How eating disorder stereotypes harm those who don’t “look the part”
Most people think they “know” what people with eating disorders look like – at least, for the most part. When people see a thin, young, white woman, they question if she might be anorexic or bulimic.
It seems like an “innocent” stereotype. After all, it comes from an attempt to worry about those believed to be most at risk for a dangerous mental illness. Unfortunately, that stereotype can have terrible side-effects.
When people assume that one type of person is supposed to be most at risk for an eating disorder, it isn’t uncommon for them to start assuming others can’t have one. It means men, women, and those with larger bodies typically get overlooked even when they’re asking for help.
Madiba Dennie, a contributor for Huffington Post, says she felt like her body acted as “camouflage” for her eating disorder. Over her 10-year struggle with disordered eating, “her bulimia was almost perfectly invisible.”
Dennie talks about how her body-shape and race both allowed her to go undetected at the height of her eating disorder and prevented her from being able to access or accept help. Her article shows how the societal expectations that she and everyone else have internalized create boundaries that can make it harder for others to ever fully achieve recover.