Trigger warning: This post contains discussion related to eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa. Please read with caution.
Eating disorders are not “one size fits all.”
I am someone who suffered from anorexia nervosa. I say “suffered from” because eating disorders are a disease. They are not a choice, despite what many may think. And they certainly do not plague only persons of one particular size.
I was sixteen and in excellent shape. I didn’t play competitive sports, but I did ballroom dance. I wasn’t ridiculously toned, but I definitely didn’t have excess weight on my teenage form. I was about 120 lbs – an ideal weight for my 5’6″ build. But I was no Victoria’s Secret model – and unfortunately, they were all the rage.
You see, when people look at me now, and hear that I once restricted, they glance up and down and I can see their puzzled expression, as if thinking, “this skinny girl felt the need to starve herself?” And why should they think otherwise? The media has lied through movies, magazines, and more – causing us to believe thin girls binge and thicker girls purge, and that’s all there is to eating disorders. I’m sorry, but that’s a load of crap.
I’ve had this topic on my heart for quite some time, as I watch pop culture begin to praise body positivity. I’m thrilled with this change, but sometimes get concerned that things are being taken too far. Now that Victoria’s Secret models are bashed for their thin frames, and plus size models are held as idols in the spotlight for their lush curves, are we not just jumping from one extreme to the other? While teenager Stephanie felt the need to starve herself for a thigh gap and protruding collar bones, adult Stephanie (who still has disordered tendencies) sometimes wonders if she’s not enough because of her lack of curves. In the mind of someone forever marked by an eating disorder, this is a challenge that has become endlessly difficult to push past.
When I say that I am body positive, I mean it 100%. I adore the way God made every body. Whether you’re curvy, flat, skinny, short, tall, bigger-boned, toned, soft, etc. – you are beautiful in my eyes because you’re beautiful in His. I don’t want someone to ever read my body positivity posts and think that I only see thin girls as beautiful. And I don’t want someone to ever think that I’m shaming being thin, either. My personal experience with anorexia made me realize how important it is to understand everyone’s struggles with their self-image and particular body type.
What I do want is for this stigma to stop.
I want for people to stop assuming that just because I’m thin means I’ve always just loved my body. I also want for people to stop assuming that I may be anorexic currently because I’m so thin. I do, in fact, wish I were curvier (but thanks to my digestive disease, I cannot gain weight in a healthy manner and it frustrates me to no end). Why do people feel the need to slap a size on an eating disorder? That’s not the way it works.
Keep in mind, my story is not every other ED-sufferer’s story. They come in all shapes and sizes. But you know what we all have in common? We are strong because we’ve walked through hell and come out with some scars that may never heal, but we’re still walking. We are beautiful because God made us in His image and we’re learning (or trying to learn) to be proud of who we are. And we are equal because we may look different on the outside, and our stories are all over the map, but we have all fought through the eating disorder nightmare to one day get to a better place.
So can I get a “hell yeah” if you plan to stand with me and fight for true body positivity? If you plan to stop shaming those who deal with ED and accept their journey? If you plan to throw away the size stigma? If you plan to consider everybody beautiful?