I don’t talk that much about my eating disordered self. My eating disordered self is like the proverbial (fat) skeleton in the closet! Okay, I know skeletons aren’t fat, but mine is! haha. People tend to think one of two things when you are fat. They either think that you don’t have an eating disorder and that you are just lazy, gluttonous, disgusting, and everything else along those lines…OR if they don’t think that, they think you DO have an eating disorder and the eating disorder is OBESITY period. So, basically the two camps think the same thing: you are fat and it is your fault you are fat and you are eating too much and exercising too little. They both tend to think that if you simply modify your “lifestyle” of fatness then you can lose the weight and become a normal (read worthy) human being. Sometimes the people who see you as having an obesity eating disorder will acknowledge that you should get some therapy or see a nutritionist, but they still believe deep down in their heart of hearts (even if they are fat people themselves) that being fat is a blame game.
So, it is just easier not to talk about eating disorder crap.
One thing I should say is that I don’t think every fat person has an eating disorder, just like not every skinny person has anorexia. I also don’t think that every eating disordered person is eating disordered because of some past trauma, abuse or that it is a completely emotional issue. For some yes, for others no. But I do sort of cringe when people say “oh, the eating disorder has nothing at all to do with eating, food or body issues…it is simply about control and emotions.” There is a reason why it is called an “eating” disorder…it does have SOMETHING to do with food and eating and body issues.
Anyway, back to my point (if there is one). It is difficult to talk about eating disorders at all, but when you are fat (like truly fat, not just an anorexic person saying they are fat) it becomes this other weird thing. I thought about going to a group for eating disordered people once. In fact, I was signed up, but I just never went. I was like “oh great, I’ll be that fattest girl in the room and THE nightmare for every anorexic, bulimic and binge eater in there!” I’d be like their big warning sign: DON’T EVER EAT GIRLS OR YOU WILL END UP LIKE ME!!!
Well, I didn’t want to put myself through that, so I didn’t go. I also had a counselor once who completely did not get the eating disorder thing. She tried to force me to join Weight Watchers by saying that if I didn’t do that and a certain number of other things, then she couldn’t be my therapist anymore. Well, it hurt, but now I am glad to be rid of her!
The thing that people don’t get is that you can have an actual eating disorder when you are fat. You can be bulimic. You can starve yourself for days if you like, but no one will notice. You can do everything a “normal size” bulimic person does—the excessive exercising, purging, laxative abuse, restricting, bingeing, etc.—but no one will know. It is way easier to hide when you are fat, because people will just think that is all that you are! Now, I think the official diagnostic criteria for anorexia includes being under a specific weight, so you can’t be anorexic if you are fat. I guess you’d just be an anorexic in training until you lost enough weight. But seriously, you might just die before you reach the diagnostic criteria for anorexia!
So, most people would be surprised how much a person as fat as me knows about nutrition, exercise, calorie counting, weight loss/gain, fats, dieting, purgeing methods and tricks, hiding, avoiding food, and other general eating disorder information. In fact, most people, when I have tried telling them about such things usually shut me down or treat me as if I don’t know what I am talking about simply because I am fat! Okay, whatever. I don’t really care if people listen to me, because they will eventually figure things out for themselves. I just thought I’d try to save them a lot of heartache if I could.
Because that is what eating disorders are—heartache. There is just no escaping the pain that eating disorders cause if you have one. I always think it odd that there are actually people out there in the world who DON’T have eating disorders or who are oblivious to signs of eating disorders. It really baffles my mind. You mean not every 13-year-old cowered in shame in the girls’ locker room after PE class when it was time to change clothes and god-forbid someone might see her flabby parts!?! You mean to tell me that there are people out there in the world who have NEVER starved themselves? WOW! You mean there are people who have never gone ONE day without eating?!?
I could go on, but I guess I just wanted to bring my fat skeleton further out of the closet and say: okay you can be fat AND have an eating disorder.
2 thoughts on “The Fat Skeleton in the Closet”
It infuriates me that so much of the world are still clinging to the “Not thin, so not sick” mentality. It really says it all. I know as a person with an eating disorder, I am supposed to be biased and think that no one gives a monkeys bum about me, unless I am thin. But the problem is, that isn’t a false belief at all. It IS, as you say, a general consensus.
My family were the same about Bulimia. I told them I’d been Bulimic for 13 years, and was seeking help for it. No one really batted an eyelid. The fact that I’d spent most of the previous 5 years with my head down a toilet just passed by as not an issue.. Why? Because I was of a normal weight. Not thin, so not sick…
Now I fit the diagnostic criteria for anorexia, everyone is peeing their pants like this fact that I have an ED, is brand new information!
If it means anything to you, and I hope that it does because everyone with an ED should get help no matter what their size, none of the mental health professionals who specialise in eating disorders believe in the Not Thin, so not sick mentality. Most have enough common sense to realise that the symptoms of an eating disorder are different, but most of the feelings are exactly the same. Size does not equate with pain, shame or misery
Hi! It’s great to finally hear someone talk with some sense and who can actually understand what going through and eating disorder is like! I hope you don’t mind me discussing my experience with you. I think I first started restricting at 13 because of low self esteem and negative feeling about myself. Now I know it was sily, I was so slim, but I felt my legs were ‘less toned’ than other girls. My starving didn’t last that long though. Then at 14 I had to go on steroids for 6 months and I put on 2 stone- really through overeating and stopping sports- and for the first time in my life I felt really uncomfortable about my body and fat. I think I kept eating because of how I felt. Therefore I do think it’s true that there are emotional reasons why I treated food the way I did. Anxiety, low self esteem, depression etc… But of course food has some part to play like you said. And certainly weight did! At 15 I had my first experience of severe anorexia when I became very underweight after trying to lose weight by restricting and exercising because of feeling so fat and uncomfortable. Now I look back I was still slim but I know how awful I felt. However within 8 months I was eating again and I put on more weight than I had been before. And of course I felt awful. I think depression began to play a big part in my eating disorder because I felt so negative about myself all the time and I began to shit myself away. Anyway I went back to school but I couldn’t face going into lessons because of how fat I felt and people noticing I’d been away for so long, so I spent my final year in a room on my own. I then went to college and found that so hard because I was so socially anxious and I felt so embarrased in what I felt was my huge body. By my second year I’d had enough of the depression and anxiety and I started dieting and exercising again. I was 17 and this time things got life threatening and at 5ft 7 I went down to 5.5 stone. Until May this year I was still underweight but then I started binge eating. From april to July I put on a stone a month and I felt so unhappy. Now I weigh 14 stone and I am now very depressed and suicidal. I think this classifies as obese. I can’t seem to get a hold on my addiction or to stop my self from using food to make myself feel better. It is literally impossible. However much I think I’ll feel better if I lose weight, I know that I felt terrible when I was underweight or normal weight and this is more about my feelings than weight.