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Eating Disorders: Myths and Influences

Posted Feb 23 2010 12:00am



Myths & Realities From Mirror-Mirror:

Only teenage girls suffer from eating disorders. Many eating disorders do begin in the teenage years, but children, men, older women and just about anyone can fall victim to this terrible disorder.

You can never fully recover from an eating disorder. Recovery takes a long time, but with hard work and the proper treatment, you can fully recover from your eating disorder.

Men with eating disorders are always gay. Someone's sexual preference has nothing to do with them developing an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are solely a problem with food. With all eating disorders, weight is the focus of life. By focusing on food, weight and calories, a person is able to block out or numb painful feelings and emotions. Some use food as a way to comfort themselves. Eating disorders are NOT a problem with food. They are in fact only a symptom of underlying problems.

Bulimics always purge by vomiting. Not all bulimics try to rid themselves of the calories they have consumed by vomiting. Purging can take the form of laxatives, diuretics, exercising, or fasting.

You can always tell someone is anorexic by their appearance. Not all anorexics look like the extreme cases shown on talk shows, etc. Some anorexics may be anywhere from 5 to 15 lbs. underweight. They look thin, but they do not have what society considers to be the "anorexic" look. Just because someone does not look emaciated, does not mean they are not anorexic or that their health is not in danger.

Anorexics do not eat candy, chocolate, etc. Many anorexics do avoid such foods, but some do eat them on a regular basis. If an anorexic decides to only allow him/herself 300 calories a day, they may very well choose to eat a chocolate bar, candy, etc.

Anorexics do not binge or purge. Many anorexics will go on occasional binges and purge. Some anorexics can become so fearful of any food or drink that they will purge whatever they put into their system, including water.

You cannot die from bulimia. Bulimics are at a high risk for dying, especially if they are purging, using laxatives and doing excessive exercise. Many bulimics have died from cardiac arrest which is usually caused by low potassium or an electrolyte imbalance. Others have died from a ruptured esophagus.

People with eating disorders do this to hurt their family and friends. People with eating disorders are doing this to themselves. They are usually very upset when they know the people around them are worried or hurt by their eating disorder.

Compulsive eating is not an eating disorder. It is very much an eating disorder and is just as serious as anorexia and bulimia.

Compulsive eaters are just lazy people. Compulsive eating is a way to cope just like anorexia and bulimia are. A person uses food as a way to comfort or numb themselves, block out feelings and emotions, etc. They are not lazy! They are people in emotional pain trying to cope using the only way they know how. Like anorexia and bulimia, they need proper treatment to overcome it. They do not need to be sent to health spas and diet clinics.

People cannot have more than one eating disorder. Many people have more than one eating disorder. It is very common for someone to suffer with more than one eating disorder. That just proves that the eating behaviors are only the symptoms, not the problem.

Some risk factors include:

  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Dieting
  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Obsssive-compulsive features
  • Need for control
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Media pressure to be thin
  • Being female
  • Mood disorders
  • Overly critical families
  • Athletes, actors, television personalities, dancers, models, ballerinas, gymnasts, runners and wrestlers.
NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM OBTAINING AN EATING DISORDER...NO ONE!!


Karen Carpenter (musician): Went on a water diet to lose weight and, as she put it, to appear more attractive. Continued to diet even after losing 20 lbs, until her death at the age of 32. She died of cardiac arrest due to anorexia and weighed only 80 lbs.

Ana Carolina Reston: Brazilian model, starved herself to death in 2006.

Theresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo (December 3, 1963 – March 31, 2005): Her physician failed to recognize and diagnose bulimia

Margaux Hemmingway: actress, model, suffered with bulimia

Christy Henrich (gymnast): In 1988, Christy was told by a U.S. judge that she had to lose weight in order to make the Olympic team. She died of multiple organ failure, as a result of anorexia, at the age of 22. She weighed only 60 lbs.

Heidi Guenther (ballet dancer): After being told by a theatre company that at 5'5" in height and 96 lbs in weight she was too chunky, she developed an eating disorder. She collapsed and died at the age of 22 due to complications from her eating disorder.

Leila Pahlavi: The youngest daughter of the late Shah of Iran stole prescriptions from the desk of her doctor in order to feed her fatal addiction to barbiturates, an inquest heard yesterday. Princess Leila Pahlavi, 31, died alone in her suite at a London hotel after taking prescription drugs and cocaine. She was found in bed, her body emaciated by years of anorexia and bulimia.

