By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW, USA
There is a popular eating disorder recovery meme that states, “You are not fat. You have fat. You also have fingernails but you are not fingernails.” On first glance, this message seems comforting. But a closer examination shows that this statement only serves to reinforce the thin-ideal standard of female beauty.
Weight-bias abounds in our society. Even among advocates and treatment professionals in the eating disorder recovery community, weight-stigma and fat-phobia is present. As a strong proponent of health at every size and eating disorder recovery advocacy, the subtle weight-biased messaging that I see within the recovery community often distresses me. For instance, eating disorder treatment centers that also claim to treat “obesity” are exceptionally upsetting.
Weight-stigma can also prevent people from receiving the life-saving treatment that they need. Many people falsely believe that in order to have an eating disorder, one must look a certain way. We have this image in our heads of someone with an eating disorder being an emaciated, young, Caucasian, female. The reality is that eating disorders do not discriminate based upon weight, age, race, gender, or social class. Further, eating disorders are mental illnesses and you cannot tell someone’s level of suffering on the basis of his or her weight.
World Eating Disorders Day is incredibly important to me because we need to change the conversation that occurs around eating disorders. We also need to do better about helping individuals who are struggling have access to evidence-based treatment.
The following are some important truths about eating disorders (as related to size-discrimination):
Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and you cannot tell someone’s level of suffering on the basis of their size.
All people who are struggling with eating disorders deserve access to evidence-based treatment.
You can’t tell who has an eating disorder on the basis of their weight/shape.
You do not have to be considered underweight to deserve to seek treatment for your eating disorder.
No matter what size you are, if you are struggling with an eating disorder-you deserve to seek treatment. No one chooses to struggle with an eating disorder, but you can choose to begin working towards recovery at any time.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW is a mental health therapist, intuitive eating counselor, and blogger on The Huffington Post and Psychology Today. She specializes in treating adolescents, survivors of trauma, and individuals with eating disorders and mood disorders. She is a junior board member for The National Eating Disorders Association. Jennifer is passionate about advocating for the health at every size movement and challenging the belief that health and happiness is “one size fits all.” “Like” Jennifer on Facebook at Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW. Or check out her website at www.jenniferrollin.com
Join Jennifer in supporting World Eating Disorders Action Day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @WorldEDDay and hashtag #WeDoAct, #WorldEDActionDay, @WorldEatingDisordersAction on Instagram and World Eating Disorders Action Day on Facebook.