Warning – major rant ahead!
I have to tell my readers about something that happened today. Something so frustrating and enraging that I cannot stop thinking about it. This something is a conversation I had. Here is an overview of what went down:
I saw an adolescent patient today that presented with severe disordered eating – restricting most days by only drinking water and sometimes milk, with one large binge per week, followed by purging. This patient reports a 25 pound weight loss since July and that these behaviors have been going on for several months. The complicating factor is that this patient is a normal weight/a bit overweight. The only difference between this patient and the other patients I see struggling with eating disorders is the fact that she has a normal BMI. The conversation that I mentioned above, involves my being asked my reasoning for wanting to treat the disordered eating. When I explained what was relayed to me by the patient, this person said, “I don’t know why you’re worried about her weight. Patients like this are okay not eating for a couple weeks” …
I was flabbergasted! Of course, I am not worried about her weight; I don’t focus on weight! What I am worried about is her severely disordered and dangerous behaviors around food. Letting this continue and not helping her through her struggles with food and body image is setting her up for an extremely harsh and difficult relationship with food for a long time. My question is, why is everyone so focused on weight? Why can’t we help people of all shapes and sizes that struggle with disordered eating and a poor body image? Here are just a few examples of some of the patients I have worked with that have developed eating disorders due to weight-related issues:
- Coaches and parents wanting athletes to be a certain size for their sport. Why not just let their bodies develop and settle into a natural weight where it is most comfortable?
- Family members that have apologized for the patient “being fat because of their medication”. REALLY??? Parents and other family members are supposed to be where we learn our values and morals. Do you want your son or daughter treating others like that some day?
- Mothers treating their own bodies like crap, then telling their daughters “your body is bigger than mine; you need to diet”. Get it together… life is not a competition about who can be the thinnest person in the room. You are harming your child to the core.
- Kids bullying others in larger bodies at school; while teachers, administration, and parents ignore it. Teach your child some manners. Make them understand that making fun of others is hurtful and causes irreversible damage.
I just don’t understand, and probably never will. Weight bias is real and it has devastating consequences. People in larger bodies absolutely experience weight bias more deeply and completely than people in smaller bodies; however, because of our society’s obsession with weight and thinness, everyone feels on guard and critical of themselves.
The most important thing to realize about weight bias and judging others because of their body size is that it makes you judgmental about yourself and robs you of your compassion and connection with others. Just stop it already. Also, please understand that people of all shapes and sizes suffer from eating disorders; not just thin, white women. And they all deserve help.