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

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.

The expression,  “I had no idea,” was 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 can both be 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.” 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, an eating disorder treatment centre, 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. The non-profit organization Southern Smash was founded to smash the notion that scales do not measure our worth. 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 others on the dangers of this silent epidemic that is plaguing our country. Our society is obsessed with the thin ideal and upholds unhealthy behaviors as ways to reach this unattainable standard of perfection. Through hearing my story, reading my blog or attending a Southern Smash event, many individuals have opened their eyes to not just eating disorders, but also to their own relationships with their bodies and with food.
Southern Smash will continue to educate until the phrase, “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 trust they will not turn you away for being ‘not that bad.’

McCall Dempsey, founder of Southern Smash, is an eating disorder survivor and passionate recovery advocate.  After a 15-year battle, McCall sought treatment at the Carolina House in December 2010. Since then she has made eating disorder awareness and prevention her life's work and passion. 
McCall also writes the popular blog, Loving Imperfection. McCall resides in Georgia with her husband, Jordan, and is the proud mother to her precious son, Manning (2).  For more information on bringing McCall to your event or to download her speaking kit, click here.