National Eating Disorders Association

A Scale Can't Measure the Severity of Your Eating Disorder

McCall Dempsey

The person sitting next to you in class or in the cubicle across from you might be suffering from a severe eating disorder. How do I know? Because that person suffering was me.

This year’s NEDAwareness Week theme, “I Had No idea,” was also a consistent theme in the story of my eating disorder. “I had no idea, McCall,” the phrase I heard on repeat when I finally emerged from the eating disorder closet.
Most people (my former self included) have this notion that eating disorders can be seen through severe weight loss or noticed through frequent trips to the bathroom. While these are both very real signs of eating disorders, they do not represent the whole truth.  So when I told friends and family about my eating disorder they usually responded in shock, “What?  You? But I always thought you had it all together.” And there lies the problem: on the outside I appeared ‘healthy’ and ‘together,’ but inside I was slowly killing myself to find perfection.

For nearly 15-years, I struggled in complete silence. Too ashamed to ask for help because I did not fit what I thought an eating disorder was. My symptoms violently bounced between anorexia and bulimia and I became a master at hiding them. My eating disorder could not be perfectly boxed into a diagnostic code, which made it easy for my ED voice to always tell me, “See, you’re not that bad. You aren’t underweight and you don’t purge that much.”

In 2009, I finally told a friend about my diet pill addiction. Despite my efforts to convince her that my problem was not ‘that bad,’ she saw otherwise and guided me to help. After a year of outpatient therapy, it was clear I needed a higher level of care. But even when I arrived on the steps of the Carolina House, I was still convinced that I was not that bad and that I had made a huge mistake. I was positive my therapist would tell me I was not that sick, but of course she did not. Instead, she consistently reminded me just how sick I was and that I needed and deserved treatment.

Today, I have made it my life’s work and mission to let others know that they do not need to fit perfectly into a diagnostic code to warrant help and treatment. Southern Smash was founded to smash the notion that scales do not measure our worth, but it was also created to educate the public that scales do not always indicate just how sick one might be.

My eating disorder silenced me for half my life and I will spend the rest of my life educating on the dangers of this silent epidemic that is plaguing our country. Our society is obsessed with the thin ideal and upholds these unhealthy behaviors as ways to reach this unattainable standard of perfection. Countless individuals have heard my story, read my blog or attended a Southern Smash event, and inevitably had their eyes opened to not just the illness but also their own unhealthy relationship with food and body.

Southern Smash is thankful for our partnership with NEDA, not only during NEDAwareness week, but year round. We will continue to educate until one day “I had no idea” is replaced with full awareness and understanding of this complex disease. If you are suffering in any way, help and support are out there and I promise they will not turn you away for being ‘not that bad.’