If I was to ask you what someone with an eating disorder looks like, I imagine most of you just described; a teenage, cis gender, emaciated white female.
I don’t blame you. That’s the current societal and media depiction of an eating disorder. Hell, most medical professionals hold this image too.
However, that image you just described is the rarity. It is so far removed from the truth.
The truth is; only 6% of people suffering from an eating disorder are underweight according to BMI. (Which if you have been following me for any length you will know that; BMI is bullshit and secondly it was never intended for individual health status)
You can not look at someone and know if they have an eating disorder. Like I said in, 94% of cases the person is not underweight by medical definition.
Here’s the real kicker, many treatment’s for eating disorders discriminate based upon BMI. The diagnostic criteria, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes BMI as a marker of severity for Anorexia. Now with the figures I just gave you, you can begin to see why this is at best problematic and at worse a health crisis. Further more, this archaic diagnostic criteria separates “Anorexia and Atypical Anorexia” into seperate diagnoses, purely based on a BMI number.
People can be underweight at any weight. A weight is not a useful health determinant. Someone can been dangerously ill at any weight.
Remove BMI and Atypical anorexia becomes exactly what it is; ANOREXIA without the weight stigma and discrimination. The BMI is an excuse to not allocate sufficient funding and it NEEDs to change if people with eating disorders are going to get the help they need.
A person can be experiencing extreme adverse effects from an eating disorder, both physically and psychologically at ANY weight. The difference is again, the DISCRIMINATION a person who is not “medically underweight” experiences.
What’s terrifying is, many people who are very ill, are denied access to life saving treatment, because their BMI is not deemed to be “low enough” and what’s worse many are encouraged to lose weight before they can access help. This also perpetuates the common notion held by sufferers “I’m not sick enough”.
Let’s frame this in another way to really highlight how twisted this is. If someone walked into a doctors office with a tumour, they would not be told to go away and wait until it gets to XYZ size have help. No because that’s just mental. Eating disorders should be treated like the serious health issue that they are.
But the problem is how we view and understand eating disorders. We don’t recognize them for the life threatening illnesses they are. Doctors don’t recognise them and society doesn’t recognise them.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality of any psychiatric condition, second only to substance addiction. Yet 94% of sufferers are not getting the life saving help they need.
We need to do better at raising awareness, recognising them for what they are, severe mental illnesses. We need to improve access, education and funding. Change doesn’t happen over night.
With the current pandemic, eating disorders have soared. Yet the most common message globally is to “avoid the Covid weight gain, start xyz diet” This is not helping anyone, least of all those with an eating disorder.
At the bottom of this article I have included an online petition directed at the American Psychiatric Association (the body responsible for publishing the DSM-5) requesting they remove BMI from the diagnostic criteria of Anorexia. The aim of this to improve access to help for 94% of those with an eating disorder that are currently denied help based upon this outdate measurement.
So far, >1100 people have signed this, including some big names in the eating disorder treatment field. But before I can take this further I need more signatures.
Please sign this petition and share, so that things can change for the better. Nothing changes is nothing changes.
The link is below, as well as a link to my instagram so you can see what others have to say.
Bye Bye BMI petition: https://www.change.org/-ByeByeBMI
Follow the petition progress: https://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj-sJXF8Mb1AhUowzgGHX7LCsAQFnoECAIQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.instagram.com%2Fp%2FCUGlCKpBskk%2F%3Futm_medium%3Dtumblr&usg=AOvVaw2EpH5DSOE42kkcv_N5PHpH
Tabitha Farrar: https://youtu.be/SjDAsvj3igI