Today I want to talk about a slightly more serious topic. This idea came to me after seeing someone on instagram post about their interaction with a friend the other day. Basically the other person told the girl I follow (who struggled with binge eating disorder) “you’ve always been skinny, so how could you have had binge eating?” Now this person wasn’t saying this to be rude, but rather out of a place of misunderstanding. Most people when they hear “eating disorder”, “anorexia”, “binge” they have this stereotype of how a person will look, feel, think, etc. That’s why I wanted to write this post: EDs are not a one-size fits all.
Granted, there are signs that can point to an eating disorder, but just because someone is small doesn’t mean they have anorexia, or just because they’re a healthy weight doesn’t mean they’ve never struggled with an eating disorder before. And I think a lot of this comes from a place of people thinking that EDs are purely a physical issue. While yes the physical toll is the most obvious and easiest to see, the bigger challenge is the mental aspect of the disease. No one sees this part as well, but it is there. Even if the person is a healthy weight or weight restored or back to their pre-ED weight in recovery, does not mean that the person’s mind is healed and restored.
When I first started my eating disordered thoughts, I was 155 (I am 5’10”). Not overweight by any means, but my mind thought so. I had an eating disorder at 145, at 140, even when I got to my lowest of 131 although I wasn’t skin and bones like you may see with some people, but I still had an ED. Physical is only part of it and someone’s looks don’t dictate necessarily what they have been through/are going through. Each person’s journey, battle, and recovery look different so you really have to get to know the person first. This was the main reason I wanted to write this post: to inform people–whether or not you have known or currently know someone struggling with an ED–that it’s not a stereotype look, not a one-size fits all journey, but rather an individualized physical and mental battle that will look different for everyone! Jen Brett has a great video on this–watch from 7:00-7:45.
The second reason I wanted to write this is geared towards those who currently are or have struggled with an ED and have had comments from someone. Maybe it was your friends or family, a relative, classmate or professor who said a comment similar to the one I started this post out with. Perhaps they said you didn’t look like you had an ED, you were a healthy weight, you were fine, etc. I want to tell you right now that those comments do not define you or what you have been through. Just because you may not look “typical ED” (or even if you do) does not mean that you haven’t fought those battles and dealt with those thoughts, emotions, actions, etc. that come with it.
I’ve had something similar happen to myself from someone who I won’t mention. But when I would talk about my eating disorder recovery, they would say “you’re eating and gaining weight, you never got that low nor looked skin and bones” in a way meaning that they didn’t understand how I could’ve had an eating disorder or talk about recovery in such a way. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt because I know what I have put myself through and what I’ve been through and put my mind and body through during my battle with orthorexia and currently recovery. If this has happened to you, don’t be discouraged and don’t get angry. Most likely this person is coming from a place of not understanding and lack of knowledge, so use this time to inform them whether that be by talking to them, showing them videos or articles, etc. And understand that their comments don’t take anything away from you.
To wrap up, I just want to say that I am not trying to call anyone out or make you feel bad for what you may have said or done. Instead, I want to inform everyone of the truth behind the looks and feels of having an eating disorder because it really is a unique process and journey for everyone. The best thing anyone can do is be positive, keep an open mind, and be understanding of everyone because you never truly know their story or where they are coming from until you get to know them beyond the surface.