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Brie's avatar

My friends don't understand my eating disorder?

Asked by Brie (249 points ) May 20th, 2012

I was trying to talk to one of my closest friends about it. I can usually tell him everything and he will have something to say or an answer to my problems.

So this time, I tried to discuss my eating disorder. Something he blatantly mocks everyday at lunch and makes a joke about it to his friends. Usually it’s something around the neighborhood of me giving part of my lunch to someone else and then they feel bad because of how small my lunch is and he will usually state, “She doesn’t care. She only eats the 100 Calorie packs anyway. She even counts out her chips to match the serving size!”

But I thought I could tell him. And so I was explaining to him that I’m always hungry it’s just really difficult for me to get the courage to eat. That it started because I’m tall enough to be a model but there are models that are taller and skinnier than me. So he said, “Why even compare yourself to a woman that probably gags up every meal after she eats it? That’s not beauty.”
But I’m a photographer and so I said, “I know, but average looking girls don’t look as good on camera.”

And then he started mocking me about how fat I am. I’m 5’8’’ 127 lbs.

And then he was like, “You know…just shut up if you’re going to go on about how beautiful models are and how every girl should look like that.”

And so I did.

But why don’t they understand? I try to fix it everyday but I can’t. They just make jokes about it. All of my friends; not just him.

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35 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

It is hard for many people to understand the vagaries of an eating disorder. Of course, jokes are unkind, but you have a real disease with real issues.

Are you dealing with them? That is much more important than what your friend or acquaintances think. You should be worried more about the fact that this might kill you rather than the jokes you hear.

JLeslie's avatar

They should not mock or tease you, but they are not going to be supportive of you starving yourself or having body dismorphia. Your weight is very low for your height, and obviously your eating habits are dysfunctional. Stop looking for sympathy from friends amd get some psychological help. You say you are a photographer, so I assume you are an adult, with a career, and support yourself, and don’t have that teenage angst thing going on still living with your parents. Model thin generally is ridiculously thin and can be dangerous. If that is who you are comparing yourself to, I recommend you don’t. A simple ten pounds more on your frame would probably mean you are still very thin, but not hungry all the time, and others won’t perceive you as odd in your eating habits. And, the best thing is you will most likely feel healthier and stronger.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Ok, I started out with some advise for confronting him, but really, you already have and he responded with “shut up”. He’s an asshole. Usually, being friends with assholes is not really conducive to recovery.

There are lots of people out there who understand eating disorders, and won’t take it upon themselves to “fix” you. Be friends with them, not people who make you the butt of their jokes.

zenvelo's avatar

First of all it sounds like you are young; are you in your teens? Most teens aren’t very understanding of other people’s struggles. But they also aren’t going to support negative behavior. Your friend is right, if not tactful: why compare yourself to people who look the way they do by behaving destructively?

JLeslie's avatar

Listen to @Aethelflaed, seek new friends. But, not other anorexic friends who encourage your disorder. One of the biggest problems I see with some people who need some psychological help is they get deeper into their depression, or neurosis, or whatever by having support from people who “understand” them, and alient those who love them and want the best for them. Is your family concerned about your weight? I think it is great to know people who have been through what you have been through, and understand why you feel as you feel, because they have been through it themselves. But, if they encourage the distructive behavior, that is not helping.

I’m not a psychologist or anything, but that is my lay opinion on what I have observed.

gailcalled's avatar

@Brie: Here’s an answer you gave to an earlier question:

Don’t try to be as skinny as a model by eating only 3 vegetables and water everyday for a month.
You will pass out from malnutrition.

You have said some contradictory things here on fluther. Is this an example of your love of whimsical writing? Do I need to be suspicious?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m trying to understand your explanation. Do you aspire to be a model? If so, 5’8” really isn’t that tall, for a professional model. Why is being a model, or looking like one, so important to you? I’m sorry he told you to ‘shut up,’ but I can understand how he can’t understand what your concern with models is.

For what it’s worth, 5’8” and 127 sounds fine to me. I’m 5’8” and I always feel and look my best at about 125 – 130.

Brie's avatar

I don’t want to be a model. I just like the look of them.

