Nature vs Nuture: the Eating Disorder

Do I think body shaming can cause an eating disorder? Or are we pre-ordained to develop one, regardless of how we’re treated – like I’m a natural born alcoholic, while my brother and sister are not?

I’m really not sure about this one. I know that all the cruel comments and horrible teasing about my weight as a teenager did a lot of damage. I was deeply devastated by and ashamed of my growing body. Deep in my bones, I fully believed that if only I were thin, everything would be okay. In particular, I was sure that if I were thinner, everyone would like me more. Everyone seemed so disappointed in me, my eating and my weight.

At one point, when I was 16, I began to lose weight naturally. It was a brief time in my youth when I was happy. For a number of reasons, I was pretty much living alone with my very best friend in the world, Frank, and he was taking really good care of me. He loved me unconditionally (all these years later he’s still my best friend), and for once, I had no desire to use food to comfort, soothe,anesthetize or anything at all but to fuel.

But then as I lost a few more pounds, the compliments started flowing in nearly constantly. You’d have thought I’d cured cancer. I’m barely exaggerating here. It truly was cemented in my head that thinner was better. If losing a few pounds was good, losing tons of weight had to be even better.

And so I got to the point where I didn’t get my period for years, and I was often too weak to walk up stairs and I didn’t do anything but think about food and weight. When I couldn’t starve anymore, I turned vigorously to bingeing and puking.

(And fyi, may I just say that I was NOT happier when I was skinny. And my life was NOT better. I was f’ing miserable, furious and depressed.)

So, in my case, body shaming absolutely contributed to my anorexia and bulimia. But I don’t know if that’s true of everyone.

Is there a nature component? Am I born a disordered eater? In my case, I have to say yes. I truly did finish more bottles in the hospital than any baby before me. After that, I ate so much that the doctor put me on skim milk at six months. “Why”, I asked my mother,” did you feed me so much?” “Because”, she said, “you cried and cried until i gave you more.

Clearly, I was born with the disease of more and never enough; more and never satisfied. There wasn’t enough food in the world to make me feel better. But my brother and sister weren’t born this way. If you look at pictures of us when I was a baby – there’s my skinny sister, lanky brother and fat little me.

I remember eating and eating and eating as a child. I’d eat anything and everything until I couldn’t move. My body and mind wanted food all the time.

I can eat more pancakes in one sitting than my best friend Frank can eat in a lifetime. I know – Frank once tried bingeing on pancakes with me. He got grossed out quickly and stopped three DAYS before I did. Literally.

Does this mean everyone with an eating disorder has a body primed to eat dysfunctionaLly. I don’t know. i do know that mine sure is.

Does it matter whether it’s nature or nurture? I don’t think so. We find ourselves in the same place.


Coming up – any thoughts? Do folks want to hear more about anything in particular? You can leave a comment on the blog or at Facebook or email me at I’m really curious to hear. And, of course, I have a zillion ideas of my own. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Nature vs Nuture: the Eating Disorder

    1. Thank you for writing! I do believe it’s all the same thing. I didn’t start drinking until I was 30, and it was only because I thought if i drank I’d eat less. And I didn’t find drugs until my late 30s, when I thought they’d solve the alcohol and food and insomnia problem (who needed sleep?!!) A vicious cycle of the same disease. What do you think?


  1. Just curious if you ever had any medical tests or anything, that would help explain an excessive appetite? There are so many hormones that can cause appetite changes.


  2. No, I wasn’t hungry. I was just eating to relieve the pain; to fill the emptiness deep inside. I was always looking for something on the outside to make me feel better on the inside. But there weren’t enough pancakes in the world to make me less sad and lonely. Food was just a symptom (as were drugs and alcohol). I had to get down to causes and conditions. Thank you for writing! I love hearing from you


    1. I asked because you said you went through more bottles than other babies. This made me think there was possibly some more to it than emotional eating.


  3. Interesting. I have always thought of it as self-soothing. However, I am almost never hungry these days. I eat relatively small amounts and that’s perfectly satisfying. I think it has always been a mental issue for me. Thank you so much for writing. I really enjoy your comments


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