Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. It has taken me nearly 5 years to understand that. It has also taken me 5 years to say this; I have an eating disorder. Even as I type these words I pause because it’s not an easy thing to come to terms with. When I’m plus-size especially. I’ve always thought of myself as “too fat to have an eating disorder”. I’ve never been a skinny girl, nor will I ever be one.
I have had a warped idea that if I carry on with my destructive behaviours I will eventually lose weight and feel beautiful. This idea is what sparked my issues with eating to begin with and I always believed that if I was skinnier I wouldn’t have these thoughts and that I would feel happier in general. It is only recently with the help of my best friends that I realised this isn’t how it works.
An eating disorder is not a physical thing. It is not the act of starving yourself. It’s a mental illness. It’s to do with the abnormality of the way you think; intrusive thoughts that tell you, you don’t deserve to eat. Well for me it is anyway. It’s so hard to be dealing with thoughts like these and to be logical at the same time. For example, logically I am fully aware that what I’m doing is so bad for my health but… That doesn’t stop the thoughts and urges, it doesn’t stop me from almost believing that I don’t deserve to eat because I’m already so fat.
You can’t logic your way out of an eating disorder because it isn’t a logical thing. As humans we get our energy from foods, like cars get it from petrol (or diesel if you’re being more environmental). So then evolutionarily why would our brains make it so we feel guilt with every mouthful of food? It’s not normal.
For someone with an eating disorder, or at least for me, the behaviours the came as a result of my eating disorder (calorie counting, ‘fasting’*) became so normal and routine for me I almost forget that these actions are so damaging to my body. Accept that eating disorders are not normal. Because without this revelation, there’s no way you can break the cycle.
Eating disorders are complex and difficult to understand. They don’t affect everyone the same way. Just because you have an eating disorder doesn’t mean you have low self-esteem or confidence. Some people develop disorder eating habits because they feel the need to be in control. There is a stigma around plus-size individuals having eating disorders but the damage is just as bad.
I understand that this complexity makes eating disorders so difficult to talk about but we cannot approach those who are plus size any differently. People who haven’t experienced an eating disorder assume that all people who do have the same crosses to bare and that’s just not true. This, coiled with the stigma that affects all mental illnesses, misunderstanding and ignorance which makes it hard for people like me to open up. I am getting better and I am healing, it was hard to start talking about because so many people didn’t believe me. “You look healthy though”, they would say, or “Are you sure?”. Of course, the media has to do something with that, something I am hoping will change. Not all of us with eating disorders are skinny, that’s a truth.
Eating disorders are damaging and extremely unhealthy, whether you are plus size or slim. If you are suffering, I urge you to open up to friends or seek therapy. These podcast episodes help me as well, interviews with Hope Virgo and Cara Listette.