• You will be happy if you are thin.
There are so many lies hidden within this one big lie, but the most important and dangerous fact is that your eating disorder will never think you are thin enough. You could be surviving in the most malnourished, emaciated, deathly state and your eating disorder will still convince you that you have weight to lose. You will stare at your reflection and your ED will point out the barely perceptible layer of flesh (a.k.a. not fat) that covers your bones and he will whisper such horrible insults in your ear that the thought of letting food pass your lips becomes a sickening and terrifying thing. Your eating disorder will tell you that you are fat even if you are shockingly, painfully thin. And this will become your motivation to skip a meal or work out extra hard because this is where your ED thrives: on making you believe, so unequivocally, in a lie. The only way to overcome this is to accept that you simply cannot trust something that wants to kill you.
• People will love you more if you are thin.
Nope, not true either. When you think about the people you love, and the reasons you love them, does the thought ‘because they are thin’ ever enter your mind for even a second? People just don’t care what you look like. They don’t care if the only thing you ate today was a lettuce leaf. They don’t care that you burnt a million calories at the gym. They care about you, and I can safely say that your weight is the least important and the least interesting thing about you. And as for those who do judge on aesthetics – who are unfortunately not uncommon thanks to the wonderfully shallow and diet-obsessed society we have cultivated – pity them, and remember this: the people who matter don’t care and the people who care don’t matter.
• If you abuse food, *insert negative emotion* will disappear.
Binge eating disorder sufferers overeat to fill an emotional hole that they can’t heal elsewhere. Anorexics starve as a way to avoid feeling anything at all. Your eating disorder will assure you that through the avoidance and/or overconsumption of food, stress/anxiety/depression/self-hate/loneliness/regret/shame (in other words any negative emotion under the sun) will be magically healed.
Perhaps this is true in the short-term: eating disorders serve a purpose and act as a coping mechanism – however maladaptive and self-destructive – which is why recovering is so much harder than staying ill. Anorexia is simple compared to the messy mass of emotions and circumstances that come with life, but through numbing these unpleasant feelings, the good ones ebb away too. The laughter, the excitement, the freedom… eating disorders just aren’t compatible with the life you deserve. It may feel like the only way to cope is through the use and abuse of food: maybe that’s all you know to do. But you do not need your ED. You can survive, thrive and flourish all by yourself.
• You are not thin enough to have an eating disorder.
Low body weight is one symptom of one eating disorder (anorexia, which affects only 10% of eating disorder sufferers). In addition to that, eating disorders are not illnesses of the body, but illnesses of the mind. Therefore, your body weight is not a measure of the severity of your illness and it is not a measure of your suffering nor your worthiness of treatment. The stereotype of an ED sufferer may indeed be an underweight teenage girl, but stereotypes are ludicrous and inaccurate: up to 25% of eating disordered individuals may be male and the illnesses have been seen to develop in people as old as 70. The stereotype is the problem because those who fall outside of the white-middle-class-adolescent-female bracket are significantly less likely to be appropriately diagnosed and treated, or even muster the courage to admit their illness in the first place. Only by raising awareness, understanding and education can we successfully obliterate this misconception and teach that you do not have to be thin to be suffering.
The be all and end all is that eating disorders are liars, and yours is not the exception because there is no exception. Although it may feel like it, an ED is not your friend. Stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it.