How Eating Disorder Treatment Taught Me to Be Aware of My Implicit Bias

eating disorder treatment - image of reflection in fogged up mirror, most of the face is shown, with a sad serious expression, eyes looking down

You’re terrified. It’s your first time in any sort of treatment. All you can think about is how the eating disorder treatment center is going to “force“ you to eat all the greasy, sugary, salty food you’ve been avoiding and/or binging on for years now. AND now you’re gonna be monitored 24/7. No way out. No compensation after. Terrified is an understatement

I was the person above. I distinctly remember taking what I thought would be my last body checks at that time. My body had finally hit reached weight I wanted it to be. I was pleased, ecstatic, over the moon (to put it lightly). I couldn’t see how I was dying in reality.

In those moments, I couldn’t care less if the world was on fire or what Obama was doing. The 13 year old girl who wanted to “save the world,” the one who cared about immigrants and black lives was slowly fading. All I could focus on was the declining number on the scale. 

All-encompassing

Eating disorders are not vanity disorders. Anyone who have suffered from one can attest to that.

What we don’t talk enough about is how all-encompassing an eating disorder is.

When I was deep in it, I couldn’t see how I was hurting others. Self isolating and withdrawal IS hurting others. Not caring about anything other than me IS me hurting my community. Of course, my thought process at the time was: less of me, less hurt towards others. Oh how wrong was I. 



What’s Fatphobia got to do with it?

Another thing, I was extremely unaware of my fatphobia. 

Often times, treatment centers rely on clients in larger bodies to do the unpaid emotional labor for other clients AND staff members. I was unaware of my fatphobia because I thought, “If I only think of myself as fat and not anyone else, I am not a bad person.“ Wrong

First of all, having fatphobia does not directly correlate with being a bad person. Secondly, everyone has fatphobia to some degree.

Diet culture is advertised everywhere. It seeps into our skin like poison, silent but deadly. 

Being in treatment gave me the opportunity to listen to other client’s narrative; people that I otherwise might’ve never crossed paths with in this lifetime. It forced me to unlearn my implicit biases towards someone that is fat. As a person of color in treatment, it taught me to speak up, not only for myself but for those like me who do not and will never have a platform to share their story.

Being in treatment presented me the chance to put my disorder aside, to stop comparing my intake with others, and to show compassion to someone who was struggling just like me. It helped me understand other mental disorders I wasn’t diagnosed with, disorders that are often time portrayed incorrectly in the media. 

Lastly, being in treatment ignited a spark within me; it reminded me of a dialectic- the complexity and simplicity of humanity.

I learned we must come together as one, acknowledging our differences and despite that, choosing to do better and be better for one another.

I was lucky enough to experience and witness the growth and struggles of my fellow peers too. 


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