(Trigger warning: Please proceed with care when reading this post. This post discusses eating disorders, self harm and body image related issues. If at any point pre-during or post reading this content that you feel triggered, upset or in need to talk to someone. Please head to my Eating Disorder Support Tab it complies a list of services by country & internationally to contact for help. Eating disorders are serious, deadly and destructive mental illness if you or you suspect someone you know is suffering please reach out. Early Intervention is essential to beat eating disorders head on.)
It has been 1,843 days since I have last purged but I still focus and daily check in with myself regarding my recovery from my eating disorder. Being active in the online sphere and gladly being involved in online communities such as the body positive movement, fat activism and eating disorder recovery I have had many conversations with many types of eating disorder sufferers.
4 years on from creating Chooselifewarrior though I still wonder – Where are my fat eating disorder sufferers at? Because just like the spectrum of eating disorders, what eating disorder sufferers look like is as varied and different as any other mental illness sufferer. While anorexia and bulimia are still two of the most well-known and thought of disorders in society, the image accompanied with those disorders so often is still emaciated white teens.
Having had an eating disorder that nearly took my life I shouldn’t feel the need to justify my experience. Nor should I feel invalidated because I wasn’t hospitalised, I don’t have a striking and scary ‘During’ photo and because my recovered body is obese I am constantly discounted online.
Fat people already feel marginalised, left out and isolated in society but what happens when online spheres made to include them once again leave out and dismiss them. Having an eating disorder at any size at any time in your life is a destructive and horrendous experience. Having the whole of society assume you are fat because you indeed may have an eating disorder but only accepting a ‘binge eating disorder’ or ‘over eating disorder’ is not just dangerous it is a death sentence.
We all know early intervention is key in helping combat and recover from an eating disorder, what happens when people won’t even believe you suffer from one.
I’ll be honest in body positivity, in fat activism even in the plus size blogging arena I have found understanding, supportive friends. In the eating disorder recovery online community has been less than kind to me. I have had women verbally attack me consistently for talking about my eating disorder online, they too being sufferers of an eating disorder. Heres where things get complicated and tricky.
Eating disorders and their sufferers in my experience can be highly competitive and the thing they fear the most is being FAT. So when a fat person is speaking of their experience they are extremely confused and attempt to reject/discredit them as much as they can.
I am an eating disorder sufferers worst recovery outcome. No one knows this more than I. My fat is not the healthy often associated ‘win’ of recovery they want. I am what they are avoiding. I am their worst nightmare. This has haunted me and thrown me into the depths of despair more times than I can count.
Not only have I wished I was thinner like other eating disorder sufferers but I have spent a lifetime with a mental illness only to be told ‘Sorry darling you don’t look the part, try harder’. The problem with the online eating disorder recovery community is they are reinforcing these stereotypes that fat people do not suffer with anything but ‘overeating’ and ‘laziness’. They worship recovered bodies which are blessed with good genetics and thin privilege, They highlight voices of white young women who have suffered through anorexia and have the shocking ‘before/during/after’ photos. They hold on to images as evidence of the severity of disorders and also the highlights of recovery.
We all know what you look like and your actual weight have very little to do with eating disorders. Yet we are fed this story of ‘#recoverygoals’ and ‘fitspiration afters’ that have very little to do with the actual hardships, struggles and reality of the disorder itself or the recovery. The ingrained fear of fat is just another obstacle when it comes to eating disorders themselves let alone the fear, shame, isolation and heartache those who are actually FAT and struggling feel.
The main speakers, influencers and recovery role models are a privileged few who while I commend and uphold their recovery and believe they should be celebrated. Allowing the eating disorder Instagram community become a haven of recovery porn based on one type of ‘recovered’ body is dangerous to all sufferers and survivors. We still in the eating disorder recovery community much like body positivity favour and promote acceptable bodies which slightly push the boundaries of our society.
Imagine if NEDA had a visibly fat person as a spokesperson of their GALA just gone by. Imagine if the Butterfly Foundation had a black, trans man as their spokesperson. Too often I feel recovery accounts, communities and support also focus on regained ‘health’ aspect of recovery.
Almost as if a fat person would be too contriversial because they want to maintain that recovery looks a certain healthy way. Until we understand that neither suffering from an eating disorder (at any point) and recovery from an eating disorder (at any point) has no one look, we won’t be bettering the community.
Lifting and promoting voices of different intersections in recovery from eating disorders needs to be a fore-front purpose of the community of recovery online. Without it we are feeding sufferers and survivors more boxes, rules and ideals to fit into it.
While people discount, discredit and ignore my eating disorder it doesn’t make my suffering or recovery any less real. It doesn’t make my stuggle for help any less hard. It doesn’t make my journey to recovery kinder. It harms me. Unfortunaltey right now I think it is harming us all.
Mental Illness and Survivorship has no ‘LOOK’.
If you believe that their is not enough inclusion and support for all types of eating disorder sufferers please share this article.