Far be it from me to underestimate peoples’ ability to delude themselves. But it seems like someone who’s anorexic would, ya know, notice that they’re weighing less than 100 pounds. Do anorexic people think they actually weigh more? Or do they think they look fat at 95 pounds and would look better at 80? Do they set scary-low target weights for themselves, or have any other specific goal besides losing as much weight as possible?
Over Weight or Over Sized?
They have deluded themselve into thinking one, the other, or both is a problem and take unreasonable measures to solve the perceived problem. :rolleyes:
Anorexics don’t care about weight, they care about how they perceive themselves. I would wager most anorexics don’t even bother with scales at all; they see a fat person in the mirror, and that’s all that matters.
My clinical experience agrees with this. There isn’t a weight at which someone with anorexia thinks s/he looks good. There’s always something “fat” to be worked on.
My wife was anorexic, so I feel rather qualified to answer this. YES, she did think the scale was lying. In fact, one day she had an appointment with her gyn and her psych. They both weighed her, both scales said she weighed something like 104 pounds, her scale at home said something similar and she really and truly believed that all three scales where wrong and that she was actually at least 150 or 160.
As for weighing herself. I’ll bet she hopped on the scale at least 5 times a day. Oh, and heaven forbid it went UP throughout the day. (As in she gets out of the shower in the morning drys off and weighs herself and it says 104, and then she gets dressed, has breakfest grabs her purse and shoes and the weighes herself on a different scale and it says 107. She really…well, I could go on and on with stories, but back to the OP, in her case she really did beleive that the scale was wrong, in fact all scales where wrong. But then again, she was very sick.
I was anorexic in high school, and am very overweight now. The same dysmorphia happens on both ends of the spectrum. You think one of a few things:
The scale’s wrong - “That can’t be right! Stupid scale’s broken!”
The scale doesn’t apply to you - “I know the scale says 100 pounds, but I have a very small frame and that’s too heavy for me” or “I know the scale says 190 pounds, but I carry it well and don’t need to lose weight.”
You shouldn’t use a scale to measure health and/or appearance - This one is echoed in every fitness and women’s magazine out there - you should rely on how your clothes fit or how you look in the mirror. Problem is, if your clothes are three sizes too small, or you literally can’t see an undistorted figure in the mirror, those are useless guidelines that we think we’re following correctly.
And notice how I can tell you all this very clearly and intellectually. I get it. I still hate my body and can’t control my weight. I hated my body at 100 pounds, and I hate it now at nearly 300. (More people agree with me now that it’s disgusting, but that’s the only change.) Most smokers can tell you why smoking is bad for you and heroin users can tell you the bad effects of heroin and the process of addiction. Intellect and understanding has nothing to do with overcoming it.
The anorexics I know are obssessed with weighing themselves. If the scale says they weight 94 pounds in the morning and 97 at noon, they went from “fat” to “fatter.” It’s never the clothes or water weight–it because they are fat.
Well, this doesn’t jive with anything I know about anorexia. Certainly, back in the day, I would weigh myself in the morning before the shower, after the shower, after eating a piece of an orange, after drinking some coffee (black, consumed with 3 Gitanes, thankyouverymuch), after going to the bathroom, etc, etc.
Furthermore, there was a magical weight that it was “OK” to be under, but over was absolutely UNACCEPTABLE.
But, to the OP, it’ really wasn’t that I didn’t believe the scale, it was more like "Well, if 94 lbs is ok, then 92 lbs would be even better!. And, even at 92 lbs you can still find some fat somewhere to obsess about. Having a low weight is sort of incidental to having no fat - at least for me, anyway.
FWIW, I don’t keep a scale anymore because I know if I had one lying around, I’d never get off the damn thing.
While on subject,
How do those with anorexia cope, deal, or perceive others around them who say they actually look “bad”,“ugly”,or “gross” being so underweight?
Do they think these people are lying to them? Do they not care how others perceive them, just how they perceive themselves?
They present anorexia as being caused by peer pressure or pressure from society to be thin. You would think that someone who is that easily swayed by peers and society saying “You’re too fat, fat is ugly, be thin, thin is beautiful” would also be swayed when peers tell them “Your too skinny, you look gross, you look like a skeleton, etc.”
My wife simply wouldn’t have beleived that, in fact it would have turned into a nasty bitter argument.
(BTW are there support groups for S.O.'s of people with eating disorders. I sure as hell could have used one.)
My wife simply wouldn’t have beleived that, in fact it would have turned into a nasty bitter argument.
I’m reluctant to ask, but I think many of us are wondering…and hoping for a happy answer.
How is your wife now, Joey P??
Also realize that not all measurements go down evenly with weight. I was given the message that size 12 and over was fat, but when I fit into a size 12, i was dangerously thin. I was not driven by anorexia nervousa or anorexia bulimia, but a very bad doctor who convinced me that weighing over 100 was dangerous for someone of my height. I had those two numbers and slowly cut food down in an attempt to reach them. After a while eating is difficult, and you don’t feel hunger. That and the guilt and shame from knowing that I was doing something bad when ever I ate anything helped me shore up my will power. As long as I did not meet those goals, I kept up the diet. I really believed that I was doing the right thing and keeping it up was good. I ignored the headaches, the nausea, the fainting, the retching, and other signs that I was actually doing something unhealthful. Fortunately, the emergency room doctor convinced me that meeting my goals were much more damaging than not.
