NEDA Article – Contradictions in Recovery

Over the summer I submitted a piece to the National Eating Disorders Association’s blog. About two weeks ago it was published! This is the first time I have ever had my writing published, and it means so much to me that it was by NEDA. Here is part of my article as well as the link to the full article on NEDA’s blog.

Content Warning: eating disorder behaviors

Originally published on the National Eating Disorders Associaton’s blog

I’ve noticed a tremendous inconsistency throughout my years of eating disorder treatment. When I was in treatment for anorexia nervosa purging type, one of the first parts of my recovery was weight restoration. I felt like before I even got into the work of dissecting how/where my eating disorder started, I was required to gain weight. Yet years later when I went to treatment for binge eating disorder (BED) and was at my highest weight, I assumed the first thing my treatment team would focus on would be weight loss, but they didn’t, and they said that wasn’t going to be a part of my treatment plan.

According to eating disorder treatment professionals I have worked with, if a client is underweight they are told to gain weight, and then learn to accept their medically stabilized body. However, if a client is overweight they’re told they’re just clinging to the idea of a “perfect body.” On one side of the pendulum, they’re required to reach what is deemed a healthy body weight, yet on the other side they’re told the number doesn’t matter, and it’s what’s inside that’s important. All different types of eating disorders cause different outcomes on the body. So why is it only okay to focus on healthy weight maintenance when someone is underweight? 

I’ve been wondering about this contradiction for a few years now and wanted to explore what other people’s thoughts were on the matter. I interviewed Erin Beery, LCSW, and 2008 Portland State University graduate who has been in private practice in Portland, Oregon, since 2011. Beery’s many specialties include LGBTQ and gender identity issues, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma and PTSD, as well as depression. 

In addition to having a professional opinion such as Beery’s, I also wanted to hear from someone who knows personally what it’s like to struggle with an eating disorder. I interviewed Colleen Werner who is a professional dancer, writer, and mental health/body-positivity/self-love advocate, and in recovery from her eating disorder. Werner is a member of Long2 Dance Company in New York City, teaches dance in Long Island, New York, and is currently studying Psychology at SUNY Old Westbury. 

I wanted to know if Beery and Werner felt it was common for people with eating disorders to be viewed as more or less serious depending on their weight. Beery states, “The focus on needing there to be this link around weight in order to be diagnosed with anorexia has really shut out the conversation for those who don’t match the stereotype, but fall somewhere else along the spectrum.” Werner explains, “Many people are very ignorant about what eating disorders really are and, as a result, people who are underweight are often taken more seriously because it’s considered more dangerous.”

Insurance companies base a significant part of their coverage decisions on someone’s weight, rather than looking at their overall mental and physical health. Werner’s stance is that “Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and someone’s struggle can’t be defined by their BMI.” She continues, “All eating disorders are dangerous and deserve treatment.” Beery has experienced frustrations from seeing her own clients be denied coverage simply because of a number on a scale. She explains, “Insurance is not a mental health business, so making those determinations is not in their area of expertise. Insurance companies go off of this cookie cutter idea of what an eating disorder is supposed to look like…” 

Link to the full article: NEDA Article – “Contradictions in Recovery…”

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237 or click to chat. In crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer from Crisis Text Line.

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