Williams: Preventing False Narratives About Eating Disorders

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Williams: Preventing False Narratives About Eating Disorders

Emily Mecham

Emily Mecham

Justin Prather

Emily Mecham

Justin Prather

Justin Prather

Emily Mecham

By Brook Williams

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There are several widely spread misconceptions about eating disorders. Many of these misunderstandings can cause harm to people with and without eating disorders due to the way media portrays them, so it’s important to focus on what should be done to help. For survivors and people struggling with an eating disorder right now, one of the best things that can be done is to start a discussion.

Justin Prather

Emily Mecham shows a mirror selfie she took while battling with anorexia.

I met with Emily Mecham, a past sufferer of an eating disorder, to discuss her struggles and the reality, in her experience, of the illness. She disclosed and debunked some of the common notions of anorexia.

Mecham struggled with anorexia for four years and is now at a healthy weight, but she acknowledged that eating disorder tendencies are a constant battle. She said that everyone struggles with their eating disorder in a different way, so her experiences don’t reflect that of all others.

Mecham shared what she thinks to be the most common misconception about eating disorders.

Justin Prather

Emily Mecham shows a picture from when she was hospitalized due to complications from anorexia.

“Have you ever seen those photos of the skinny girl looking in the mirror at a larger, chunkier version of herself? This is a viral image that has surprisingly been featured in many education curriculums and the media. The image she is referring to attempts to portray what body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is like,” Mecham said. “I don’t like how the image makes it seem as though we are crazy and are seeing things that aren’t real. I could see how thin I was, but my definition of skinny was different than most. I constantly strived to be skinnier no matter how small I got.”

Another misconception about eating disorders is that people assume that sufferers simply don’t like food. This is not the case though, according to Mecham. Everyone experiences their disorder differently. In Mecham’s case, she became somewhat obsessed with food.

“I loved to cook food for others and would spend hours looking up recipes,” Mecham said.

She explained this was one of the ways she managed her constant state of hunger.

Eating disorders aren’t just about becoming skinnier. In most cases, that is how it starts, but for Mecham, it became more about the control and sense of accomplishment she was lacking in other areas of her life.

Anxiety also plays a large part, as the disorder serves as a coping mechanism.

“To the sufferer, controlling food is a tool to calm anxiety. However, the more malnourished you get, the greater your anxiety surrounding food becomes,” Mecham said.

This is one of the reasons why the illness can spiral so easily out of control.

Justin Prather

Emily Mecham

Once the label “anorexic” was put on Mecham, she suddenly felt like she needed to live up to that expectation. She explains how it can be hard to acknowledge that you’re struggling, but once you realize that you have an issue, it becomes a part of your identity.

“Growing up as a soccer player, I can compare it to that competitiveness, where I wanted to be the best player,” Mecham said. “That same driven personality trait transferred over and I felt like I had to be the best at anorexia.”

Another danger of anorexia is that the desire to be the “best” can eventually lead to death.

Mecham explained during recovery many people commented she was “looking healthy” or “looking good.” Even though those comments were genuine, they were extremely triggering for her, and all she heard was, “I look fat.”

Mecham’s story is evidence there needs to be an open dialogue about anorexia and its common misconceptions.

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@TheChrony