Anne Sexton: American poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974), who was sexually abused in childhood and committed suicide at the age of 46, suffered from anorexia and depression.


Paula Abdul: Dancer, choreograph and singer battled bulimia and decided to check herself in a clinic, back in 1994. Her negative feelings about her own body image came as early as seven years old when she began dancing, but "it didn't manifest into a full-blown eating disorder until I was in high school." Today Paula Abdul is a spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). "It is one of the toughest things to talk about, bar none, and it is one of the hardest disorders to deal with because it's not black or white. Eating disorders really have nothing to do with food, it's about feelings."

Imogen Bailey: She's been called one of Australia's sexiest models, but actress Imogen Bailey recently revealed her battle with anorexia and how she is now healthy.

Maria Conchita Alonso: Beauty pageant winner and actress, the first contemporary international Latina superstar, recently began speaking out about her struggle with bulimia. Struggling with the condition for nearly a decade, resulting in damage to her esophagus and her teeth, she eventually sought help for the self-destructive syndrome.

Christine Alt: Model Christine Alt (Carol Alt's sister) developed an eating disorder under the pressure to slim down from modeling agencies and clients. "I think that half the women in this world who are plus-size would not be if they never went on a diet."

Magali Amadei: Magali Amadei has appeared on the covers of fashion magazines. She's been on TV commercials, billboards and even in movies! With all that success, you'd think that she would have tons of confidence. But for many years, Magali suffered from bulimia.

Fiona Apple: Singer and songwriter Fiona Apple became anorexic after being raped outside of her mother's home at the age of twelve. She says she was not anorexic out of a desire to be thin, but as a reaction to being raped. She also admitted to having self-injurious behaviors in the past.

Imogen Bailey: The English 'Neighbours' soap opera star has revealed that she battled with anorexia when she first started modeling. The 31-year-old actress, who plays Nicola West in the soap said that she began to diet when she started doing bikini photoshoots.

Justine Bateman: Former 'Family Ties' actress Justine Bateman struggled with bulimia. Justine is now an activist for recovery and speaks from time to time at eating disorder support groups about her experiences with an eating disorder.

Victoria Beckham: Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice from the Spice Girls) publicly admitted struggling with an eating disorder in the early days of the Spice Girls, after years "in denial". "I was very obsessed. I mean, I could tell you the fat content and the calorie content in absolutely anything," she told ABC's 20/20 in 2003.

Kate Beckinsale: Actress Kate Beckinsale struggled with an eating disorder during her teen years, before she decided to start acting. She has frankly spoken in interviews about her eating problem. Thanks to the support of her family and therapy Kate was able to recover from anorexia.
Melanie Chisholm: Singer Melanie Chisholm (Melanie C - former Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls) publicly admitted suffering from an eating disorder and depression. Throughout the time she was in the "Spice Girls", Melanie alternated between starving herself and excessive exercise. "My mum assumed my tiny body was a result of being busy with the band and working out regularly."

Kelly Clarkson: The 'American Idol' winner struggled with bulimia for six months until friends discovered her secret and begged her to get help.

Nadia Comaneci: gymnast

Sandra Dee: Model and actress Sandra Dee struggled with an eating disorder and had a drinking problem for decades. "I was anorexic for many, many years -- even before people knew what it was .They didn't even have a name for it back then."

Susan Dey: Actress Susan Dey battled anorexia and bulimia. Susan was so underweight and malnourished she stopped having menstrual periods and her fingers turned orange from eating almost nothing but carrots.

Diana, Princess of Wales: Princess Diana struggled with an eating disorder and also admitted that she used to self-harm herself. The following is an extract of an interview of Princess Diana about her battle with bulimia - "I had bulimia for a number of years. And that's like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day - some do it more - and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It's like having a pair of arms around you, but it's temporarily, temporary. Then you're disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach, and then you bring it all up again. And it's a repetitive pattern, which is very destructive to yourself." Diana also admitted in a television interview that she intentionally cut her arms and legs and had thrown herself down a flight of stairs on more than one occasion.

Sally Field: Actress Sally Field struggled with an eating disorder in the past. Sally began her three-year battle with anorexia and bulimia at the age of 20. "Everybody then was Twiggy, except me."

