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Yes, You Can Be Overweight and Have Anorexia Nervosa

When most people think of eating disorders, they picture someone drastically underweight — probably female or white.  The thing about eating disorders, just like any other mental health condition, is that they don’t discriminate. Eating disorders don’t care how old you are, where you come from or what you look like. That’s why it’s such a dangerous perspective to discount overweight or “normal” weight individuals with anorexia nervosa.

It’s been a stereotype I’ve carried that’s prevented me from getting treatment. There’s no way I have an eating disorder, let alone anorexia. I wasn’t deserving of treatment unless I was a certain size. People who develop anorexia at a healthy weight get sent to treatment, but people who develop the disorder at a larger weight get complimented on their weight loss. I’ve had medical professionals compliment my weight loss, regardless of how it was obtained.

I’m overweight and I’ve had feeding tubes. I’m overweight and I’ve destroyed my bone density. I’ve been hooked up to IVs, been given intravenous sugar to restore desperately low levels, and despite all of it, I’m still overweight. We may be a subcategory of a larger illness, but we are still here and deserving of treatment.

My own recovery from anorexia has been impeded by these stereotypes, not just by providers but also by myself. How could I tell family members I was struggling when one look at my body would dismiss their worries? It was impossible shame, and that shame kept me silent. It’s a belief I even still work to combat.

Eating disorders don’t care who you are; if you have symptoms in any capacity, you are deserving of help and support, regardless of the stereotypes attached to these disorders.

Photo by Ann Agterberg on Unsplash