I have heard it again and again. Whenever we hear the news that someone in our lives is experimenting with eating disordered behavior, someone makes this unfortunate comment.
“But she’s/you’re/he’s not fat!” someone will say.
See that over there? That was the point. Catch it and get back to me.
Let’s demolish this point-by-point, shall we?
Point #1: What do you call fat? Some people begin their eating disordered behavior as a result of being told they were “overweight” by their doctors. What the BMI considers “overweight” is vastly different from what the average person identifies as such.
People differ in their personal standards as well. What some people call average or “pleasantly plump” might be unacceptably fat to some. Maybe that person’s family has more stringent weight standards than you do.
What culture does that person hail from? Cultures differ in their standards, just like individuals do. Maybe your culture does not consider that person fat, but theirs does.
Culture does not just refer to nationality or ethnicity either. Culture can be influenced by income, hobby, or profession. Those from higher-income areas, vegans, or actors might be less tolerant of fat than lumberjacks, omnivores, and people from working-class neighborhoods. Your mileage may vary, but that is the general pattern.
Point #2: EDs, by definition, distort the patient’s perception of reality. Telling someone with an ED, “You’re not fat! Stop it!” makes about as much sense as telling someone with psychosis, “He’s not real! Stop talking to him!” Some people with EDs are *incapable* of perceiving that they’re not fat. Others know that they are not fat, but are so afraid of getting fat that they see ED behaviors as their only protection against it. You can tell them that having some weight on you is no big deal and that it’s not necessary to go to those extremes to “stay in shape” (I hate that phrase), but they can’t *see* that. It’s noise to them.
Point #3: You don’t need to be fat to be damaged by an ED. For some reason, people think EDs are safe over a certain weight limit. You’re not fat, but THAT person over there that weighs 200 pounds should spend some time with her head in the toilet bowl. He’s not fat, but that chunker over there should NEVER be allowed to eat again!
EDs do not discriminate, and EDs are life-threatening. Period. They are not safe for people of size, and they aren’t safe for the straight sizes.
If I never hear “But she’s not fat!” again, it will be too soon.