One of the most damaging things we can say to someone battling the deeply internal war of an eating disorder is something based on their appearance, which evaluates the worth of their experience. It takes a tremendous amount of courage, self-reflection, and willpower for someone who has been struggling with an eating disorder to admit their behaviors and ask for help. Eating disorders are deeply ingrained habits which feel like mechanisms for survival. Someone who is struggling with an eating disorder has developed an unhealthy but self-serving relationship with an obsession about food, eating, appearance, and control. Giving up the control they feel they maintain over their lives through their disordered eating habits is a tremendous moment. When someone uninformative replies “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder” they threaten the critical momentum which could be life saving.
Eating disorders are fatal mental health conditions. Severe malnutrition, dehydration, poor heart health, heart stress from overeating, and other circumstances can contribute to death. Sadly, suicide is a common cause of death in people who are struggling with an eating disorder as well. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
“You don’t look like you have an eating disorder” is problematic because eating disorders do not have a look. Anorexia nervosa is known for causing dramatic weight loss. Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, does not create severe weight loss. Binge eating disorder might cause weight gain. Orthorexia nervosa might cause weight loss as well. However, every single body and every single person’s experience of their eating disorders is unique. Comparison and evaluation in image is part of the disordered thought process of eating disorders. Creating a need to compare sickliness to others is remarkably irresponsible for people who are not licensed psychological professionals or eating disorder specialists to do. Additionally, this kind of statement can inspire an addictive thought process that if someone who is struggling doesn’t look sick, then perhaps they are not sick and they don’t really have a problem. At once, this negates their intimately personal experience of coming to terms with their problem and normalizes the behaviors they have been engaging in because it doesn’t make them “look sick”. Using “looking sick” as a measure, there is more room created for ongoing eating disorder behavior.
If you are struggling with eating disorder behaviors, it is okay to ask for help. Our residential treatment programs offer an integrative approach to healing and recovery creating balance, confidence, and rejuvenation. Call us today for information: 409-331-2204