A “Life-Long Disease” (at 18?)

Yet another example of how the mainstream media portrays eating disorders:

A news story broke today about 18-year-old Disney star, Demi Lovato, who admitted she suffers from an eating disorder. She recently spent nearly 3 months in a rehab treatment facility; and in her interview, she said she believes her eating disorder is a “life-long disease.” Reading this statement made me sad, both for Lovato – who believes she can never fully get over this – and all of her young fans who may be going through a similar crisis.

I also wonder how she came to believe that eating disorders are life-long diseases. I truly hope that’s not something she learned in her treatment facility; but sadly, it is a common theme in some conventional therapies. Telling an 18-year-old she is suffering from a life-long disease is a conversation that treatment providers should reserve for those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, lupus, or other illnesses with no cure. Even so, hope for a cure should never be abandoned, especially at such a young age.

Furthermore, in this specific interview, Lovato is primarily referring to a preoccupation with food and her body as the part of the “disease.” Hereis part of Lovato’s quote:

Yes, there have been times when I definitely have been tempted to get rid of my dinner. But I will deal with it for the rest of my life because it’s a life-long disease. I don’t think there’s going to be a day when I don’t think about food or my body, but I’m living with it, and I wish I could tell young girls to find their safe place and stay with it.”

First of all, it’s great that she doesn’t give into the temptation to get rid of her dinner; and if she can continue to resist those urges, they will go away in time. I find it disheartening that although she seems to have overcome the destructive behaviors for the most part, she still labels herself diseased. Even if she does think about her body and food more than others, even for the rest of her life, when has this become a “disease”?

If she wants to continue placing a high value on appearance; that is called choice, and one day she may decide to choose differently. If she feels compulsively driven to think about food and her body, possibly because of her upbringing, her career, or any number of biological or psychological factors; that is a problem that can be overcome. People can and do recoverfully from eating disorders, and any associated body image problems; and I think it’s very important for young girls to know this.

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