder other than depression. Not saying none of them suffer from other mental disorders, but I’ve never met one. Not in treatment, not in OA, and I’ve never seen one on TV.
If people really knew what it was like to be an anorexic, I think they would be amazed how much it doesn’t have to do with “wanting to be skinny.”