Here is my latest piece for my monthly NEDA column focusing on binge eating disorder!
Originally published on the National Eating Disorders Associaton’s blog
From a young age, I was taught to believe that thinner equaled better, and larger equaled lesser. My dance teachers reinforced this, my father reinforced this, and the media reinforced this. Eating disorders are typically associated with thinness, and while that can be some people’s experience, it is not everyone’s. Those of us who may not appear to have an eating disorder still have a valid struggle and it is important to talk about. It is important for our eating disorders to not be dismissed simply because of our size or the number on a scale.
About three and a half years ago I went into treatment for binge eating disorder. One of the first things I noticed was that all of the other clients were much smaller than I was. I assumed that the other clients were wondering why on earth is she here? I did not think they would believe that I had an eating disorder because of my being at a higher weight. I felt like I didn’t belong in treatment because of the way that I looked, rather than the severity of my eating disorder. I held onto this irrational thought process and felt insecure and lesser than the other clients the whole time I was there. That’s partly because at the time I too, associated eating disorders with thinness.
That is how they are portrayed in the media, and that is why for so long I didn’t even think I had an eating disorder – simply because of how I looked. I knew that my behaviors were disordered, but I also knew that my body didn’t look like what I was taught to associate an eating disorder with, and so I thought that I was fine. I thought that I was perfectly healthy for a very long time. One of the most significant milestones in my recovery was genuinely admitting that I had an eating disorder and that I needed help for it.
Here I am several years later and finding myself with those familiar thoughts. Not because I am back in treatment, but because being the only larger roommate in my college apartment suite has brought up those uncomfortable feelings. My roommates are incredibly sweet and have become some of my closest friends since being at college, and considering that when I started at North Carolina State University in August of last year I knew literally no one, that feels like a big deal. However, that doesn’t change the fact that when I am around my roommates I feel very insecure about my size and the way my body looks.
My roommates are certainly aware that I have a history of an eating disorder as well as other mental illnesses. I have never really discussed it in depth though. Partly because it hasn’t come up, and partly because I find myself wondering will they understand when I say that I struggle with an eating disorder? Do they wonder if I am currently struggling with my eating disorder? Do they even associate an eating disorder with someone who is in a larger body? I don’t know, because I’ve never asked.
Truthfully, a lot of people’s eating disorders do not fit the cookie cutter idea of what is portrayed in the media, or even in some textbooks. Eating disorders are not one set of criteria fits all. Eating disorders are serious mental and emotional disorders that can have dangerous repercussions on one’s physical health. Regardless of what I have physically looked like, my eating disorder has and always will be valid.
Link to piece on NEDA’s blog: NEDA Column – The Challenges of ED Recovery in a Higher-Weight Body
This piece also got republished on Women You Should Know’s website! Here’s the link to that article: Featured on Women You Should Know
For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237 or click to chat. In crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer from Crisis Text Line.