Eating Disorders and Neurodiversity: Beyond Body Image

What do we miss when we assume that eating disorders are just about appearance?

Nicole M. Luongo
10 min readNov 30, 2020
Not an accurate representation of my eating disorder. Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

“Common — sense” narratives about eating disorders often refer to body image. To outsiders, those of us with anorexia, bulimia, binge — eating disorder, or some combination thereof are pathologically afraid of fatness, so much so that we we sacrifice our mental and physical health to maintain a desired body weight and shape.

This assumption is wrong for a few reasons: First, people in “socially unacceptable” bodies may have legitimate reasons to alter their appearance. Fatness is stigmatized, and institutional practices normalize discrimination on the basis of weight. Wanting humane treatment isn’t “disordered,” and until we dismantle the negative connotations associated with fatness, many of which have severe, deleterious consequences, some fat people will seek safety by changing their bodies in ways that aren’t “healthy” or sustainable.

Next, not all people with eating disorders are emaciated. In fact, many if not most are categorized as “normal” or “over — weight” according to the very problematic Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. Does this indicate that some us are failures? Are we a group of cosplayers — not sick enough (yet) to achieve the elusive goal of thinness, but…