Breaking the Stereotype
Posted on September 21, 2020
The first time a professional suggested I had an eating disorder, I thought they were joking. I had gone to see yet another dietitian for guidance on finally achieving a "normal" weight. I've lived my adult life in a larger body, so I expected to receive the same advice every other professional had given me since I was a child and was shocked to receive a different reaction. I didn't know it was possible to look like me and have an eating disorder.
When I began treatment, many of my challenges were related to the fact that I do not look like the stereotype of someone with an eating disorder. While many were in treatment at the insistence of their families or doctors, I was there in defiance of both. With resistance from these communities, it was a slow process to trust I was making the right decision.
By the time I left treatment, I saw caring for myself in the face of opposing messages as a radical act. It was disorienting at first to not have manipulating my body as a predominant goal; but for the first time, I realized how much space that goal had taken up in my mind and calendar, and how much it had ravaged my conversations with other smart women who should be plotting how to influence the world and not how to become more palatable to it. I began to feel more empowered with each conversation I redirected away from impossible body goals toward more substantial topics.
I have weeks where my confidence in this path gets shaky; but overall, I've never felt so free to value the contributions of my mind and heart over my physical appearance. I'm grateful I met a practitioner who had a broader picture of eating disorders to identify what was going on. As a community, I hope we continue to make progress in how we picture those struggling with eating disorders, as well as in the diversity of treatment providers, so that everyone who needs it has a chance at accessing treatment.