They would be partially correct; but, what they might not understand—and what a lot of women currently struggling with eating disorders might not even understand—is that it’s not just about the weight. Fear of failure and fear of rejection are also often intertwined with their fears about food.
Where Does the Fear Behind Eating Disorders Come From?
There’s no one clear explanation as to why some people develop eating disorders as a response to deeply held fears and anxiety. Though scientists and researchers continue to gain better understanding year after year, there is still a lot we simply don’t know.
What we do know is that there can be a number of emotional, psychological, social, and biological factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing an eating disorder. The fear of failure and fear of rejection aspects of the disorder are most often explained through social and emotional influences from your family, your friends, and the culture you live in.
For example, if you grew up in a household where one or more of your caretakers conditioned their approval of you on unrealistic expectations of perfect behavior, you may have gotten the message that there’s no such thing as “good enough.” You may have begun to believe that unless you are perfect in every way—a feat which is impossible for anyone to achieve—you are unworthy of love and acceptance.
If the person from whom you needed approval conditioned part of their acceptance of you on your physical appearance, you might have gotten the message being perfectly thin was one possible way to gain the approval you desperately needed.
Writing for the Huffington Post, eating disorder survivor Sandra Charron explains it this way:
“Eating disorders are not about a fear of being fat. They may begin that way, but to the souls who suffer from this, all of which are comprised of different body types and weights; the starving, the bingeing, the purging are the weapons with which we fight off the demons of inadequacy who grab us by the throat daily, look into our vacant eyes, and tell us we are nothing until we’ve proven that we are the conquerors of our destinies, which sadly, revolves around an ability to control a disorder meant, in the end, to kill us.”
Ultimately, those struggling with eating disorders are using their behaviors as a way to cope with their fears of inadequacy, failure, and rejection. But, the disorder also serves as a form of self-punishment for not being able to achieve the level of perfection they may feel is necessary in order for them to be loved.
If you struggle with an eating disorder you probably find that you live daily with the fear of being “average.” As a child, you may have learned through a combination of family dynamics, peer influences, and societal pressures that it was never truly enough for you to be yourself. In order to be worthy of the type of love and acceptance we all need and desire, you felt that you had to be better, smarter, prettier, and thinner. In the pursuit of ridding yourself of every imperfection, you lost touch with your authentic self.
One of the keys to beginning a life of recovery from an eating disorder is embracing imperfection and redefining what success means for you. Too often the people in your life may express approval of you only when you show outward signs of success: your appearance, your grades, your performance as an athlete or artist, your job, your money, etc. But, success doesn’t have to be determined by what you have or what you do. It can be determined by what you feel. With the right treatment and the right support network, you can begin to divorce your feelings of self-worth from your looks or your achievements.
A multi-faceted approach to treatment that teaches you about how to live with food through nutritional and culinary education, and how to live with your emotions through therapy and experiential activities, can help you to find your higher purpose, and live a life without unhealthy fears.
As Buck Runyan, Executive Director of The Meadows Ranch says, “Life will have its ups and downs, and that’s okay. You can handle anything life throws at you without having to self-harm and do your eating disorder.”
The Meadows Ranch
For more information on how The Meadows Ranch can help through their acute care, partial hospitalization, inpatient and residential eating disorder programs please call 866-390-5100. All calls are strictly confidential and our highly knowledgeable and friendly staff are ready to answer any of the questions you might have.