“You don’t look like you have an eating disorder. “
“You are not sick enough.”
At least 9% of the world’s population suffers from an eating disorder and millions of people experience these comments every day. Whether it’s through those they know or strangers online, the impact remains the same.
In the era of COVID-19, reported spikes eating disorders had left people trapped inside with their illness. But it’s more than food. Eating disorders are more than a physical problem, and like mental disorders, they do not have a specific “side”.
Ultimately, a person’s weight can never reveal the problem behind eating disorders.
But the stigma of eating disorders can first be attributed to the media: TV shows, ads, and apps promote the idea that watching one way is considered okay and watching another. is considered false. In films like “To the Bone,” eating disorders are consistently displayed by white, thin, upper-middle-class women.
Those with marginalized bodies are the most targeted by the danger of the media, yet they are the same who are being denied treatment at alarming rates.
When eating disorders are only associated with thinness, the messages that weight rule the world hurts vulnerable consumers. If people don’t fit the cookie-cutter definition of what it means to have an eating disorder, their struggles are automatically invalidated.
In reality, eating disorders do not have race, body type, or gender. As the world’s deadliest mental illness, portraying the problem as a black and white situation is harmful to millions of people looking for a way out.
That’s not to say that being underweight isn’t one of the most dangerous effects of an eating disorder. On the contrary, it is not the only requirement for people to get help; alone 6% of people eating disorders are clinically “underweight”.
When unhealthy beauty-related perceptions of food are promoted from adolescence to old age, it can lead to disease regardless of weight, race, or gender.
In shock reportThe National Association of Anorexia nervosa and Related Disorders has found that people of color are half as likely to be diagnosed with their eating disorders as their white counterparts. Disparities in diagnosis often prevent minorities and those who do not meet exact criteria from receiving appropriate treatment.
In fact, this problem runs deep in the healthcare industry – while the guidelines for correct diagnosis are strict, atypical eating disorders can be just as fatal. Anorexia is a fatal disease, just like bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating. Each of them works to destroy mind and body, but the world likes to discuss only one of them.
The stigma surrounding eating disorders silences the realities behind the disease – hair loss, mood swings, body dysmorphia, fainting, etc. They can also indicate other psychological problems; people with eating disorders can also suffer from anxiety and depression at the same time. Regardless of the type, isolation from others, obsessive eating habits, or a desire for control are symptoms of eating disorders.
In many cases, people may not experience the same side effects when it comes to eating disorders. That being said, it is essential to remember that every experience is entirely valid.
Someone with an eating disorder could be your cousin, your best friend, your brother.
Or it could be you.
Despite their magnitude, eating disorders are a complicated problem to educate, primarily because of their various types. Binge eating disorder, for example, affects thrice the number of people with bulimia and anorexia combined. Yet it is rarely discussed in the media.
In order to repair these damaging stereotypes, educating others about eating disorders is the first step. The education system can implement such lessons in more depth – after all, a ten-minute presentation on the dangers of undernourishment to death is hardly effective.
I, a freshman, who could never have predicted the pressures on teens to achieve the “right” body, was not ready to fight thoughts telling me that I was never enough. If schools were to provide comprehensive eating disorder education early on, it could literally save lives.
Having open discussions about weight will encourage students to get the help they need and to reach out to those with symptoms in a open and tolerant way. Allies can be one of the most vital forces in addressing the stigma of eating disorders, striving to publish information online or beyond.
While the media can be a powerful force in perpetuating harmful stereotypes, it can also serve as a tool to help others. A culture of fitness that creates an obsession with calories and numbers can be a stifling limit on the road to recovery, but understanding the range of people it impacts can help countless people along the way.
Taking the time to recognize the stigmas surrounding eating disorders and approach them with appropriate language could be the most important initiative in helping those who are struggling.
There is no such thing as “not sick enough”.
Lientree of resources available to help: https://linktr.ee/Isabelle.Nunes