Eating Disorders: Just a Part of Normal, Everyday Conversation
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Eating Disorders: Just a Part of Normal, Everyday Conversation


This post was originally published on June 12, 2013.

So Eddie Murphy and his model wife, Nicole, apparently have a daughter who’s gorgeous and a model. And she was on Good Morning America, where she shared some of the lengths other models will go to in order to remain thin. “I’ve heard of people eating the cotton balls with the orange juice…they dip it in the orange juice and then they eat the cotton balls to help them feel full,’” she said, later adding, “lots of girls get addicted to drugs and anorexia, there’s a whole list of things, because it’s a lot of pressure to be perfect.”

To the everyday viewer of My Strange Addiction, a cotton ball down the gullet may not sound like a big deal—a bit more boring, actually, than eating the contents of a couch or detergent. But when I hear about things like this, it transports me right back to the days of my obsession with all things weight-related, when I went to extreme lengths to obtain “perfection.” And so now I wonder: in whose eyes was I trying to be perfect? I learned from my own experience that chasing ever-elusive “perfection” is a pointless endeavor. I would reach a certain weight only to realize that the figure on the scale still didn’t bring me happiness, nor did the comments from others about how great I looked. In my mind, they were telling me lies to fulfill their own agenda, though I could never quite figure out what their agenda was. I remember the misery of waking up every day hating my body and how my mood was controlled by what the scale said. I remember making sure I peed before I weighed myself, in case the urine added pounds. And I remember how, if the figure was too high, I’d punish myself with starvation or an hour’s extra exercise.

Things are quite different today. Getting sober lifted the fog and helped me see a little clearer what the reality of my life was. Essentially, I realized in a very short space of time that other people’s opinions of me were not as bad as I thought, that I wasn’t actually as fat as I imagined and that food was not the enemy. The self acceptance I’ve learned through the recovery process has enabled me to like—and thus not want to torture—myself any longer.

But getting healthy in today’s society isn’t always easy. It means tuning out a non-stop assault of messages about what we should be, look like and do. And seeing how casually Bria Murphy references eating disorders and addiction made me wonder: Is our social sickness and self-revulsion hit such a low that it is now acceptable to eat cotton balls and talk about it in such a blasé manner? Sobriety helps me to rise above the social pressures of striving to obtain the media-driven perception of perfection but I’m one of the lucky ones. Today I say give me a big fat juicy steak any day, regardless of the fat particles that will cling to my derrière and make my jeans too tight. There’s a place and a purpose for cotton balls, but not on my dinner (or breakfast or lunch) plate.

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About Author

Nicola O’Hanlon is part of the blogging community for the recovery website You can see her blogs on She was born and still lives in Wexford, Ireland.