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

Posted 11/01/2018

I have heard this sentence so many times over the years: “You’re not skinny enough to have an eating disorder.” But excuse me, who are you to say my mental state is determined by the number on the scale? Who are you to question whether or not I'm struggling? I skip meals, burn calories I have not yet consumed, but because I don't fit your picture of how someone with an eating disorder should look, I'm fine, right? My behaviour and obsessive need for control is normal? I look in the mirror and hate what I see but I don't look that thin, my bones don't stick out, so this means I'm fine. Wrong!

My mind is still a battlefield, food still scares me, but because of my size I’m not offered the same help as someone who is underweight. How is this fair when our brains are still the same? Surely everyone facing this terrible illness needs professional help no matter how they look? If doctors or friends tell us how an eating disorder patient should look, our views of ourselves and our illnesses change: we will see ourselves as not good enough, and eating disorders thrive off this feeling.

People ask, how can I have an eating disorder – I don't look like I have anorexia. But let me tell you, anorexia isn't the only eating disorder out there. We can have these feelings even when we're at a normal weight. There are many people who see me eat now and again, so to them I'm fine. Just another self-obsessed teen who wants to look perfect. But what if I'm a boy, a man or women with children and families? What if I’m a different race, a different age, a different shape to how society pictures the ‘perfect’ anorexic? Eating disorders don't always mean never eating and exercising every minute. It means having the fear of food, a voice telling you you aren't good enough. So many people struggling aren't underweight, but their pain is still just as real, and to anyone who isn’t underweight: it doesn’t make your illness any less serious. An eating disorder isn't defined by the number on the scale; it is defined by the mind of a person. Eating disorders can affect anyone of any gender, race, age or ethnic background. Eating disorders don't discriminate, and neither should we.

Contributed by Daisy