Rejected and ashamed, Katie* walked away from her doctor’s consulting room and headed for home
She’d spent three weeks debating whether to book an appointment, and three months before that, suffering in silence with the compulsion to restrict eating, over-exercise, purge herself and live in a narrative of negative self talk.
And yet, despite that, the GP was clear from his assessment of her BMI – “It doesn’t look too bad. Keep an eye on your weight and come back if it gets worse.”
So what’s poor Katie to think?
Already in a mindset that is shaped by low self-worth, she’s now acutely aware that the professional believes she ‘does not have an eating disorder’, and that, in any case, she’d have to ‘get sicker to get help.
Sadly, Katie’s experience is not unusual.
Many people who have succumbed to an eating disorder have at some point found themselves being ‘evaluated’ by the BMI metric in little more than a five minute appointment, and left feeling as if perhaps they’ve ‘made a mountain out of a molehill’.
Tragically, this can lead those struggling into an even worse decline, and exacerbate a sense of shame, guilt, doubt and denial.
So how do you know if you might be experiencing an eating disorder, and how do you ensure you give a voice to your concerns?
First of all, don’t assess the existence of a disorder on the basis of weight alone.
Here are some of the factors you might want to consider:
Have you become increasingly rigid about when, what and how you eat? Has this become somewhat obsessive and removed you from ‘normal eating’ opportunities?
Are you thinking about food all the time – what you might eat, what you’ll cook, what someone else is eating? Are you looking way too much at cookbooks, food websites and food related programmes and social channels?
Are you ‘punishing’ yourself with exercise, rather than doing it for pleasure and joy?
Are you increasingly having to remove yourself from social situations because of a self-imposed exercise regime or food pattern? Are you beginning to feel isolated?
Do you feel / know that your weight has changed significantly, and / or are you becoming aware of other physical signs like feelings of cold, difficulty sleeping, an absence of periods, and perhaps the emergence of fine downy hair on your body?
Are friends becoming concerned about you, urging you to seek help or expressing worries about your physical frame?
Do you begin to feel that life is no long ‘worthwhile’, and are you unable to act spontaneously?
If the majority of these ring true, regardless of whether your BMI dictates an ‘official’ reading for an eating disorder, be assured that it’s time to get help.
If you feel you can brazen a second, third or fourth appointment with your GP and insist on help – do so. Perhaps ask someone to come with you and encourage them to help you make your case.
Look at support groups, qualified coaches or counsellors who can assist you with the issues you yourself have identified.
Talk – honestly – to friends and family you trust.
At Wednesday’s Child we hear stories like Katie’s every single week and we urge you to be your own wise and wonderful judge. If you believe you are in a vulnerable place, you don’t need it to be certified by a GP before starting to reach for recovery.
Do all you can to begin your road to health. You have one life and it is all too short to see it tainted or ruined by an eating disorder.