And to the other person who thinks I’m telling stories, I’m the type of person that likes to give out advice but not take it for myself.
Back then I wasn’t as bad. I was younger and probably smarter. I realized I would hurt my body by not eating…but I still tried it. But now I just don’t care if it hurts my body. I see other girls that are skinny and I want to be like that. I was eating healthier but then I started to notice that I would eat healthy and continue to gain weight. So I’ve just become scared to eat. Don’t judge my situation now by something I said almost a year ago.

Trillian's avatar

“I realized I would hurt my body by not eating…but I still tried it. But now I just don’t care if it hurts my body.”
Then don’t care what people think. Don’t even bother “eating” with people. Go off alone. You’re not trying to “fix” anything. You’re screaming for attention, then complaining because the attention you’re getting isn’t what you wanted.
So keep on starving yourself. And stop expecting people to act in accordance with your contradictory wishes.

wundayatta's avatar

Do you understand that eating disorders are mental illnesses? They are the result of chemical imbalances in your brain, and they are very difficult to control. You need therapy and group therapy and perhaps meds if you are going to get a handle on this condition, which can kill you.

You may not care if you die, but that is a sign of the disorder. You are trying to perfect yourself, but you will be unable to do so because your brain won’t ever allow you to see yourself as perfect.

There’s an awful lot of contradictory stuff involved in most mental illnesses. People don’t believe you can’t control your behavior. They think you could just eat if you wanted to. All you have to do is change your mind. But of course, you know it is not nearly that simple. You know that your thinking as reverse and upside down, and even very intelligent people don’t get it. It just doesn’t make sense.

That’s why your friends don’t get it. Really, I think the only people who can get it are other people who share the disorder. Possibly, if you let them, people with other mental disorders could get it. I’ve had success in getting people with anorexia and bulimia to believe I understand them. I’ve found that we do a lot of similar things, especially around self-esteem and feeling like it is impossible to be loved. No matter how good (or beautiful) we are.

My best advice is that if you want to be understood, attend a group of people with eating disorders. One where you just talk about your experience. I hope you are also seeing a therapist. Like I said, people die of these disorders. They starve themselves to death quite happily, believing it is better to die than to not be beautiful. Of course, you can’t see yourself accurately, so you have no idea how ugly thin you looke.

That’s another similarity between people like me, who are bipolar, and people with eating disorders. We simply cannot see ourselves as having any worth when we are sick. It doesn’t matter how many people love us, nor how many compliments they offer, we know we see ourselves truly, and we are not what they say. We are not truly good. We must punish ourselves more and more, to try to beat ourselves into shape, but we’ll never be good enough.

That’s what leads to death. The depression associated with this is overwhelming and unbearable and it can seem like death is preferable to a never-ending pain.

I’m going to sound religious here, but I’m not. I kind of believe that you have to achieve a kind of grace in order to get better. At some point, something happens, and you turn around. Maybe it’s the meds. Maybe it’s the psychological work. But you realize that whatever it is you have been fighting is not fightable. You give up. And for some reason, when you give up, your brain chemistry switches around, and it becomes possible to kind of laugh at yourself and what you’ve been doing and the importance you placed on it. It becomes possible to live.

bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, what you said here,

“I’m going to sound religious here, but I’m not. I kind of believe that you have to achieve a kind of grace in order to get better. At some point, something happens, and you turn around. Maybe it’s the meds. Maybe it’s the psychological work. But you realize that whatever it is you have been fighting is not fightable. You give up. And for some reason, when you give up, your brain chemistry switches around, and it becomes possible to kind of laugh at yourself and what you’ve been doing and the importance you placed on it. It becomes possible to live,”

is not only beautiful, it is the first step established by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in AA.

6rant6's avatar

@Brie @gailcalled said it’s hard to understand the vagaries of an eating disorder. I’d go further. It’s hard for each of us to understand anyone else.

Your friend started out doing what teens do – cajoling and teasing to get you to conform. I think you agree that getting you to eat more normally would be a healthy thing for you. When you asked him to be more sensitive to what you are going through, you dragged him out of his depth and he flailed. Not very helpful, but completely human.

