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Anorexics Don’t Think You’re Fat

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People with anorexia often misjudge the size of their own bodies, believing themselves to be much fatter than they are. However, according to a new study in France, they accurately perceive other people’s body sizes.

The study required normal weight and anorexic participants to judge their own size by asking them whether or not they could fit through a doorway. Anorexic patients said they could not fit through the door even when they could easily walk through it, but could accurately judge whether another person could fit.

The study also found that anorexic patients tended to remember themselves at the weight they were before becoming anorexic, and felt that they could only fit through doorways built for someone of their original weight. The more weight they had lost since becoming anorexic, the wider they thought the door had to be for them to walk through.

Why do anorexics misperceive themselves so badly?

People with anorexia may have a built-in perception problem. Their central nervous system may not update to the size of the new, starved body, and maintains an incorrect representation of the body’s former dimensions, researchers said.

Dr. Elizabeth Frankel, psychologist at the Princeton HealthCare System’s eating disorder program, told ABC news,

“I think it’s really fabulous that these researchers are able to provide scientific proof of what people who have worked with these patients have known for a very long time”.