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Fighting the Misconception of What Anorexia Looks Like

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As any “normal” person who is in touch with societal standards, before entering any kind of treatment for my eating disorder (ED), I wrongly assumed to be diagnosed with such a disease you are “required” to appear skinny and frail. However, after about a year of long, tedious treatment I learned that — along with a vast amount of the population — I am wrong.

An eating disorder can be described as, “a mental disorder with physical manifestations.” If you look at me closely, what do you see? The first word that pops into your head probably won’t be “anorexic.” I am at a healthy weight and BMI and as far as “physical manifestations” are concerned, I don’t fit the stereotypical bill right now. I always thought “getting to that level” was the most important thing my eating disorder could give to me. Getting to that level of sick where I get stares, questions and more stares. I always thought, “If I don’t look sick, am I really sick?” I would constantly compare myself to every girl with a thigh gap, every girl with visible hip bones, etc. I spent hours on Tumblr and Instagram and every social media outlet you can find, comparing every inch of myself to girls who in my “diseased” mind appear to be the societal representation of “perfect” — whatever the fuck that word means.

“Perfect” is the word every eating disorder strives for. It encompasses your brain, tackling every section of your mind till it finds its niche. But that’s what your eating disorder’s goal is, right? To embody your mind until it reaches that level of physical manifestation, or “perfect.” But this “perfect” ED strives for is not nor ever will be an achievable goal. The thing about ED is this: it doesn’t stop. There’s no such thing as perfect, because you don’t stop till you physically need to.

“You feel hungry? That means it’s working.” ED exclaims.

I like to think of my eating disorder as a voice in the back of my head telling me what to do. It encapsulates my mind and almost overrides it to become the central voice in my head, telling how to live my life.

However, after about 7 or 8 years of this voice, I don’t want any part of it anymore.

Recovery has shaped me to be who I am today. While we all have slip ups, I am now considering myself to be in control. For the longest time, my eating disorder was the one in control, the only voice I wanted to listen to. Not anymore. I want to live life with freedom and eat what I want, wear what I want and do what I want without having ED controlling my actions.

Learning I did not need to be a stereotype played a big role in my recovery process.

An amazing therapist once asked me, “If you were a floating head without a body, do you still think you’d have an eating disorder?” Of course, the obvious answer was yes. An eating disorder cannot be defined or labeled as how you look on the outside, because there is no shape or size to an eating disorder. It’s what is in your mind that counts and that was a giant wake-up call to me.

If you were a floating head without a body, do you still think you’d have an eating disorder? The answer is yes.

I am not a stereotype.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Unsplash photo via Ariel Lustre

Originally published: May 27, 2017
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