It seems to me that happiness is more important than the perfect shape. I wish I knew what you could do to guarantee happiness. I don’t.

I’ve had occasion to interview a number of people lately, strangers. And I am astonished to learn how many think that it’s a relatively simple matter to just grit your teeth and make your issues go away. I disagree. I’ve known too many people for whom that ultimately wasn’t possible. You could start eating normally tomorrow and have whatever is under your skin show up some other equally troubling way.

So here’s what I have to offer. Happiness is illusive to many of us. But the one thing that’s clear is that we will enjoy more of it if we don’t try to become something else first and start being happy with the way things are now. Better to be happy with how you look, how you eat, how your friends are and how frickin’ wonderful the mods are.

gondwanalon's avatar

Such an ignorant fool as you described is not your friend. Such a person could not offer you any real help anyway so forget about him and reach out for some professional help.

Good luck to you dear one.

Thammuz's avatar

First and foremost: if you are aware that you have an eating disorder why do you play along with it? You wouldn’t call it “disorder” if you didn’t know it was something negative, so why are you still indulging it?

Find a good nutritionist, a good psychologist or possibly both, and work on that. As it stands you’re acting like me when i had an ingrown toenail a while back. Kept complaining, didn’t cut the ingrown piece because it was going to hurt like a motherfucker. Eventually, you have to do something about the problem.

With all the pleasenteries taken care of, time for my daily rant (read it, it’s important):

Are you fucking shitting me?

Your BME is barely 20. It’s 19,47 to be precise. Why the hell are you blathering on about being fat?

There’s nothing wrong with your weight to height proportion, he was mocking you about being fat because you think you are when you demonstrably bloody aren’t!

I genuinely don’t understand why anyone would want to look like those horror show rejects you see on runways every bloody time there is some fashion show.

I live just above a studio where they mostly shoot for fashion magazines, i see “models” come in and out every day. They’re fucking ugly. There’s no skirting around that, if I’m looking for a woman, i’m not going to go for an anatomy class model skeleton with cyberskin stretched over. A standard, mind you, that has been established by stylists that are, for the most part, not interested in the fairer sex. Ever noticed how male models all look like massively sexy studs, while female models look like you’d break them in half if you so much as brushed your dick on their thigh, let alone actually have sex with them?

So yeah, i completely agree: Why would you want to look like that? It’s like me saying “I want to look more like Richard Nixon!”

I swear to god, vanity will be the downfall of the female gender.

Stop trying to conform yourself to some bullshit idea of beauty that has been peddled to you by the media, men don’t actually like women who look like that. There’s a reson if those women are not in porn, and it’s not that they’re not willing to degrade themselves, i assure you. /rant

And before you call me out, like many have done before, telling me i talk a lot but then i wouldn’t give my time of day to any girl that was a little overweight, my GF is 160cm, 66kg, you convert that to the imperial system and tell me.

mamarose's avatar

An eating disorder is just that a disorder. It sounds like you have a distorted image of what you should look like. I understand I used to be the same way. The first thing you need to do is see a professional like a counselor to get out in the open why it is you think the way you think. I think you need to be worried about being healthy and what you are doing right now is not healthy. If you eat healthy and excercise everyday I think you would feel much better about yourself.

schnapes's avatar

I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t think your mate is the douche – he’s just using humour to get the message through to you about a disorder that you do have without being harsh. There is nothing that he says that is really outright offensive, and the fact that he raises a point about being stick thin not equating to true beauty shows that he’s not just some shallow prick… he’s only frustrated that a friend who is probably already beautiful does not think she, I can understand that. The best of friends WILL be frustrated with you, and will say what may seem like hurtful/or ignorant things for the simple reason that they don’t give up on you… remember this as this will be a good measure of which friends mean most to you, a friend may simply tell you what you WANT to hear, a great friend will tell you what you NEED to hear.

On a side note, you seem to place physical beauty on a high pedestal – weather you look good in photo today or tomorrow, I guarantee that one day you will not be “physically” beautiful, weather this comes in your 30s, 40s or if you’re lucky into your 50s – the most you can expect is to be beautiful (in a physical sense) for half your life. The race for outer beauty is short-term in the long run and if that’s all you have then you are doomed to fail, so concentrate less on whether you look good “in a photograph”. It will be inconsequential in the long run.

