The cultural imperative to align ourselves with a certain body type and shape deeply affects us by as early as six years old. Many of us develop eating disorders in an attempt to attain that ideal, though disordered eating habits can develop for complex emotional reasons that have little to do with weight, such as a desire for control. While eating disorders are frequently discussed as a “women’s issue,” they affect all genders (in fact, subclinical disordered eating habits, such as binge eating and purging, are nearly as common among men as women). Eating disorders are often a hidden illness; it’s impossible to tell if someone has one just by appearance or physical fitness, and since they frequently carry great burdens of shame, sufferers usually hide their behaviors and carefully mask their symptoms. Even when we’re aware that someone around us has an eating disorder, we’re often unsure about how to support their needs without enabling their disordered behavior. Eating disorders can have serious physical consequences and typically require medical and psychological treatment.
If you or someone you know is in immediate need of support, please seek professional help. If you are in crisis, here are some immediate free resources.
As an eating disorder and trauma therapist, Ashley McHan sees patients with an array of issues with food. VICE speaks to her about our unhealthy relationship to food, how it contributes to disordered eating and the underlying causes, similarities and differences of various eating disorders.
If your teen has an eating disorder—such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating—you may feel helpless, worried, or uncertain about how you can best support them. That’s why you need real, proven-effective strategies you can use right away.
In the winter of 2003, right after I graduated from college, I was struggling with a series of symptoms that seem increasingly common these days: fatigue, brain fog, digestive troubles, abnormal liver tests, and a period that had been missing for about a year.
Before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, figure skater Gracie Gold announced she was stepping away from the ice to deal with personal struggles. A year later, she talks to Savannah Guthrie about the pressure facing athletes and her fight to return to the rink.
Society has also conditioned us to believe eating disorders afflict only young, white, thin, and affluent women. But in reality, they can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or weight.