From the recovering anorexics I knew, they have similar feelings of guilt and shame on eating. That and the appetite reduction that you feel if you don’t eat for long enough helped to perpetuate their behavior. They have goals, but are never convinced they have met them well enough. Some thought scales lied. Some thought that the numbers were just not good enough. If weighing 90 were a B+ then 80 would be a A. Some wanted to fit into clothes that were just ridiculously small. You can’t reduce your pelvic bone much via dieting, but some try.
The message that you can never be too thin really does seem to permeate our culture. It is pervasive enough that it is hard for one or two voices to drown it out once you have takenit to heart. Also don’t underestimate the stupidity of people. There are idiots who praise thinness, even when it is clearly unhealthy. Just one of those voices can drown out many, many others.
Fine, fully recovered, long hard road, but she’s up to a proper weight and doing just fine, thank you. The only thing that made it easier was the fact that she was never really in denial if that makes sense. Basically when we (her mother and I) said, that’s it, you need help, she said OK. Basically, she knew she was sick.
Oh, and FTR she had Anorexia and Excercise Bulimea (along with the normal bulimea).
But seriously, if there isn’t a support group for us SO’s there should be.
Count your blessings, Joey. I knew of a very pretty and intelligent young teenager who was anorexic, and although her parents got the best help available (at the time), this young lady died from her condition.
So, I’m very, very glad your wife recovered. I’ll betcha everyone here is, too.
One of my best friends in high school was anorexic. Her parents were splitting up and decided that she would live with one parent, and her sister would live with the other. She was dead set against it but couldn’t get her parents to listen. That, she told us later, was the trigger. She went on what amounted to a hunger strike. She almost died, had to be hospitalized for a while, but bounced back and was OK.
I don’t know how common this cause of anorexia in kids is-- how much of it is “I think I’m too fat,” how much of it is “I hate myself and want to die,” how much of it is, “notice me and do something or I will make myself die”? Is the weight issue a cipher for some submerged, larger, harder to control issue? You can’t control your parents’ decision, but you can control your body kinda thing?
I wasn’t able to think about this incident in these terms when I was a teenager, and this thread made me wonder about it now. It really was awful to watch, can’t imagine what it’s like to go through.
My wife was supposed to be hospitalized. The doctor told her that if her weight dropped below a certain number (107 maybe) that they would have to admit her. She went in one day and it was 105. But the doctor let it pass becuase our wedding was the next week and she didn’t want us to have to put it off (although it was discussed even before being admitted was talked about).
I’ve worked therapeutically with people who have low-weight eating disorders for over 20 years and lectured on the subject for 10. The symptom described as “body image distortion” often presents very much as hallucination or delusion, much as some people hear Jesus commanding them through the television or see little green men – only these hallucinations and delusions centre around seeing fat where there is none, feeling fat growing, and above all being certain that fatness is just around the corner, lurking in the smell of french fries or eating a little dressing on that salad. You can present what the rest of us call objective reality ad nauseam, but the powers of the symptoms are such that the person will tend to doubt objective reality rather than what their symptoms tell them.
This is quite an insightful question. In my experience, there are two general responses to being told “You look gross!” – one being annoyance, and the other being satisfaction or pride. The first relates to the fact that it is generally inappropriate to comment derogatorily on another’s appearance: you wouldn’t say, “That is some hideous acne you’ve been picking, Jim!” without expecting a rebuff. The second relates to the nature of the symptoms. If some external source is saying, “Gah, you’re horribly thin!” the sufferer can at least briefly feel “safe” – thin enough, because if you are thin enough to provoke unsolicited comment, you must be fairly thin. For someone whose brain tells them day and night, “YOU MUST GET THINNER,” this is a reprieve, though usually all too brief. The third possible response – “I must be too thin, I’d better do something about this!” – usually heralds engagement in recovery efforts.
Anorexia nervosa is not caused by peer pressure. Many are called (diet, experience peer pressure), but few are chosen (develop the syndrome). Peer pressure is only one of a myriad of factors that give rise to these disorders, though of course it doesn’t exactly help matters.
When I was a kid, I was pretty overweight. During seventh grade I got so sick of myself that I decided I had to lose the weight, which I did by gradually paring my diet down to three-digits worth of calories a day, while running greater and greater distances. At the peak of my (I think, relatively mild) anorexia, I was consuming less than 500 calories a day while running 5-8 miles. For me, the scale was secondary to the mirror; I still saw fat on my body, and that was unacceptable, no matter what my weight was. I would set a target weight, and when I reached that weight and still “looked fat,” it meant that I had stupidly thought I was thinner than I actually was, feeding the whole cycle.
The lowest weight I ever got to was 102 ( I still remember seeing this on the scale), as a (at the time) 5’10’’ larger-framed male. People tend to forget that anorexia does affect males as well, and I think the assumption that only females have eating disorders is what prevented my parents from noticing it for a while. When they did see that I had a problem, they sent me to a doctor and a psychiatrist. It did take some time to get over, but not as much as you might think. Having my parents and more than one doctor telling me my weight was dangerous caused me to have just enough doubt about how I saw myself to begin the process of eating normally again.
The body image thing, you seem to be saying, is something you know is bad but you rationalize away almost instinctively. Smokers, on the other hand, know that they’re doing something bad for themselves but just don’t care. Contrary to the popular line, it’s not about saying “oh, but that won’t happen to me.” They know damn well it’ll happen to them and do it anyway.
Is there any need for this comment? You can care about the detrimental effects of smoking and still find that the chemical addiction is a hurdle to stopping. Nicotine addiction may not be up there with anorexia as a ‘disorder’, but both are compulsive and hard to tackle.