Recently I saw a Dutch article pop up in my timeline, titled “Managic Anorexic: On the Border of Having and Not Having an Eating Disorder.” Being an anorexic myself, I felt compelled to read it as I was unable to believe that there could be “managing anorexics.”
Having read the article, I am even less convinced of there being such a thing as a “managing anorexic.” If anything, the article illustrates all too well how anorexia is a psychological disorder that has you so fully in its grasp that its twisting and turning of true reality seem completely logical and believable.
The article is written anonymously and contains a very detailed account of what being a “managing anorexic” means to the author. She describes it as a “cultivated way of life,” which is about “balancing between having and not having an eating disorder.” However, just the mere fact of doing this is quite characteristic of eating disorders, since you do not choose to have a disorder. She views this differently: having been on both sides of the extremes, she writes that she feels this is the ideal compromise. To her, the difference between being happy and unhappy lies in a few kilos, a clearly visible collarbone, and hard muscles under her skin. When she heard the term “managing anorexic,” she felt this label suited her lifestyle (her words) perfectly. While some people may find it “restrictive, slightly obsessive, and controlling,” she begs to differ: “Of course it’s about control, but in my case it’s about controlling anorexia.” Now this is where I beg to differ, because I believe that this is the perfect example of anorexia controlling her. If she were truly in control, she would be able to let go of all these beliefs without feeling guilty and without having to take “measures”; she would have a “normal” relationship with food, one that does not require obsessive and excessive thought.
Yet if your relationship with food, exercise, and yourself is as restrained as hers appears to be, and if it decides the course of your day, then you do not let go and you are not “functioning normally” in my opinion (she writes she is still functioning normally). If you have to plan a fun dinner out with your friends up to researching the menu beforehand, if you have to “balance it out” afterwards (or compensate, as I’d say) to deal with the guilt, and if food and weight play a crucial role in determining your sense of happiness, then you are not functioning normally; then you have a problem if you ask me.
Dear anonymous writer, if you ever read this, I do not mean to offend you. I am writing this article because I am seriously concerned about your well-being. Solely based on your piece, I’ve gotten the impression that you are controlled by an eating disorder instead of the other way around. I cannot emphasise this enough, but one of its big dangers is that it makes you believe that anorexia’s ways are normal, are best, are standard. They are not.
But what perhaps worries me even more about this article, is that it was published just as it is: an anonymous account of someone who, in my view, clearly struggles with an eating disorder, but who does not recognise this herself. This makes it almost justified to be a “managing anorexic,” which distresses me greatly. Dear ELLE NL, please do add a disclaimer that this is not normal, that you should not do this to yourself, because right now, there might be people who are vulnerable to this and, speaking from my own experience, such an article could be the tipping point to the wrong side of the scales. In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as a “managing anorexic.” Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder that makes you believe that this is the right mindset and lifestyle, as the article clearly (though probably unintentionally) exemplifies. A term like that is just an excuse for anorexia to “justify itself.” That’s the dangerous thing about it, and it can ruin everything you have — including yourself.