“Are you sure you don’t have an eating disorder?,” a doctor asked me back in October. “Are they crazy?” I thought. My friends know I love to eat––I’m adventurous and love creating or trying new things. I could eat certain foods I love––yogurt, cheesecake, ice cream, any kind of fruit, salads, acai bowls, etc;–– all the time if my stomach let me. However, I was under 100 pounds from October to June (I reached 100 in June and am currently around 112, thankfully). I saw four different doctors in the last year. Two out of four jumped to the conclusion that I had an eating disorder, and one entertained the possibility that I restricted my eating. Thankfully, one doctor recognized that I didn’t eat simply because I was always in so much pain.
I was so frustrated. For a while, I actually considered that I might have developed an eating disorder because I never wanted to eat. I later realized that my appetite only changed in relation to my pain and that I wanted to eat, but my body literally rejected any kind of food, and sometimes even water.
After my experience, I realized that many people equate underweight people with anorexia. I know people I went to school with did the same–– someone usually whispered “anorexic” anytime a very skinny person walked by, even if they just had a small build. They’d watch skinny people eat, and if they ate light, they’d suggest that they eat more.
It’s important to realize that many people who are underweight do not struggle with an eating disorder or negative body image. Instead, they suffer from medical conditions that cause them to lose weight. Intense gastric pain caused my weight loss, but other people lose weight from cancer, Addison’s disease, depression, COPD, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ulcers, Tuberculosis, substance abuse, and other illnesses. This weight loss usually results from malnutrition, muscle loss, organ failure, or changes in appetite.
Reserve your judgements the next time you see someone who looks too thin. Who knows if they have a naturally small frame, suffer from a thyroid condition, or struggle with depression? Although eating disorders are prominent, it’s all too possible that many people who seem anorexic actually aren’t. Read the book before you judge it by its cover––you never know what story you’ll uncover if you take some time to read between the lines and step into someone else’s shoes.