Eating disorders aren't all about appearance!
July 23, 2012 at 11:46 AM
There are many misinformed ideas about eating disorders. One of the main ones (in my opinion) is that if you don’t ‘look’ like you have one then you probably don’t. The other day I heard the comment “but she doesn’t look thin enough to have an eating disorder”. One of the most frustrating elements of an eating disorder is how people define it purely on physical appearance. The general assumption is that if you look ‘well’ or ‘healthy’ on the exterior, that you’re actually fine. In many circumstances, this couldn’t be further from the truth!
When I embarked into recovery for the first time and put on weight, though people couldn’t seem to stop saying how ‘well’ I looked, on the inside I was probably more tormented by my eating disorder than when I was obviously ill on the surface. I can’t speak from experience on bulimia or binge eating disorder but I imagine that those suffering probably experience the same frustration. This is sometimes why sufferers often go months or even years without confiding in anyone; because they don’t look ill, they feel they are not worthy of help from their family, friends or doctor and suffer in silence; even questioning whether there is actually anything wrong with them or if it is just in their heads. The media doesn’t help – relentlessly (and often inaccurately) reporting stories of celebrities sporting ‘painfully thin frames’ and portraying the idea that anorexia and other eating disorders can only be identified by physical appearance.
And there is also the fact that in many cases, you won’t be taken seriously or can’t seek professional help on the NHS unless you are below a certain weight or BMI. This is crazy because that is basically suggesting to the patient that they are not ill enough to warrant getting help. The torment that exists on the inside is far worse than how it manifests itself on the outside and with all eating disorders it is the mind that needs to be cured and healed and then the body will begin to take care of itself once that work has begun.
So if you are experiencing any kind of disordered thoughts towards food or body image then it is vital that you hold your hands up and tell someone. Do not think you have to be ‘painfully thin’ to have an eating disorder. Every single person is different and you don’t have to be neatly categorised into one box (e.g. anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder) to be a sufferer. Everyone who even thinks that they may have an eating disorder or is experiencing eating disordered thoughts should be heard, helped and supported. The sooner you tell someone, the sooner that the issue can begin be addressed.