“What is beautiful may not always be good, but what is GOOD, is always beautiful”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Thammuz LOL! Don’t hold back! Tell us exactly what you think! Good Answer, btw!

I don’t think you have a disorder. Do you WANT to have a disorder? Is this something you talk about a lot? Your weight and height are fine. This is me at about 19. 5’8” 115 pounds. I never felt I had a disorder.

wundayatta's avatar

I disagree with people who make light of this and think it isn’t a disorder or think you don’t need help to deal with it. I’m sure you can take care of it yourself, but you can also benefit from help. It just depends on who you are. Everybody in this situation will need something different to beat it. Just keep your mind open to all things that might help, and don’t let anyone tell you that this certainly will help or that certainly won’t. You don’t know until you try.

But I do think it is important not to dismiss it. This is serious.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I re-read your post. If people make “fun” of it everyday, it’s because you’re giving them reason too. I’ve been what many people consider “underweight” most of my life. As a teenager, and in to my 20’s I never weighed more than 120 pounds, at 5’8”. It went up and down after I became an adult. When I got married again at 46 I weighed 120. Nobody ever said a word about it, or made fun of me. I can’t figure out why they would make fun of you.

wundayatta's avatar

@Dutchess_III Have you ever had any events in your life that don’t make logical sense? Ever seen people be mean for no apparent reason? Have you ever seen people be self destructive? Why do you think these things happen? Why do think these patterns are so powerful and sometimes impossible to change?

Have you ever felt like doing everything wrong? Or found yourself doing everything to hurt yourself despite the fact you don’t really want to be in pain?

If you’ve never felt it, I’m not sure you can understand it. These kinds of things don’t make sense. And yet they happen all the time. Worse, sometimes we even knowingly bring them down on ourselves, somehow unable to do anything except make our lives worse. The urge to be self destructive can be very powerful. I don’t know if you can understand if you haven’t felt it. I don’t think I can explain. I guess, in a way, it’s as if you don’t control your own body any more. Or worse, you’re no longer in control of your own mind. I’ll say it again. If you’ve never felt it, I don’t see how it’s possible to imagine it or empathize with it, and of course it’s impossible to understand it if you can’t even imagine it or empathize with it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But she doesn’t have a weight problem, @wundayatta! She eats pretty much the perfect amount of calories for her height. She may think she has a problem, or a disorder, and THAT could be a problem, but she doesn’t really have one.

wundayatta's avatar

She said she has one. She said she needs courage to eat, which is a sign of disordered thinking about food. We don’t have a psychiatrist’s diagnosis, and she hasn’t said she was diagnosed or not. Still, it seems to me we should take the OP’s representations at face value. If she says she has an eating disorder, then she must have a good reason to think so.

Now, you could be right, and she might have decided to label herself that way without a diagnosis. If that’s the case, then it’s a good question to ask. Why does she say she has the disorder? If she’s self-diagnosed, then why does she think that? It would be good to urge her to see a psychiatrist to make a determination because she might not have a disorder if she’s the only one who says so.

Brie's avatar

My mother is actually a psychologist. She tried to talk to me before about it but ended up just getting angry and saying that I didn’t have one. But I’ve heard her talk to my dad about it and she was serious. Just to my face she mocks me or accepts whatever I’m doing.

I’m not trying to self diagnose. But I know I have a problem. Even an idiot would know that they have a problem. I didn’t want this. I never asked for it. I can’t imagine how anyone would WANT to be like this.
But I recognize that I’m having issues. I feel like it’s not me choosing not to eat. It’s something else. But in the instant when I’m hungry, it takes over. It tells me I’m going to get fat and if I do eat. I feel it all day. I feel every bit of fat on my body.