Jane Fonda: Award-winning actress Jane Fonda revealed several years ago that she had been a secret bulimic from age 12, and struggled with anorexia and bulimia for 30 years. Jane became one of the first Hollywood actresses to break the silence and talk openly about eating disorders and campaigned to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia. In her autobiography "My Life So Far", Jane honestly talks about her 30 year battle with eating disorders.

Tracy Gold: Actress Tracey Gold suffered from an eating disorder and was first diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 12. She went into treatment and recovered after only a couple of months. But at the age of 19, in 1988, she relapsed and fell back into the vicious cycle of anorexia. Tracey eventually recovered and resumed her acting career which was effected negatively by her eating disorder.

Geri Halliwell: Singer Geri Halliwell (former Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls) publicly admitted suffering from bulimia and binge eating for several years. "I realized I couldn't control this monster anymore. I needed to find help." Her piece of advice for those who are struggling - "I can honestly tell you from personal experience, that worrying about an eating disorder really can get you down. There's nothing to be ashamed about. You'll be amazed at the difference it'll make to your whole life if you tell someone you trust. There are lots of people who want to help and you really CAN'T fight this one on your own. It might be a hard decision to make, to tell people and to seek help but, trust me it's nowhere as hard as trying to deal with it on your own." Geri has written a book called "Just For The Record" in which she talks with brutal honesty about her life, including battling and overcoming eating disorders, which she has struggled with since childhood.

Audrey Hepburn: Actress Audrey Hepburn struggled with anorexia and depression - which was unknown to the public during her career. She was known to lose weight under pressure and to be "strange" about food. Rumor has it that current actresses are being "harassed" by the media who points to Audrey as an example of a thin woman without an eating disorder, but that was NOT the case!

Janet Jackson: Singer Janet Jackson has been quoted in the media as having an ongoing battle with an eating disorder.

Elton John: Elton John has gone public about his struggles with bulimia, as well as a less common eating disorder of chewing and spitting.

Maureen McCormick: Actress (The Brady Bunch) struggled with bulimia as an adolescent.

Mary McDonough: Actress (The Waltons) struggled with an eating disorder.

Kellie Martin: Actress Kellie Martin developed anorexia when she was cast in "Life Goes On".

Alanis Morissette: Canadian singer Alanis Morissette has admitted that she has struggled with anorexia and bulimia between the ages of 14 and 18 when she was trying to break into the music business. She wrote the song "Perfect" (from Jagged Little Pill album), inspired by her eating disorder recovery.

Thandie Newton: Actress Thandie Newton says she used to suffer from bulimia and still bears the scars. Newton, who won best supporting actress at last year's BAFTA awards for her role in 'Crash.' Thandie developed the eating disorder at the age of 14 while training at dance school. She told about how she suffered from "horrible bulimia for about a year", saying: "I've still got the scars on my knuckles from where I put my fingers down my throat." The actress said a therapist in L.A. helped her overcome her battle with food, in her mid-twenties.

Syliva Plath: Poet and author Syliva Plath struggled with an eating disorder and depression.

Cathy Rigby (gymnast)

Joan Rivers: Comedian and author Joan Rivers battled bulimia for years.

Ally Sheedy: Actress Ally Sheedy (best known for her role in the 1985 hit "The Breakfast Club") struggled with anorexia and bulimia in the past and at one point also was addicted to pain killer medications.

Richard Simmons: Fitness and diet guru Richard Simmons suffered from an eating disorder in the past.

Courtney Thorne-Smith: Former 'Ally Mc Beal' actress Courtney Thorne-Smith battled an eating disorder. Courtney developed anorexia due to the pressure to be thin. Her slide into anorexia led her to quit the television show 'Ally Mc Beal'.

Meredith Vieira: Former 'The View' co-host Meredith Vieira said that she had an eating disorder and body images issues when she was younger.

Oprah Winfrey: The most influential person on TV, Oprah Winfrey, who was raped at the age of nine by her nineteen year old cousin and repeatedly sexually abused, struggled with disordered eating. Oprah, who said about her weight "It's always a struggle. I've felt safer and more protected when I was heavy. Food has always been comforting."

The above only covers a small portion of more celebrities and famous people.  To find out more and resources, and information regarding eating disorders go to EDRefferral.com.

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