The Double Standard of Eating Disorders

I read an article today about Celebrities and Eating Disorders. I thought the article, as a whole, had a good message about creating an open forum to discuss eating disorders through celebrities who shared their experiences. But the entire time I read it, I kept getting the feeling like it’s only OK for thin people who don’t really need to lose weight to have an eating disorder.

I know how people think. Fat people can’t have an eating disorder, they need to do everything they can to lose weight, and if they have negative feelings about their body then, well, GOOD. They should. It’s only a problem if a thin person who obviously is not fat, experiences the eating disorder symptoms. The article doesn’t state as such, but seriously, would someone read this symptoms list and give it the same credibility if the person was on the BMI chart as “obese” or “morbidly obese”?

Here’s the list from the article:

There’s a spectrum, Quinlan explains, ranging from disordered or dysfunctional eating up to full blown eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Early on there is a point where self-awareness and a push from family and friends can be enough to help a person put a stop to self-destructive behaviors. But past that point it can be extremely hard and take a lot of work.

How do you know if you, or a close friend or relative, is heading in that direction? Quinlan offers some important red flags:

  • Excessive preoccupation with weight, body shape, calories and dieting, especially if it’s interfering with your social life, affecting your sleep, or making it hard to perform at work or school because you’re too distracted to focus
  • Regularly feeling sad, angry or frustrated about your body
  • Spending a lot of time comparing yourself to others—and always coming out the “loser”
  • Keeping secrets about what you eat or hiding restrictive behaviors
  • Observing food rituals, such as rearranging food on your plate or eating foods in a certain order
  • Exercising obsessively, only for the purpose of burning calories (rather than health and fitness)
  • Weighing yourself more than once a day, fasting, binging, taking laxatives or diet pills

If you find yourself engaging in these worrisome behaviors, reach out to a friend or a therapist to discuss your thoughts and feelings.

And even if someone read this article and realized that a fat friend had all of these symptoms, would they “help put an end to self-destructive behaviors” or would they encourage their friend to keep dieting so they can lose the weight instead, since, obviously it would be much healthier for them if they did, right?

The scary thing is that I could have checked off almost all of these symptoms either currently or in the past. Thankfully I have worked through some of these issues, but I’m sure there’s nary a fat person out there who couldn’t relate one way or another. It begs the question, why is there a double standard? Why are fat people expected to have an eating disorder, but as soon as a thin person has one, it’s awful. Well, it’s awful either way… and the truth is, that if a fat person has an eating disorder, then it may be one of the triggers for their weight gain. In fact, I am sure of it, especially in my own case. I never went to anorexia or bulimia to solve my weight issue, but as the article states: an eating disorder is more about your mental state than anything. I, too, only ever saw a fat person in the mirror. I didn’t notice that I had gained so much weight, what did it matter? I was the fat girl wasn’t I? I was just living up to my reputation.

For the record, I didn’t see anything in this article that actually stated that fat people cannot have an eating disorder, I’m just expressing my opinion based on what I know of the popular consensus regarding fat people and health.


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Rakel is a wife, homeschooling mom of 1, christian, and entrepreneur living in sunny Florida. She's passionate about art, design and all things creative, and working towards becoming the best version of herself - mentally and physically.