A paradox of eating disorders is that you spend a lot of time in your mind, but you end up thinking less and less. Yes, you think about how to hide food, about the next lie you’re going to tell, about calorie counting, etc. But you lose your abilities of rationality and critical thinking. The eating disorder brainwashes you and creates a parallel world for you to live in, that becomes more and more cut off from the real one and that you don’t question even when its premises are more and more absurd and unsustainable.
These couple of posts have a triple aim: to raise awareness that EDs are serious mental illnesses and not just “diets”; to lower the frustration of those living with someone who has them and they don’t know why they can’t get her out of there; and to reassure those who are still struggling to get rid of these kind of beliefs: they’re completely false and you have to keep fighting doing the opposite of what the voice in your mind tells you to do.
On pro-ana pages, to be perfect means to be thin. That’s it. This is first of all, obviously, physical perfection. They don’t admit that there can be many different beautiful body types or that health and beauty, being two good gifts, can’t be contradictory. There’s only one standard, marked by thinspirations —girls, famous or not, that we think have reached that perfection—: to be skinny.
It’s also a moral perfection. We think it denotes willpower, discipline and self-control. It doesn’t help when society praises us for it —“I wish I could resist chocolate”, etc.—. In fact, we’re not in control, but controlled, manipulated by the disorder, that directs our thoughts and actions.
Lastly, it may also mean, as in my case, religious perfection. To start with, by a simple association of terms. Once you’ve interiorized that perfection = thinness, when they tell you that perfection is holiness, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that holiness = thinness. The exhortation “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5, 48) turns then the desire of thinness into a divine commandment. From there on, all the Bible can be twisted to support that idea.
And, on the other hand, we have all the appreciation of sacrifice, mortification and fasting, that is extremely triggering when it’s not well explained or we just hear simplistic clichés —such as a holy fasting is for God and an ED fasting is for your vanity; as if God and the ED hadn’t been transformed for you into one thing and the same—.