Trigger Warning: This blog discusses eating disorders and the struggles associated with them.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and as a company committed to raising awareness and supporting mental health initiatives, we invited Mental Health campaigner Grace to share her experiences and talk about her campaign work. Grace’s story sheds light on how eating disorders can affect individuals . We admire Grace’s courage in opening up about her personal journey, and we hope her story helps foster understanding and empathy.
Now, we’ll let Grace speak in her own words:
I want to show that eating disorders don’t always present as the stereotypical skeletal body type. I have always struggled with my body image since around the age of 9/10 and was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 7. I always felt like the bigger person within groups of people due to having muscle mass from national competitive gymnastics. I have been diagnosed with anorexia, but I have never been classed as medically underweight (only 6% of people with an eating disorder are actually medically classed as underweight!). I have had so many people tell me “But you don’t look anorexic” howeverstill struggle every single day.
After being in denial of struggling with disordered eating and exercise for around 3 years, I finally reached out for help in November 2022. In February 2023 being diagnosed with anorexia, after visiting A&E multiple times with a low heart rate, fatigue and many physical signs of an eating disorder, I was kept on ward as a precaution for a few hours but as they checked my BMI and it was at a “healthy” level, I was told I was fit enough to go home, which only led to believe I wrongly needed to restrict more in order for me to get the helpout of this and I misinterpreted how serious it was getting. I was provided with no immediate help and although was noted I was on a list for a specialist team, I had no idea if I was going to be accepted as I was told BMI was the criteria.
In April this year, I was admitted to hospital with a dangerously low heart rate of in the 30s and it dropping to 27 (your heart rate is meant to be 60!), dizziness and fatigue, all consequences of the eating disorder. However, 3 weeks before I was admitted I was very wrongly turned away due to my physical appearance. I had a doctor’s appointment for an ECG where my heart rate had shown up at a dangerously low rate of 35 and at this point the doctor had decided it was sensible for me to have a short stay in hospital to get my heart rate at a healthy level again. This was a shock to me as I was in denial of how bad the eating disorder was, but I managed to come to terms with it and travel to the hospital. At this point, we waited to be seen by a doctor for hours, expecting to be taken onto a ward, however this didn’t happen and instead I was told only those who are life-threateningly underweight are kept in as there is no eating disorder unit in the hospital and as my heart rate had jumped up with anxiety of having to go into hospital, I was sent home once again. I had been asking for help since November 2022 and so to still be waiting for this help in March 2023 I really was losing hope and my heart was getting slower and slower.
As I was turned away due to technically not looking “thin” enough, I wrongly believed under the influence of the eating disorder that I had to lose even more weight to get the help. This was shown that I restricted more as 3 weeks later I ended up in hospital for 4 days on a heart monitor and bed rest. I am still on this rest and not even allowed to go for a walk as my heart is still recovering from the strain that has been put on it, this is a month and a half later. This shows how serious the eating disorder was, but just because I didn’t look like the stereotypical anorexic patient, I was not taken seriously.
I had to get to a critical state to get the help and this is so hurtful, infuriating, and wrong.
I have now started a petition to ‘review the use of BMI when diagnosing and treating eating disorders.’.
I feel from the initial presentation of me struggling was not taken as seriously as it should have due to my BMI indicated I was “healthy” when in fact my health was declining physically and mentally. If I was ranked as underweight when first struggling, I believe there would have been earlier intervention and my health would not have been as impacted as it was. There were multiple times I felt invalidated due to my BMI, and I know this is the same for multiple other people who have struggled with an eating disorder and accessing the right help when needed. Making comparisons towards the BMI chart needs to be reviewed as for me and many other people it imposes the idea for the need to lose more weight to get help needed and taken seriously, this is very wrong.
Sadly, BMI is widely used in the diagnosis of many used other medical situations too which could potentially lead to other illnesses also being missed hence why this needs to be addressed. BMI does not take muscle mass to fat mass ratio into consideration, it only goes off the basis of height and weight therefore showing how inaccurate and vague the measure is. Eating disorders are a mental health disorder, not a weight disorder. Weight is a consequence of the mental health illness and is different for each person, so it should not be the determinant as to whether you get help or not.
For such a serious illness, why is such an inaccurate, outdated measure of health used to determine whether you get help or not! Help to create a change and sign this petition, let’s get it to parliament!
Please sign and share to help make a change and hopefully stop this happening in the future for other people! We’re currently at 4000 signatures and need 10,000 to get a response from the government!
To access and sign the petition you can:
Scan the QR code below on your phone camera –
Search on google or the government petition website –
Petition to review the use of BMI in diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders.
If you have Instagram –
search on Instagram ‘ gracew.fitness’, on this page I am sharing my recovery journey and how I am now getting my life back! The link to the petition is in my Instagram bio.
Thank you so much for reading!
Grace Wood J