The Problem With Hidden Eating Disorders

When you think of an eating disorder, you think of a skinny little girl who looks like a walking skeleton. There are people who don’t fit that mold though. Maybe they’re not skinny enough to be sick. Maybe they were obese before, and now you think they’re finally getting healthy. As Brittany Miles, a woman who had struggled with a less obvious eating disorder, puts it, Just because my bone structure stopped me from being the size 00 everyone pictures, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t in an incredibly unsafe and unhealthy place.

A person’s weight or physical appearance is not the only thing that can indicate an eating disorder, but it’s often the default thing we look for. It can cause incidents like that of Frances Chen being nearly expelled for being unable to gain weight when her family is actually naturally thin. There are also some who actually gain weight with bulimia.

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) says, Weight can be an indicator of an eating disorder, but it certainly isn’t the only one or even the best one.

Our society faces some serious misunderstandings and confusions about what we see as an eating disorder, and it’s not just our family or friends. Your doctor can, and sometimes does, miss the signs. Grefe adds, It used to be that a girl had to miss her period for a certain amount of time to be considered anorexic, but that is no longer true. The most important thing in diagnosing an eating disorder is the mental part of it. It is the obsession with food, the nagging thoughts, the consumption.

There are those hidden eating disorder stories that end happily. Someone recognizes them, they get help, and they are able to recover. Unfortunately, especially when they don’t fit our expectations of what an eating disorder is, there are many more who fly under the radar until it’s too late.

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