Myths and Misperceptions about Eating Disorders | Retro Report
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Myths and Misperceptions about Eating Disorders | Retro Report

August 18, 2019


  “83.6?” For decades, Hollywood has exploited our morbid fascination with eating disorders in one dramatic film after another. But the facts are that an estimated 30 million Americans will suffer some form of eating disorder in their lifetimes. “Something in your brain and in your body says, no, no, no, wait a minute. Starving is bad, starving will kill you. But for me, I felt calm for the first time that I could ever remember.” Given the grim statistics and media attention, why are there still so many misconceptions about eating disorders? “No one knows that you can die from it, no one knows you’re slowly killing yourself.” Throughout the 1970s, pop artist Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard sold tens of millions of records. Karen’s distinctive voice propelled them to a celebrity status enjoyed by few. “It’s one of those instant, radio kinds of voices. You hear it, and in two seconds of it, you immediately recognize who it is. And, hers was an unmistakable voice.” [music] But behind that voice, Karen Carpenter battled a serious illness and was literally starving herself to death. “On the outside, we didn’t see that for a number of years. It was around 1975 that people really started to take notice of her, of her weight loss and to the point of being emaciated.” “Well, Karen and Richard that’s the first we’ve heard from you in three years. It’s the first time you’ve sung together live now in five years. Why? Where have you been? What’s been happening?” “Well, we decided to take a small vacation, take some time off.” “The interview where Sue Lawley asks her, were you suffering from the slimmer’s disease is what she called it, anorexia nervosa.” “There were rumors though you were suffering from the slimmer’s disease.” “The look of terror on Karen’s face is very telling.” “No, I was just pooped. I was tired out.” “You went down to about six stone in weight, I think, didn’t you?” “She didn’t want to admit it.” “I have no idea what six stone weight is.” “So she lied, and became very defensive.” “I think about 84 pounds.” “No.” “No?” “No.” “The family was trying to deal with it on an outside sort of way. All she needed to do was eat, in their opinion, and everything would be fine.” In a desperate attempt to lose weight, Carpenter took multiple medications, including laxatives and a syrup called ipecac, which induced vomiting. By 1982, she weighed only 77 pounds and had to be admitted to the hospital. “They were able to put 30 pounds on her, but that was from an intravenous feeding, basically.” But the damage had been done. “A big shock in the music world tonight and to the family and friends of Karen Carpenter.” “The pop singing star died today of cardiac arrest. She was just 32 years old.” Carpenter quickly became the poster girl for an entire disorder, launching stereotypes that persist today. “Mother, how can anybody be too thin? Women are suppposed to be thin now.” “Be sensible about it for once.” “I am!” “When you look at movies about eating disorders typically it’s movies about anorexia, and the protagonist is young, white and emaciated. There’s typically some sort of family dysfunction that’s seen as the cause of the eating disorder. And so, you know, you get this narrow view of what eating disorders are.” Carrie Arnold developed anorexia as a teenager and has written extensively about it. She says we also hear very little about men who suffer and make up about a third of those who develop eating disorders. “It’s less common for men to come forward and say to their doctor, ‘You know, I think I have a problem with food.’ Because it’s seen as quote unquote a woman’s thing. And so, you know, it’s hard to know whether it’s an issue of it being actually less frequent among males or whether it’s just not recognized.” And men are not the only ones whose disorders go unrecognized. “We don’t get talked about enough and it’s not just African-Americans. There’s Hispanic, there are Asian-Americans struggling with eating disorders.” At the age of 13, Ayanna Bates says her anxiety became so great that she stopped eating. “Starving was used to hurt myself and it was also used for control. So I’m like, wow. I did this for two days. Let me see if I can do it for two more days. It was like an exciting feeling because it felt like at the time that was the only thing I was good at. So it gave me a sense of empowerment.” But she soon learned that the complexity of eating disorders, and the lack of understanding that they afflict minorities, have made it harder for patients to get diagnosed. “One African-American story I found was she was struggling with binge eating disorder and the doctor says, ‘Oh, no, that’s not a binge eating disorder. That’s not an eating disorder. You’re just overweight and you’re just overeating because you’re fat. And she was refused treatment because of that.” Dr. Evelyn Attia, a leading researcher in the field, says that while some treatment for eating disorders has advanced, myths continue, often leading to devastating consequences. “Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder. All of those conditions are not equally associated with high rates of death. Anorexia nervosa is, with certainty. And a significant percentage of the deaths associated with these disorders are due to suicide, so that connection is an important one, it’s a frightening one.” In fact, the suicide rate for people suffering from eating disorders is one of the highest among mental illnesses. “People don’t know that it could be a way to slowly kill yourself. That’s why I was using my eating disorder, I hoped that if I starved myself long enough that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning.” “There’s been increasing understanding over the last several decades that this is a serious psychiatric illness. This is a brain-based disorder.” And still, research funding for eating disorders remains far lower than other serious mental illnesses. “I think some of it is that eating disorders are still largely seen as a choice. And so, you know, why would you need to research something that someone can just eat and, you know, get over it.” In a society long obsessed with thinness, and where you can find online communities that cheer on anorexic weight loss, Carrie Arnold says it’s no wonder the public isn’t getting the message about eating disorders. “I was really pale. My skin was kind of grayish yellow. My hair was falling out, my clothes were falling off and yet, at the same time, I’d get questions of people asking me, you know, ‘How did you do it?’ Like they were asking me for diet tips even as, you know, my heart was giving out. And so, there just a lot of misunderstanding.”