I’m not stupid. I know that’s not normal. But, I guess to have a disorder, you have to be oblivious to the fact, right? If I know, why don’t I correct it? Because it’s not me. I’m not causing the disorder. I mean maybe I am…but to me it’s not like that. To me it’s something else. It has to be. I look in the mirror and hate what I see. I see a monster. My friends? They see beauty.
If they can see it, why can’t I see it with my own eyes? I used to be content with myself. Then one day I woke up and noticed the fat. My hips. And for some reason, this day, it bothered me. And from that day on, I began to limit myself on what I ate. I was on a “diet”. And I thought it was healthy.

But my “diet” turned into something else. And it’s now it’s out of my control. I think this because I’ve tried to just forget it. It works at first. I can eat. But as soon as I leave my family after dinner and sit in the silence of my room. It comes back. It tells me I shouldn’t have eaten. How much weight I’m going to gain. How I’m too impulsive. That I HAVE to care to be beautiful.

It’s not something I talk about daily either. I don’t tell anyone because everyone just wants to try to “fix” me by telling me how selfish I am. Do you think I want to hear that? Does anyone want to hear that? I don’t see that it’s being selfish. I’m not hurting anyone else.

But as for the reason they talk about it. My friend isn’t one to keep his mouth shut. He will tell you like it is. And when you just bring a soda to lunch because you can’t bare to bring anything else, people notice. I don’t want them to. I know girls who do the same or don’t eat lunch at all. No one says anything to them. But for some reason they find it necessary to bring me out about it.
Or my friends will ask why I don’t eat much. I just tell them I’m on a diet or something and then they rag me about not needing to be on a diet.

Sorry this is long. I just couldn’t explain it short and sweet.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m glad you felt you could take your time and tell it in as much detail as you feel you want to. That’s important. You need to feel like you can talk and be honest about it.

I really think it’s important that you get seen by an expert. If they know what they are doing, they can help. There are reasons why you don’t feel good enough. They probably have to do with your parents and not wanting to disappoint them. They may also have to do with feeling like you have little control in your life, and the only thing you can control is your own body. By denying yourself, you are rebelling against those who want you to do other things. Most likely, parents.

It’s hard for your mother, because she’s in the field, and yet you aren’t the perfect daughter she should have because she’s a therapist and knows how to do it. She doesn’t know, of course. Therapists are people, too. They make mistakes. They aren’t necessarily the best parents.

But I really hope you will ask her to take you to an expert in eating disorders. I want you to learn as much as you can about the disorder and about yourself. I want you to figure out how to be healthy. The experts will help you, but you are the only one who can put it all together for yourself.

You’ll need therapy. The therapist should be a person you can talk to who will help you work out ideas about how to handle it. They work for you. They work on what you want them to work on. Think of them as a consultant. They don’t judge you. They don’t tell you when you are right or wrong. Their job is to make sure you understand the consequences of your actions, and that you know what your goals are. Then they help you figure out ways to achieve your goals.

They should not set your goals for you. If they do, find someone else, if you can. But if they help you set your own goals, and then work on them, they are doing their job. Perhaps you have goal of stopping this obsession with limiting your food intake. They will help you understand what is causing you to behave this way. They help you change the behavior. You don’t always need to understand why in order to change the behavior.

Anyway, that’s kind of how it works. You’ll need a psychiatrist, who diagnoses you. They can prescribe meds, if there are meds that can help. The therapist helps you make your life what you want it to be. Including getting y our friends to support you. It can also be really helpful to have a support group of people like you. People who understand and who have been there are very helpful. Can be helpful, anyway.

This is an insidious disease, and there are girls who make a fetish out of it and help each other find ways to continue to engage in the behaviors. I hope you don’t get sucked in by that idea. I don’t think you will. Sometimes, with all the pressure on you, you find the only thing you can control is your eating, and so that’s what you do. It is far better to learn to fight back against the other restrictions on you, and to become an independent person. Making yourself slowly disappear is a very passive way of fighting back, and it doesn’t really work in the end. Remember this: we don’t really want to die. We want the pain to end. The pain will end if you work on it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But you’re eating just fine @Brie.

gailcalled's avatar

@Dutchess_III: If you believe what @Brie writes about herself, she has issues around eating that have nothing to do with objective reality. Examine her language in her questions and several responses. It has nothing also to do with your height and weight.

