Here’s me as a chronic dieter and restrictive eater.And here’s me recovered.Here’s me as a chronic dieter and restrictive eater.And here’s me recovered.Before recovery:After recovery: (That’s my mom, by the way. She’s cool.)
If you didn’t know, could you tell a difference in my size and shape from the “Before” photos, taken when I dealt daily with a ton of anxiety and stress around food, to the “After” photos, taken since I’ve started eating about twice as much and exercising about half as much as I did “before”?
If your answer is ‘no,’ that’s because there’s very little difference in my size and shape from then to now. I still own almost all of the clothing items I’m wearing in the “Before” photos, and most of them fit me very similarly.
Now, admittedly, I haven’t always been exactly the same size and shape. My body has changed in size a couple of times in my life. I was a bit bigger in high school. Here’s me at prom seven years ago. Ain’t I cute?There are also a handful of photos of me during the few months of my eating disorder when I was really, really thin. I won’t show those. But that was actually really only a very short time compared to the three years or so total time I restricted my diet.
I hope my point here is clear. For most of the time that I really needed help, I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder.
And part of the reason I think I didn’t seek and wasn’t offered help is because I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder. The other reason is I was pretty good at hiding my disordered thoughts and behaviors, as people with disordered eating are wont to do.
If I had gotten that help earlier, it would never have advanced to the life-threatening condition that is anorexia.
There has been a lot of conversation lately about the new film To the Bone. Many of you have made critiques, while others have celebrated how it raises awareness of eating disorders and just how serious they can be.
I haven’t seen the film, but from the trailer, I see that the protagonist is emaciated. It’s not that it’s wrong to show that–eating disorders do sometimes look like emaciation. But I’m concerned that there are so few stories circulated about people with eating disorders who are not emaciated.
What’s more, there’s a whole range of less extreme behaviors around food that we consider “normal” and even “healthy” that are actually very unhealthy in and of themselves and major warning signs that someone might be walking down a path toward a deadly eating disorder. People who have these behaviors come in all shapes and sizes; how will we ever intervene if weight, size, and appearance are our primary diagnostic criteria?
I imagine that if I had seen the trailer for To the Bone or heard about the film when I was a chronic dieter and restrictive eater, I would have thought, “Wow. This person is really sick. Good thing I’m not like that at all.”
A few months ago, my roommate and friend introduced me to a campaign started by Lexie Louise called #BoycottTheBefore. Lexie started her campaign in response to frustration about ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos that showed an emaciated body replaced by a bigger but still relatively thin one. That narrative is true, for some, and I think those photos can be very empowering, for some.
But it’s also true that people can have binge eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia, or disordered eating and not look anything like the photos and images we associate with those conditions. And I think making people more aware of that fact could literally save lives.
Was the severity of your condition or the condition of someone you loved ever neglected or overlooked because you didn’t appear a certain way?
Any recommendations for good films/books/blogs/accounts etc. that you think do a good job of showing how eating disorders can come in all shapes and sizes?