What To Do When You Don’t “Look” Like You Have an Eating Disorder

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Have you ever tried to reach out for help – but weren’t taken seriously? Were you ever told that you don’t “look” like you have an eating disorder?

The common misconception that eating disorders come with a certain body size can make it difficult for those of us at “healthy” weights to believe that our disorder is real and valid.

“You’re fine!”

For me, disordered eating has been a part of my life since middle school. In eighth grade, I started a simple diet in an attempt to lose a few pounds. By high school, that diet had spiraled into what I now recognize was a full-blown eating disorder. Over the next four years restriction, fasting, binging and purging became a regular part of my life.

Many of my friends, family members, and other adults became aware of the unhealthy behaviors I was engaging in to lose weight. Despite this fact, no one ever made any real attempts to intervene.

Maybe they weren’t concerned because I always maintained a “healthy” weight. Or maybe it was because people thought it was just a normal “teenage phase”. Maybe it was because we live in a diet culture where many of these behaviors are normalized. And even encouraged.

Regardless of the reasons, the dangerous message that my teenage self continually received was, “You’re fine”.

So I told myself I was fine.

When you have been told for years that your problems aren’t that serious, the idea of seeking out support can be terrifying. Your eating disorder wants you to believe that you aren’t sick enough to get help.

It’s a terrible cycle. And it’s one that’s really scary to break out of.

Worthy of help?

I’m in the beginning stages of recovery. Sometimes I still struggle with comparing myself to others who I believe to be “sicker”. I often have to remind myself that body weight is irrelevant in determining seriousness of an eating disorder. And that my disorder is real, serious, and worthy of help.

I recently had a discussion with my recovery coach about what thoughts to believe when my mind is in constant conflict.

How do I know whether I should keep moving forward when my thoughts are telling me to stop and turn back? Her response: blind faith.

At the beginning of your recovery journey, you’re not always going to believe that your disorder is valid. Or that you really need help. Your eating disorder is going to tell you the behaviors aren’t that bad. It will say dieting is normal, and you aren’t “sick enough” for this to be a real problem.

Blind faith means continuing to move forward in your recovery even though you still believe some of the disordered thoughts.

It means reminding yourself, 100 times a day if necessary, that your eating disorder IS real. That it IS deadly. And that you DO deserve help.

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How can you keep recovery a priority when your disorder threatens to pull you away from help?

Follow body positive and pro-recovery accounts on Instagram! Put post-it notes on your bathroom mirror, fridge, desk, or dashboard. They can remind you that you are worthy of recovery.

Continue to read articles like this one. They remind you there are thousands of other people going through similar struggles and having the same exact doubts you are. Right now. You are not alone.

As you continue to surround yourself with positive messages and remind yourself that you are worthy of help, your mind will shift. It may happen slowly, but it will happen. I feel it happening in myself more every day.

Eventually, as you continue to combat the thoughts that are keeping you stuck in your disorder, you will actually start to believe some of these things you’ve been telling yourself. I feel myself getting closer to that point every day.

And I’m confident that someday soon, that “blind faith” won’t have to feel so “blind” anymore.

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  1. says: Georgia Davies

    Thank you so much for this. I have recently been feeling really guilty and not worthy of treatment for my eating disorder as many of my friends tell me that I am not ill and that I do not look underweight. My BMI last time a weighed was 17 and many of the stories I hear involved people with BMI’s of 16 or below and it makes me feel like I am not even ill.
    In addition, on the NHS website, it says that I am a “healthy weight”. I do not know if anyone else has recognised this but it is really bad how it is telling me I am healthy when I have got professionals trying to convince me otherwise. The worst part is it is the NHS website that is saying this, the one that should be reliable. I am hoping some desperately needed changes are made soon as I really cannot let it go and it is preventing me from being able to accept my illness.
    Anyway, this is just what I needed.

  2. says: Michelle

    Yeah BMI is BS! You are sick enough & deserve treatment. 99.9% of people I went to residential treatment felt they weren’t sick enough for various reasons. An eating disorder is of the mind and does not discriminate against any body. only 6% of people with eating disorders are in an “underweight” body.

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