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  1. I love most of your videos, but having an european backround, I often find things that are related to the problems and most of the time concerns Americans as well as Europeans as all the people around the world, but which are less commented in your states. In this video I was astonished that you didn't bring up the high comorbidity of eating disorders with the personalty disoders (examples bpd,obsessiv-compulsiv disorder …) Nor have you listed them in the most commun mental health problems but if you combine all of them (like in the Dms or the Icd) they are more frequent than the listed bipolar disorder.

  2. Weight is an issue, both in the beauty category and the health field. Some people can look overweight or incredibly skinny but are perfectly healthy. It all depends on your body and how it functions, often on a genetic level. Even sleep can play a role in someone's weight. A person's overall health or attractiveness should not be defined by weight. I've heard of one woman who went to the doctor for difficulty breathing, only to be told to lose weight multiple times, and it was eventually found that she had a tumor on her lungs that was metastasized to the point where it was completely inoperable. Weight should not be solely linked to health issues like difficulty breathing or heart problems, but instead should be screened out or put aside in order to find the cause of the issue.

  3. A pragmatic individual might be tempted to see eating disorders as Darwinism at work. A brain-based disorder that causes the afflicted to starve themselves (or dramatically overeat) until their suicide is successful is nature's way of trying to keep the genetically weak from further contaminating the gene pool. If this were virtually any other species, this would be a valid scientific theorem.

  4. This was interesting and I'm glad that they voiced that the assumption that just eating will fix eating disorders isn't correct. After not eating enough consistently, when the body finally starts receiving proper food it converts a much higher rate of it into stored fat (as if the body is prepping to go w/o food again). The mental pattern needs to be broken as well or the patient will likely go back to starving themselves in order to lose that stored fat.

  5. I struggle with an extreme eating disorder (An b/p) and this is one of the most accurate video that covered everything about eating disorders in such a short time. I really hope this video gets seen more!!

  6. It really annoys me how movies portray the treatment. There's always a scene where it shows the mean uncaring doctor forcing a horrible feeding tube down a little school girls throat! They can't force a feeding tube down your throat, they put it in very slowly and have you sip water the entire time. The doctors aren't uncaring. A lot of them get into the medical field because they've been through something similar and they want to help you. It's not just cute school girls who develop eating disorders. Anyone can develop an eating disorder.

  7. I think To the Bone was a fairly good movie at describing what it’s like in a feeding clinic/ group feeding home. Some are more strict such as You eat what we tell you to, when we say so, and how. But there are some that are As long as you are eating & talking about it then we will try to help you get better.

  8. "No one knows u can die from it" , well in my case, I just you know, just don't care about it, and for some it's just don't look like it's real, like it's going to happen with them.

  9. I developed my eating disorder at over 300 pounds, lost almost 100 pounds due to laxatives and vomiting. I want help but I wont be able to get it if I asked. I've tried.

  10. Last year I lost 30 lbs by starving and I can relate to Ayanna in the sense that I wanted to commit suicide but i was too scared to do an immediate thing & it was a lot of anxiety and depression but also i was getting compliments (relating to the last girl) where everyone was asking me about my weight loss and it really wasn’t healthy

  11. This person who doesnt think just for the woman. She also think about the man as if she understands how hard is it for man.
    Only feminist r like this. Then this movement will not get hated all over the world. Actually we only hate Anita Sarkeesian type of feminist who only think about one gender then talk about equality.

  12. i just looove how they casually throw girls with EDs who use thinspo as a coping mechanism under the bus at the end. they basically infer that those using thinspo are perpetrators of ed’s being a choice. bullshit.

  13. In all honesty. I also believe that things money wise from eating disorders are another reason why people don’t help fund it to prevent it, help it, and many other things.

    1) buying laxatives, other things to make you puke
    2) dieting books, pills, memberships
    3) all these other weight management programs
    4) bills for visits to seek help for this illness.
    You name it and the list piles high that businesses and the government from taxes make a lot of money, sadly, off of this illness.

