Why do anorexic people lie

Concealment and trickery

Stefanie Peters had tricks to pretend everything is okay and to investigate the eating disorder at the same time.

As an important reason for hiding the eating disorder, many cite the desire to be able to pursue it undisturbed and not be slowed down by others. Sometimes it was just attempts by others to prevent certain behaviors that led to greater secrecy.

For many, concealment also played a role in contact with professional helpers. Some of the narrators say that they avoided going to the doctor altogether so as not to have to hear a lecture. Even during stays in the clinic, trickery was often used in order to be able to maintain the eating disorder despite the therapies. In particular, the meal requirements and regular weighing are mentioned as occasions. Heike Papst describes that sometimes it was just a fight: How can I outsmart someone, how can I lie to myself?

Some of the narrators accepted having to leave the clinic due to the constant trickery (see inpatient clinic stays). Others report massive health consequences. Carina Wintergarten drank so much water to put more weight on the scales that she had to go to the intensive care unit because her blood was severely thinned (see Physical Consequences).

Another reason for the secrecy is repeatedly cited as not wanting to be labeled “the disorderly eating” or suddenly being viewed differently. Tanja Zillich does not want to tell her children about the eating disorder because she is concerned that they will see them with different eyes. Laura Brunner describes how she didn't want the problem to become real to others by speaking it out. Others emphasize their concern that they will no longer be perceived as strong. The disease was often hidden from colleagues, in particular, as it could be seen as a sign of weakness. For many, it is important to maintain the image that everything is "normal". In particular, some found the “sick” thoughts that preoccupied them in acute phases of the eating disorder as embarrassing and wanted to hide them. Many of the narrators report that they spent a lot of time conveying to others that everything is fine - and that they sometimes believed in it themselves. (see Thoughts and Feelings in Eating Disorder)

The narrators say they want to prevent anyone from talking about them. Even those narrators who are open about the eating disorder say that even afterwards it is not clear to most of the people around them how bad everything really was, how much the disease actually determined their thoughts and feelings.

Often something like mutual agreement is described. The narrators make it clear how much time and energy they invested in hiding the eating disorder. However, they also experience that others willingly believed them because they were happy when everything was okay and they didn't have to worry.

Many tell of the stress and pressure that secrecy created. It becomes clear how much social relationships suffered as a result. The eating disorder is described as something that should be actively kept away from everyone else, but then also isolated from others precisely through this secrecy. Again and again, the narrators describe that the excuses and lying - e.g. towards their parents or partners - made them feel guilty.

For some of the narrators, having an eating disorder doesn't fit their self-image at all. Helene Weber found it difficult to admit her anorexia in front of her friends, because it does not fit her attitude at all to submit to a social ideal of beauty.

Some of the narrators think it's good to have friends who don't know about the eating disorder. Some built up a new circle of friends that nobody knows about after they have returned to normal weight. They describe feeling more free and being seen for who they are now without the eating disorder being an issue. Some feel that the others can be more natural if they don't know about the eating disorder.

Some say that giving up secrecy was not only about admitting to others that there was a problem, but also about admitting it to yourself. However, this can also mean taking the "magic" of the mystery out of the eating disorder. Being able to admit your eating disorder to yourself and others and to give up hiding and tricking can be a first step towards change.