Eating disorders are a bio-psycho-social disease that are difficult to understand from the outside looking in. Most of what we know about eating disorders is from what we see in the media— which is usually a fabricated version of the illness. No matter how little or how much you know about them, eating disorder jokes about them are never cool to make, and there is never an appropriate situation to use them in.  

1. Eating disorders are extremely serious

kettle, beer, pizza, tea, cake, coffee
Lauryn Lahr

There is nothing funny about a life-threatening illness. All eating disorders, no matter the type, cause serious health implications for the individual suffering. Eating disorder jokes create the idea that this illness doesn't have to be taken seriously, despite the seriousness of the illness. 

Some of the health consequences caused by eating disorders include slowed heart rate, lowered blood pressure, severe hydration, muscle loss, electrolyte imbalances, extreme fatigue, reduction of bone density, and hair loss. 

2. Eating disorders are very common

The diet-obsessed culture we live in puts pressure on everyone to look a certain way. The unhealthy patterns of diet culture has made eating disorder jokes more common, and the social awareness on the illness less important. 

Eating disorders are the most common chronic illness found among Canadian female adolescents. Since the 1950's, the annual rate of eating disorder diagnoses per year has been consistently increasing. Although more and more people are suffering, treatment options for eating disorders are still limited.

3. The signs of an eating disorder aren't always obvious

As helpful as knowing what the general signs of eating disorders are, always remember that you should never undermine someone suffering just because they do not fit into certain categories. It's important to always consider the complexities and forms that eating disorders can take. 

4. Eating disorder jokes are insensitive

The way that eating disorders are portrayed in the media isn't always realistic. The truth is, you don't have to be severely underweight to be suffering from an eating disorder. This illness is extremely complex and affects every individual in very different ways.

5. You never know what someone else is going through

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Meghan Flynn

You have no idea who is personally suffering or has someone close to them suffering from an eating disorder, which is another reason why these jokes are not cool. If you wouldn't make a joke about a physical illness, why would you make a joke about a mental illness? They are just as serious and dangerous, and making jokes about them is extremely insensitive.

6. Eating disorders are more complex than they seem

It's never cool to use 'anorexic' as an adjective, just as you would never use 'depressed' as one either. It's not that someone is anorexic, it's that someone is suffering from anorexia. Labeling someone by their mental illness dismisses all their other qualities. Eating disorder jokes make it seem like it is okay to put labels on those suffering. 

Eating disorders are classified as a co-occuring disorder since they usually exist alongside other diseases and disorders. They are diverse illnesses, and making jokes about them disregards their complexities.

7. Eating disorders are undermined in the mental health community

No two individuals suffer from an eating disorder in the exact same way. Everyone suffers in different and complex ways. Eating disorder jokes portray this illness as a black and white concept when in reality there are often many factors contributing to an eating disorder.

In 2011, the National Institute of Health released statistics that compared the prevalence versus the funding received for different illnesses. Despite the fact that eating disorders had greater prevalence than Alzheimer's, Autism and Schizophrenia, it still received the least funding for research and treatment. 

8. These jokes reinforce the stereotype that eating disorders are a choice

egg, candy, sweet
Ellen Gibbs

Eating disorders do not receive the attention they deserve, and making jokes about them only makes them seem less important. In Canada, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among all types of mental illness, yet they continue to receive little attention for their severity. 

Just as some people cannot avoid suffering from a physical illness such as arthritis, some people cannot avoid suffering from a mental illness. It has been proven that biological, social and environmental factors all trigger the development of an eating disorder.

There is never a situation or context where jokes about eating disorders are appropriate. When you make jokes about a life-threatening illness, it takes away from the intensity and seriousness of them and it disrespects the individuals living with them. Eating disorder jokes have never been cool and they never will be.  

coffee, beer, pizza
Nancy Chen

Joking about mental illness reinforces the stigma and stereotypes that already exist surrounding them. The media usually shows eating disorders as a choice someone makes, but mental illness is never a choice.