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So if I were to ask you to describe someone with an eating disorder I would imagine a lot of you would say something along the lines of “a young girl starving herself or making herself sick to make herself as thin as possible”. I wouldn’t blame you for saying that. Whenever we hear of eating disorders on the news or the radio fashion companies are often blamed for using really skinny models which promote an unrealistic expectation of a woman’s body and an unhealthy definition of beauty.
To an extent they are right. You do often hear of girls who are unhappy with their body image who have taken dieting a ‘step to far’ or who are comparing themselves with models in magazines. However eating disorders, like their sufferers, come in all shapes and sizes. They can come about for a variety of different reasons; they can be a form of self harm, or a means of control when the sufferer feels they have no control. This ‘one size fits all’ approach to eating disorders is stopping a lot of people, both guys and girls, from coming forward to get the treatment they need.
Sometime in 2012, before I knew I was really ill, I remember my doctor asking loads of questions about my eating behaviours after measuring my BMI. I remember him saying that I should really think about looking into treatment for eating disorders and I remember laughing it off. If you’ve ever seen me in real life at any point in the last 5 years; I’m normally wearing scruffy converses, jeans and a black t-shirt or hoody (depending on the weather) and am often covered in oil or dirt. In my eyes there was no way I had such a vain condition! I certainly didn’t aspire to be some sort of model! Fast forward a year to 2013 and I regretted not taking the opportunity for treatment when I could have as I had gained weight and was told I would have to get sicker in order to be treated. Fast forward another couple of years to now and I regretting having such a stupid opinion of eating disorders. They don’t care for gender, race, wealth, sexual orientation etc. They can affect anyone for any number of reasons. They are not vain illnesses!
Another thing that annoys me about the treatment of eating disorders is the use of BMI as an indication for eligibility of treatment. An eating disorder is kinda self explanatory; disordered eating. It has nothing to do with weight. People should be able to get treatment for ED if their eating is an issue be that they don’t eat enough, eat loads and then expell it or eat too much. A person’s body should not have to reflect the battles that are going on inside their mind in order for them to get help.
So in conclusion; an eating disorder is not always just about weight. It does not discriminate gender, race or social status. If you think you do have a problem then go and see your doctor. There’s really no shame.
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Yes I am so glad that someone else understands this concept. I want to be a dietitian who specializes in EDs and this is something I always encounter in my studies. We need to increase the understanding of EDs and that there are more than just 2 and that you don’t have to be a skeleton to have one nor do you have to be in your teens and be a female. Thank you for this post