Get help. Refer a patient. Find hope. 888-364-5977

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Get help. Refer a patient.
Find hope. 888-364-5977

April 13, 2012

Why Can't I Just Eat?

by Mark Warren, M.D.

By Dr. Mark Warren

Anyone with an eating disorder has been asked at some point or another "Why don't you just eat?" Most likely if you have an eating disorder you have asked yourself the same question. You might wonder "Why is eating so hard for me when it seems to be so easy for everyone else?" On one level the answer to this is incredibly simple, and on another level incredibly complicated. The simple level is biology. Having an eating disorder means having neurological or neuroanatomical organization of your brain that creates enormous barriers to eating normally. These barriers include visual and sensory distortions, impacts on reward centers and executive organization of the brain, distortions of senses of fullness and hunger, and over evaluation of body size and shape, in addition to other issues that may be present. The combination of all of these things makes eating incredibly hard to do. The complex answer comes from the interaction of all the issues above in addition to the fact that eating itself is an activity that is way more complicated than people give it credit for. Eating is not just about seeing food, grabbing food and putting it in our mouths. Eating is about being aware of what's happening inside our bodies, understanding and appreciating our sensations, knowing what gives us pleasure and how to eat in a balanced way. Add social eating and societal influence and its clear that eating is a complex activity on many levels. So the answer to why can't I just eat is that you have an eating disorder and that in fact is what the disorder is. It's what makes it such a scary, painful, and life threatening disease. Having an eating disorder is confronting the question "Why can't I just do something that ultimately may save my life?" It's also what makes recovery from an eating disorder so rich, full, and rewarding. Because when you are able to "just eat", you are able to embrace life in a way that had never felt possible before.

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About the Author

Mark Warren, M.D.

Mark Warren, M.D.

Mark Warren is the chief medical officer of The Emily Program. He is also one of the original founders of the Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders, which recently merged to become The Emily Program – Cleveland. A Cleveland native, he is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School and completed his residency at Harvard Medical School. He served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Medical Director of University Hospital Health System's Laurelwood Hospital. A past vice-chair for clinical affairs at the Case School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, he continues on the Clinical Faculty of the Medical School, teaching in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. He is currently a faculty member and former chair of the Board of Governors at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Dr. Warren is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a two-time recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award of the national Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and a winner of the Woodruff Award. He leads the Males and Eating Disorders special interest group for the Academy of Eating Disorders.

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Recovery for life is possible 888-364-5977

Recovery for life is possible

888-364-5977

The Emily Program