There is no illness on earth where we strive to be the sickest.

Except for eating disorders.

There is no illness on earth where we are jealous of people who have it worse.

Except for eating disorders.

Anything you can do, I can do better.

It was a competition to be the thinnest because … I couldn’t have an eating disorder if I wasn’t severely underweight. It wasn’t just a competition with myself to reach my lowest weight, which many may think; it was a competition with other people with eating disorders to beat their lowest weight and be the “best anorexic.” (Emma Whidborne)

Why is it that people with eating disorders often find themselves in competition to prove that they are the most sick?

It’s possible that people with eating disorders have a higher tendency for perfectionism, and are often over-achievers. Additionally, because of the nature of eating disorders, they can appear to be measured. If a person with anorexia sees a person who is thinner than s/he is, they will assume that person is ‘sicker’. This may double their effort to starve themselves.

For a person struggling with anorexia, numbers become huge. How many days can they go without eating? How low can their weight drop? Someone struggling with an eating disorder will compete with someone else’s BMI, daily calorie intake, or even something as obscure as how long it takes them to complete a meal. This sick side of eating disorders is not often talked about, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Gathering the gorillas.

Gorillas usually keep to themselves – but when presented with a threat, they make a lot of noise. They beat their chests and growl. This is to give the impression that they are the strongest, the best, and that they would certainly win in a fight.

This is similar to when a person with an eating disorder surrounds themselves with other people suffering from the same thing. Sure, it’s nice to have someone to relate to, someone who understands what you’re going through. But it can also trigger stronger and more harmful competition.

Gorillas who fight to have dominance, to prove that they are the strongest, do so as a survival instinct – the winner has dominance and can stay in the jungle. Ironically, when a group of people with eating disorders beat their chests and proclaim that they are the ‘winner’ – that actual ‘winner’ is the one least likely to survive.

Anorexia > Bulimia

Eating disorders are all about exhibiting control. People with anorexia often feel superior to those with bulimia. Anorexia is a constant display of self-control, from how little they can eat to how slowly they can eat it, people with anorexia are always restraining themselves.

This is, of course, untrue. Sufferers of anorexia AND bulimia are sick and deserving of help.

The competition must end.

You might think this competition is driven by vanity and pride. And you would be wrong. More often this is driven by a complete lack of self-esteem. An eating disorder constantly tells their victim that they aren’t doing it right; that they aren’t enough; they aren’t sick enough; they don’t deserve help.

These are all lies.

This competitive undercurrent to eating disorders is wrong and unhelpful. In most treatment centers you’ll find that the people there think that they don’t deserve to be there. For one woman entering treatment for the first time, her dietitian warned her:

“There will be women who are sicker than you and thinner than you. But make no mistake, you’ve earned your place in treatment.”

Even after multiple trips to treatment centers, this woman still felt as though she didn’t really have a disorder. After all, didn’t she have a cheeseburger last week? Some people haven’t had a cheeseburger in years – or ever! They are the ones with the real eating disorders. He disorder always tries to suck her back in by telling her that she is lacking in one way or another and that all her problems can be fixed by just exercising or fasting.

Beating the disorder.

To beat your eating disorder, you need help. You don’t need to surround yourself with people like you, because they may only fuel your eating disorder. Instead, surround yourself with healthy people. Battling your inner demons is hard – you don’t need the added pressure of trying to beat someone else’s demons too.

  • Medical. You need the help of professionals who can help you understand the fuel your body actually needs to function. Additionally, they can help you replenish stores of nutrients that you’ve been depriving yourself.
  • Therapy. There are various types of therapy available, such as such as individual, family, or group therapy sessions. Through these sessions, you can identify and address the underlying causes of your eating disorder.

Ultimately, eating disorders kill people. And there is no glory in seeking out the ‘blue ribbon’ for anorexia – because in this case, the ‘blue ribbon’ is a gravestone.


Eating Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, Signs & Medical Complications

The Best Anorexic

Why Are Eating Disorders Competitive?

When Eating Disorders Become a ‘Competition’