“But now I just don’t care if it hurts my body. I see other girls that are skinny and I want to be like that. I was eating healthier but then I started to notice that I would eat healthy and continue to gain weight. So I’ve just become scared to eat.”

And this:

” I’m always hungry it’s just really difficult for me to get the courage to eat.”

”...I recognize that I’m having issues. I feel like it’s not me choosing not to eat. It’s something else. But in the instant when I’m hungry, it takes over. It tells me I’m going to get fat and if I do eat. I feel it all day. I feel every bit of fat on my body.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ah. So…she has an issue with her perceptions of herself. Period. She eats fine. She says she may not have the “courage” to eat…but obviously she does. Sounds like a teenager to me.

Thammuz's avatar

@Brie I’ll try not to rant too much this time around, but i promise nothing.

From the way you describe it, you seem to have a light form of bulimia, which my GF also had. Problem is, there really is no way to get out of it unless you realise it’s just you.

In our case, it went down somewhat differently. I, being a brash 18 year old know-it-all, cought her puking up dinner and read her the riot act, she then proceeded crying her heart out, explaining that she felt ugly and fat and whatnot (note, all that because she had a pocki that i offered from the pack i was eating, she wouldn’t have puked up the whole dinner otherwise, or so she told me) and that she was afraid i would have left her if she started gaining weight.

I think the assurance of the fact that our relationship was not based on that, and, later, proof of it when she actually became overweight and then started getting thinner in a helathy way, through exercise and a tailor made diet, played a big part in making her less crazy about how important her weight was.

This friend of yours is making fun of you because, quite honestly, it’s better to laugh than to cry in this kind of situation. Ridicule is a powerful force, it can be used for good. I seriously pity you, and not in a bad way. I saw how much my GF suffered back then, and i wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but i feel that unless you realize that how you look really does not matter and that whatever you see in the mirror will always be biased (you really should worry about measurements at this point, take note of your BMI, you’re well into the healthy normal weight, one point above underweight and two below overweight), without it having anything to do with how much you weight, you’ll never get out of this.

Also, having a supportive boyfriend who likes you for who you are, rather than for what you look like, helps a lot, you should look into that.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
laurenkem's avatar

I, too, had to suffer comments from friends and even strangers about my lack of eating for a long time. What I had to repeatedly explain was that my sudden weight loss (went from 145 to about 100) was caused by multiple hospitalizations and abdominal surgeries. After having abdominal surgery, I literally could not eat without gagging. It was horrible, but everyone thought I was just trying to be skinny. I knew I was very thin, and I didn’t have a distorted body image. I constantly had people downplaying my condition – I heard “Wow, wish I had that problem” on a daily basis. Eventually, my medical condition has improved and now, at 5’8”, I’m around 130, and I do not own a scale, so I feel better. And my friends all tell me I look much better now.

laurenkem's avatar

I just wanted to add that some people can be extremely insensitive to what is a real problem. When I was very thin, people eventually got used to the fact that at whatever event, I usually wouldn’t eat. I had enough comments made about that, thank you very much. However, once I became healthier and started eating, do you think I was left alone about it? No – then it became, “Hey look everyone, Lauren’s actually eating!”. How humiliating to have everyone watch you eat like you’re some weird species they’ve neve seen before.

schnapes's avatar

In the case that you understand and are already lucid regarding your disorder, I’d suggest you try not worry about it on day to day basis and just say “to hell with it”, everytime you start thinking about it or what others are saying – and eventually you might slip out of it – almost like something you might forget or grow out off. Sometimes it is impossible to change yourself/others through sheer force of will, and even concentrating on treatments make it worse as you fret about it more, I’d suggest taking up a hobby that takes your mind off it, eventually that part of your life will take up more space and this aspect of your disorder fades away. I understand that this sounds crazy to those who advocate treatment, but feel if you fill your life with worthwhile endeavours, you might escape your other troubles. From a personal angle, I find playing music calms me if I have too much on my mind.. this is incomparable in scale to the problem you face, but hope it illustrates what I’m trying to get at.

wundayatta's avatar

@schnapes actually, what you are describing is a treatment—an effective one, at that. It’s one I learned in therapy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Which post are you referring to @wundayatta?

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