  14. I am a 33 year old (almost 34) black male, who has been suffering with both anorexia and bulimia and binge eating disorder for almost 18 years. I started this horrible cycle in my mid teens and I’m sick of it. ED is always on my mind.

  15. Thank you for not being afraid to mention that ots not just white people who suffer I have know friends to Jace suffered greatly and people just look at them like they are crazy like you can have that? Like yes anyone can be effective!

  16. I've had a lifelong struggle with weight.
    I had Failure to thrive as a baby, and due to that I never ate well even after I was adopted.
    Recently I developed an issue where I can't keep ANYTHING down (including water) and if I don't take my meds for it I can end up in hospital.

  17. Men make up a third? I've always heard/read it's a tenth. Of course it doesn't matter if it's a third or tenth. They should be talked about as much as women!

  18. i personally think to the bone portrayed eating disorders in the right way. plus, isn't the movie based on a true story? for those people saying 'that's not how it works' or 'but the trigger that caused ellen to start was only mentioned once' – yes, the girl who killed herself trigger was mentioned once. but it lead up to that. it was her family falling apart, her mom leaving and her dad neglecting her. it was her recovery story, not a documentary. why do people say that 'it didn't explain about eating disorders' when that wasnt the point of the movie?

  19. the "people were asking me for tips" part happened to me a lot when my bulimia was really bad and i lost a lot of weight in a year. my classmates were like "wow you lost so much weight so fast how did you do it?!" and i never knew what to answer

  20. I been there before having a bad eating disorder stop eating and now I am trying to eat more and eating Healthier .

  21. When I was in treatment there was one African-American woman (it was me, 12 other white girls ages 12-40) in the group and she was anorexic 73lbs (I remember seeing her paper on the desk when I walked into the nutritionist room)

  22. Eating disorders got both ways and happen in both genders. Over eating and under eating are both eating disorders

  23. I really enjoyed Amanda's story. It gave her a sense of control and it was the only thing she was good at.

    Men get these eating disorders too.

    https://bit.ly/2Jin90q

  24. They didn’t mention that some programs don’t allow you to goon if you aren’t a certain weight. So literally if you aren’t “thin enough” then you can’t join.
    Also I’m WELL AWARE that my ed can kill me

  25. Omfg, the black girl understands me.
    Losing weight because you're good at it. Trying to hurt yourself through starvation.I don't understand the control thing. Out of every anorexia video, shes the only one to say those things.

  26. I made a mistake. Told people I was eating an apple a day for weight loss. A lot of people did not agree with that method. So now when I look skinnier and pale with raccoon eyes, people think I'm anorexic and look at me funny.

    I thought crash dieting was normal. DX

  27. Can anyone recommend some good eating disorder related movies? Id like to learn more on the portrayal of eating disorders in media.

  28. Eating disorders have nothing to do with race. No one thinks eating disorders only happens to white people. No one says eating disorders only happen to white people. Why is race being brought into this? Why is race brought into everything?

  29. they said it's not a choice.
    some people choose to be anorexic due to the extreme lack of self confidence (and or other reasons)
    and develop the mindset.

  30. You never think about how the not eating is effecting your health. Whatever it takes to be thin, you will do anything to be too thin.

  31. Biggest misconception is anorexia being the biggest one its actually only about 2%. Most ppl have binge eating disorder. Stop bullying the obese.

  32. I do not disagree with the point of this video but at 3:20 where she was specifically saying all the movies were about anorexia, that specific shot is from a movie about bulimia…

  33. I know I can die, I know I can get out of control, yet Im terrified of gaining and want to get to my GW

  34. I don’t understand why people need to see someone of the same color in order to feel a part of a situation I am black and I just see people as people.

  35. I weigh 77lbs as well at my lowest weight now I’m being forced to eat and take protein shake if I don’t wanna go to a hospital and I’m a male

  36. People only care about the anorexics who start at 120 pounds and drop to 80 pounds.
    No one gives a flying fuck about the ones who start at 200 and shrink to 140 just as damn quickly and doing all of the same destructive behaviors.

    Even this video about eating disorder myths and misconceptions left out the other largest eating disorder ednos (bulimia-anorexia). It falls into the problem I mentioned before since most of the people with it are of average weight. No one cares about you if you arent bones, thus pushing people with eating disorders to get thinner and thinner to even receive help.

  37. I was anorexic but now its completely changed from starving to eating 5 thousand calories one day to the next few eating none and so I fluctuate about 20 pounds within a month.

  38. Everybody thinks all eating disorders have to do with weight, but it’s not always like that. Ever heard of Pica?

  39. I'm an arab and many here in palestine look like white people ngl 😂 but it's still unrecognized in the arab world

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