I’m not sure why June is my month of personal posts galore, but here’s another one! Probably one of the most personal posts I’ve written in a while. But, I process things by writing here. And this is something I really need to process. First, I wanted to list some trigger warnings, as I know anything around a eating disorder can be a sensitive topic!
Please, take care of yourself first. ❤
Trigger Warnings: Eating Disorder (ED), OSFED, body dysmorphia, (negative) body image, internalized fatphobia
What Is OSFED?
I have an eating disorder. I was diagnosed by my therapist a few months ago of having a severe case of OSFED, which stands for Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder. At first, this shocked me. I associated eating disorders with some of the “media focused” disorders, like bulimia and anorexia. With skepticism, I almost didn’t believe my therapist. I don’t throw up after eating, I don’t skip meals and I don’t binge. How could I have an eating disorder?
Well, as my therapist taught me, there is more to it than that. In fact, here are the common symptoms related to OSFED:
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight
- Hiding body with baggy clothes
- Low self-esteem
- Strong need for approval
- Extremely self-critical
- Preoccupation with body shape or weight
- Extreme body dissatisfaction
- Having a distorted body image
- Low self-esteem and feelings of shame, self-loathing or guilt
These are just some of the emotional symptoms of OSFED. All of which I experience.
Response to Having an Eating Disorder
When my therapist started listing those out, it was like being seen for the first time. I’ve always had a negative body image, which I’ve written about numerous times here on the blog. But this was my lightbulb moment. I didn’t realize how much guilt I carried with me, in relation to my body size and image. While it is unfortunately not abnormal for someone to hate how they look, many people can make a comment complaining how fat they are and move on with their day, not really thinking about it again.
Me? It’s in my thoughts all of the time, every moment. My disorders thoughts are what I think about when I pick out my clothes. It’s when I think about when I plan to visit family or friends; or hell, even when going out of my house to run errands. I’m constantly worried of how others will view me for my size, always coming up with the answer that equates to less than. Posting pictures? Seeing myself in a mirror? An anxiety spiral. Going shopping for new clothes? The numbers haunt me.
The guilt is overwhelming. To my brain, my fatness means I’m less of a human; that I have failed, somehow. I deserve less, I am worth less. My fatness is the cause of all my failures and any success I could celebrate is always overshadowed by my size, my weight. It’s all my fault.
This line of thinking? I always thought it was normal. I never thought it was an actual disorder, brought about due to harmful societal expectations, horrible social pressures and many other underlining causes my therapist is still helping me to unpack.
Goals Moving Forward
While at first I was overwhelmed by this diagnosis, it’s also incredibly freeing. It’s an invitation to recognize that my brain is being undeniably cruel. A reminder that my weight, my size and my fatness do not equal my worth. It’s a blessing that, as a fat woman, I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to be guilty about. An invitation to learn more about actual indicators of health, to break the stigmas that fat equals me being unhealthy. It’s permission to unpack the years of trauma, stigma and self-hatred.
But it’s also recognition; recognition that I have been living with this disorder since I was in middle school. My brain has been trained to believe the lies of my disorder as fact. There is a lot to unpack, a lot to unlearn, after thinking this way for over a decade. I’m working with my therapist to do all of this, recognizing the baby steps and celebrating them. Trying to disassociated myself away from numbers and letting a number on a scale, a sizing chart or my weight result in feelings of shame, guilt, remorse and hatred. Working towards body neutrality and perhaps, even one day, body love.
How You Can Help
One part of this journey is being open and honest about it. I’m not ashamed of this disorder. I’m not ashamed of getting help. (Yet both of those things weren’t always true.) And I’m practicing trying not to be ashamed of asking for help, too.
Some ways you can help include:
- Adding trigger warnings when talking about weight (in particular, weight loss) on your social media posts.
- Avoid commenting on my appearance.
- Don’t fat-shame yourself or use fat as a negative descriptor.
- Help remind me to celebrate achievements unrelated to body size or weight less.
- Don’t tell me your concerned for my health when using my weight as the only factor.
These might seem like foolish things to ask. But, when I pause to think about what triggers me into a guilt-ridden, hate-focused spiral, it’s those things above. It’s when someone talks constantly about how fat they are, while I, a fatter person than them, sits right there. My brain immediately begins to destroy any sense of worth, because if someone who has a smaller body than me can berate themselves and see fat as such a horrible thing, how can I trust any praise they offer me? Or when you mention you’re concerned about my health when knowing my weight. The perfectionist in me takes that and runs, looking at all the ways I’ve failed, I’m lesser or everything I’ve done wrong.
Obviously, I’m not going to police what others do and I’m not expecting anyone to change their behavior around me. It’s just…this would help, as I enter recovery. I’m finding the negative thoughts to be even more prevalent, constant and demanding, now that I’m starting to work in person again. It’s been overwhelming and hard.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading such a personal post. This is a battle I’ve fought for most of my life, not realizing its severity or true impact until now, 10+ years later. I’m thankful for my therapist for helping me get to this point. I’m thankful for all of the fat women I’ve started following on social media who have already worked through similar demons and show me where I want to be; that it’s possible to get there. I’m thankful for the friends who’ve supported me, the family who has been understanding and my partner, who has loved me unconditionally even as I’ve gained 100+ pounds in the past few years.
For now, I’m going to take it day by day, as I learn to live with this eating disorder. Thanks for being there in my journey. 🖤