Almost every. single. client I see (and I hesitated to use the word "almost" there...) worries that they aren't "sick enough" or "deserving" of Eating Disorder treatment. And the reason they don't feel deserving? Most of the time they will tell me it's because they worry they aren't thin enough to have an Eating Disorder... or that I won't see them as being "thin enough" or "sick enough" for treatment... or that they must not be all "that bad" if they don't look like [INSERT EXAMPLE OF EMACIATION HERE].
It breaks my heart every time I hear that. For two reasons.
One, because this is usually ED, the "eating disorder voice", doing the talking. Continuing to tell these clients, who are suffering tremendously on the inside, that they are ONLY deserving based on what people see on the outside. Telling them they have to look sick, or no one will help. No one will believe them. No one will care.
Two is because, very often, our society - and even some health professionals - reinforce this belief by actually saying something along the lines of, "but you don't LOOK like you have an eating disorder!"
Talk. about. invalidating.... Plus, it's just downright ignorant (in the truest sense of the word).
Allow me to make one thing clear - Eating Disorders are HIDDEN mental health issues.
Although, the costs of this mental illness may show on the body, first of all, those costs don't always show up in one's weight. More often the effects of an eating disorder show up as electrolyte imbalances, irregular heart rate, dizziness, burst blood vessels, a raw esophagus, low energy, skin and hair irregularities, bone issues, or a number of other signs only visible through blood work, an ECG, or other medical testing.
Second of all, if the effects of the disorder do show up through weight or shape, it's more often apparent through weight changes/fluctuations, or perceived weight gain (especially by the time someone comes to treatment), or in 'average' weight bodies, not an emaciated body.
In fact, know this, MOST PEOPLE STRUGGLING WITH EATING DISORDERS ARE A 'NORMAL' WEIGHT.
All the turmoil, all the "work", all the attempts at controlling weight, they are often counter-balanced by the body's natural protective mechanisms designed to keep people at their healthiest, genetically predetermined weight. So, we can't tell what behaviours are happening behind the scenes, because the body is fighting to keep one's weight "normal" and healthy.
But, even as the body brings itself back to "normal".... the Eating Disorder sufferer certainly does not FEEL normal. If anything, they feel worse then ever - hopeless. defeated. on a treadmill to nowhere. They feel as though they are losing the control they thought they had. They feel powerless. The coping mechanism they thought they had, is betraying them.
It's that INNER turmoil that qualifies someone for an Eating Disorder. That is what we are shifting in treatment. Yes, to some degree, that treatment involves treating our body differently so it can be healthy too... but that applies no matter what the body looks like. The hardest work, that happens on the inside.
So know this - NO ONE, no matter how they look, deserves to go through the mental, physical, emotional, social, even spiritual pain that is caused - ON THE INSIDE - by an Eating Disorder.
AND if you don't think you're "sick enough" or "thin enough" or "deserving enough" for treatment - it's not true. THAT is the exact thought that means you should reach out for treatment - today.
DO YOU THINK YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE, MIGHT NEED HELP FOR AN EATING DISORDER?