The characterization of “atypical” is probably different, especially for obese people. And it’s clear that eating disorders don’t discriminate: « The stereotype of anorexia that only affects thin, white, upper-middle-class women couldn’t be further from the truth. » , said Rumsey. « Eating disorders affect people of all sizes, races and gender identities. »
Yet harmful stereotypes persist. In her 2022 essay for Today.com, Holliday wrote that when her dietitian first suggested she might have anorexia, she thought, “See how fat I am? There’s no way that word could ever be attached to someone my size. His diagnosis was eventually confirmed by a psychologist – and going public with his experience ended up helping others: « So many people who are in bigger bodies have messaged me and said, ‘I wouldn’t have never thought I was restricting myself until you started talking about it' ». she wrote.
Stigma can also wreak havoc in healthcare settings, especially when it comes to accurately identifying an eating disorder and implementing the appropriate treatment plan. « The eating disorders of people with higher weights often go undiagnosed, and this group is less likely to receive treatment for their eating disorders than people with lower weights, » Rumsey says. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (AN ADVERTISEMENT)people with “larger bodies are half as likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder” as those who are “normal weight” or “underweight” – even if “larger body size”, in the words of the organization, is a risk factor for the development of an eating disorder.
On top of that, fat people are often praised for engaging in potentially harmful behaviors, which can ultimately fuel the cycle of self-harm. « When someone with a bigger body restricts calories, worries about what they eat, and eats less, they often get applauded for it, » Rumsey says. « These behaviors in a heavier person are considered ‘healthy’ and encouraged, but in a thin person these behaviors would be diagnosed as an eating disorder. »
Lauren Smolar, vice president of mission and education at the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), says it’s crucial to seek help if you encounter any symptoms associated with eating disorders, no matter what you look like, and NEDA’s online screening tool can help point people in the right direction. « Recognize that you don’t need to meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa to deserve care, » Smolar told SELF. She adds that it’s important to get help early before certain harmful behaviors escalate.
This explains one of the reasons why Holliday called on the public to do better. “When people look at larger individuals, they see us as less than, and we are not less than,” she said on Today. « Health is not a moral compass. »
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you can find support and resources from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). If you are in crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741741 to be put in touch with a trained volunteer. them Crisis text line for immediate support.