With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to draw light to two topics that I am passionate about raising awareness for. First, eating disorders, and second, anxiety, which I will talk about later in the week.
Given the sensitivity of the topic of eating disorders and disordered eating I want to give a Trigger warning. This post could be triggering to people who are still in their eating disorders, who are recovering or even recovered.
Today I want to use my own personal example of how eating disorders/disordered eating can be at all different sizes.
The point of me doing this is to raise awareness. I think by sharing our stories we can raise positive awareness that can help others even if it can be sticky and uncomfortable. Awareness that these issues can be happening in people in all different body sizes. From an extremely large body, to an extremely small one and everything in between.
Personally, I have been in an “overweight” body, a thin body and everything in between. At all different sizes, the physical effects (outward size of my body) were from a mental root – disordered beliefs, patterns and thinking about food, myself and my body. A poisonous relationship to myself and food. Low self worth, an inability to deal with uncomfortable emotions and zero self kindness. Not disimilar to many others with disordered eating problems (eating disorders/disordered eating are complex and different for every person in cause).
With eating issues being a mental problem, I hope this helps you to understand that people in all bodies can have disordered eating and therefore we need to treat everybody with kindness, compassion and understanding. People with very large bodies can be suffering just as much as someone in a very small body, yet many would tell a larger person they need to lose weight. This can be extremely damaging to people in larger bodies, especially if they are already suffering with eating issues. I do not have personal experience of being in a very large body, but I know this to be true for others who experience disordered eating and eating disorders in larger sizes.
At my biggest, people (who were indoctrinated with diet culture) made so many comments about how “I’d let myself go” or how fat I’d got. Little did they realise the huge weight gain was off the back of previous restriction + a terrible relationship with alcohol (oh hi Uni) + eating my emotions. And what gave people the right to comment on my body as if it dictated my entire worth? If I had received compassion and kindness, maybe it could have all been nipped in the bud. Had someone taken me to therapy or to see a Dietitian/Nutritionist who honoured intuitive eating and health at every size, perhaps I wouldn’t have been shamed back into a restriction game that saw me lose a significant amount of weight and be caught in the hell of an eating disorder that completely stole my life for a good while. Maybe I wouldn’t have then been left swimming in diet mentality for a few years, before being some what orthorexic. Before finally finding intuitive eating, health at every size, having proper therapy to heal all those emotional disordered eating wounds and finding health professionals + health/food bloggers who were promoting health at every size and sane eating advice.
The problem was that because I was now in a larger body, I was seen as needing to be told to lose weight to be “healthy again” – translation – “to be worthy again”. Yes I wasn’t physically healthy, but I still deserved compassion. Worse, the seeds of disordered eating were very much already growing and to be told I needed to focus on losing weight made this so much worse. You can also be in a larger body and be physically healthy. However, healthy or not, people in all bodies deserve love, acceptance, kindness and compassion. In our society, it is as if all that matters in this world is that we are all trying to bloody lose weight! Yet mental health is key to full health and this constant push to lose weight can be so detrimental to our minds.
I was in a larger body than my natural weight likes to settle at, yet I was never obese. People in obese bodies and larger bodies can be suffering dreadfully from disordered eating, yet they are told they just need to lose weight. Even if they aren’t suffering with disordered eating, this can actually be triggered because of being told to constantly lose weight. People this is not cool. Consider that mental health is as equally important as physical health. Maybe ask them if they need help instead of shaming them for their size.
What needed to happen was that I was taught how to love myself, how to feel my feelings, how to have a healthy relationship with food, intuitive eating, that my worth was not aligned to my weight, that I was worthy no matter what weight, shape or size I was. I needed to be told that health is not just about your weight + what you eat. Health is complex, it is mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. (Side note, health is also a privilege that so many may not ever have. You are worthy whether you are “healthy” or not).
So yes, you can have a disordered relationship to food at ANY SIZE. So please stop judging, become aware and have some compassion.
People of all genders, ethnicities, ages, backgrounds, abilities, shapes and sizes can have an eating disorder or disordered eating.
Eating disorders can manifest in different ways and can affect someone physically, psychologically and socially. They are serious mental illnesses with over 725,000 men and women in the UK being affected.
The point of all this is to say that you cannot tell just from looking at someone if they have an eating disorder or disordered eating. So please can we stop stereotyping what an eating disorder or disordered eating looks like, be kind, be aware and educate yourself so you can help people close to you that might be struggling. And for the love of God, please stop making comments on people’s body sizes.
Sorry to get all serious on you all – it is just an issue close to my heart 🙂 I hope you are having a lovely week 🙂
If you are struggling, or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to your GP for help, reach out to a Non Diet Dietitian or call an eating disorder charity for advice and next steps.
Look out on Friday for a post about anxiety and panic attack awareness and how there is no shame in these conditions 🙂