I was sick. But I never looked sick.
There were only a few people who told me I have looked "too thin" in my life. Earlier this month, I was on a phone call with an intake specialist at a local eating disorder clinic. One of the questions she asked me was about my highest and lowest weight. After the end of the phone call, I reflected on the fact that both weights I reported were within what would be considered normal. My average-appearing exterior is likely why my eating disorder was overlooked by numerous doctors despite my alarming behaviors and the way my eating disorder was negatively impacting my life.
I have worked on my rigidity with food and body image issues by myself for over three years now. I have studied resources from anti-diet dietitians, read numerous books, and completed various processes to try to bring about progress. One of the reasons I didn't reach out for professional help was because I didn't think I looked sick enough. There is a notion that we need to appear gaunt to be taken seriously.
In our culture, it is estimated that over 75% of the population engages in disordered eating behaviors. We have a culture that objectifies bodies and moralizes food. What you eat and how you appear holds more value than how you tend to your heart and soul. We are all suffering due to our diet culture, but only some of that is visible from the outside.
I'm not sure what everyone's disordered eating looks like, but I can speak to my own. There were times I avoided social activities because I feared the food served. There were times when deprivation prompted me to binge until I was physically ill. There were moments I abused substances to try to make my body smaller. There were times I was so hungry, I became weak, irritable, and unable to function. I lost my menstrual cycle, altered my ability to think clearly, and lost hair. I won't enumerate everything I have experienced, but I just want to break the stigma - and the idea that there is only one way to be sick enough. If your relationship to food and your body impairs your ability to function, socialize, and focus on things other than food and exercise, you could benefit from professional help. I wish I hadn't waited so long.
I am just starting the process of recovery with the help of a professional. I didn't look sick. But I was. And I guess in a way, I still am - despite how hard I've worked to recover on my own. There is no one look to eating disorders. In fact, I would say it's never been more glamorized to have one. But there is nothing desirable about food and body issues taking up your mind and controlling your life. The life I'm pursuing is the one where I less concerned with these things, and more concerned with the life I'm living. At the end of my life, I won't wish I had obsessed more. I will wish I had cared more about the meaningful things, the bigger picture. And that - the recovered life - is exactly what I'm after.