“… You don’t look like you have an eating disorder.”

If you have never seen someone suffer at the hands of an eating disorder or if you have no prior knowledge or understanding of how eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect the individual; if you yourself have not experienced an eating disorder and have therefore not experienced the fluctuations in weight that the individual experiences, then it is understandable that you may have thought or perhaps even uttered these dreaded words from your very own lips. I’d like to clear a few things up – a myth or two, and hopefully shed the light on eating disorders a little more.

Let me make one point very, very clear with you – a healthy body does not necessarily equal a healthy mind.

Let me say it again, in Caps lock this time.

A HEALTHY BODY DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL A HEALTHY MIND.

I apologise for yelling, but I just wanted to emphasise this – someone suffering from anorexia or bulimia can appear to have a healthy or “normal” body shape (whatever the hell that is) yet still be well entrenched in their eating disorder. An anoretic can gain a third of their body weight back, be within a healthy weight range for their age and height and yet still engage in eating disordered behaviour or have a completely negative self-image. A bulimic might look okay, but you have absolutely no idea of what is going on behind closed doors. And so at the risk of sounding rude and harsh, please stop assuming someone is well or recovered from their eating disorder simply because their body shape appears to be healthy.

Eight kilograms underweight and dealing with anorexia for twelve months, I finally disclosed to someone from my church of my eating disorder. “An eating disorder? I thought you had to be really underweight for that.”

Comments like that only fueled my refusal to maintain a healthy body weight – it made me feel like I had something to prove to people around me. And after gaining fifteen kilos, people finally got off my case about my exercise and food regimes. Little did they know I was embarrassed of the weight gain and was continuing to overexercise, binging and purging. You cannot take eating disorders at face value – they are a psychological issue, not just physiological.

And another thing, just while we’re at it – if you know someone who has gained weight in their recovery from an eating disorder, I beg of you not to mention to them that they’re “looking well.”

Please. Someone who is still thinking in an eating disordered way will use this as an excuse to spiral down back where they came from, and there goes much of the progress they may have made in their recovery. Somehow, “you look well / healthy” etc translates into the anoretic or bulimics biggest fear – namely, “you look fat”.  I know you mean well and all but maybe save it until the individual is nearly recovered, or completely recovered. Thanks. That would be great.

It’s okay to misunderstand – but please, please, please – don’t walk around saying things such as the title of this post – it is seriously, very unhelpful and if you want your friend or your family member to one day be recovered to full health – spiritually, physically, emotionally – then it’s extremely significant to be careful of things you say that may be triggering to the eating disordered mind.

If you want more info and to see more rants about this sorta thing, check out this brave woman’s blog post.

B xxxx

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10 thoughts on ““… You don’t look like you have an eating disorder.”

  1. Preach it, sister 🙂
    Since when are we the sum total of our bodies? How about… Hey, it’s nice to see you! People are… dumb. I’m sorry that’s been a contributing factor to your eating disorder. Please take care.

    • I know. Ignorant. I wanted to say that people are ignorant in this blog post but thought it might be a little rude and harsh. I mean, it’s not their fault, right? People aren’t really educated on these things because no one dares to speak about them. Well it’s about bloody time we did! X

  2. Great post! I’ve even had friends who’ve looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I was trying to gain weight, even after they knew I was in recovery from an eating disorder. It’s just our society’s mindset that it’s okay and actually DESIRABLE to be underweight.

    The big thing is just knowing in our hearts what we need to do for our bodies and our minds. It’s important to listen to those who will support us, but we can’t get discouraged by others who say things counter to our goals!.

  3. This is one of my pet hates…It’s really hard hearing those words all the time.
    I always feel like asking ‘what does a mental illness look like?’
    Even though I know peoples comments mostly come from a caring place, it’s still so hard to hear. It just makes the ED rage!

  4. Couldnt agree more.

    When I’ve confided in people I’ve had the same and also…”if it helps I wouldnt have known”.
    No that doesnt help. That just fuels my fear that I am too big. Seriously…

    p.s. when is the nhs going to wake up to this.
    I am actively seeking treatment but because i am physically healthy (yet in a load of mental pain) i cant get any treatment. i dont meet their criteria.
    inspiring.

  5. Thank you for writing this.
    I am competitive when it comes to food and eating, but mainly with myself. And when I hear these comments it only makes me want to purge harder, restrict longer, any attempt to win this war on food.
    When in reality, there is no winning. There is only losing.

  6. Beautiful Bekah,
    I’m stuck with restricting my eating calories but not being underweight… I don’t understand how any of the meal plans #edrecovery photos or meals could possibly apply to me? Do you have any advice on this?
    I’m not brave enough to get help help yet

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