There is an interesting piece in the NY Times called "High-functioning, but still alcoholics." In it, Sarah Allen Benton, author of Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, says,
" high-functioning alcoholics are able to maintain respectable, even high-profile lives, usually with a home, family, job and friends. That balancing act continues until something dreadful happens that reveals the truth — to themselves or to others — and forces the person to enter a treatment program or lose everything that means anything."
This description reminded me of the similarities of what I've always called the "high-functioning" eating disordered person. These are the individuals who continue to excel in academics, careers, sports, hobbies, motherhood, etc. despite actively engaging in their eating disorders. It's actually quite a paradox, as one would think the opposite--that these individuals could not function.
The problem with this success (for however long that might be) is that it provides a sense of illusion that there really isn't a problem. Because again, the logic would be the eating disorder would not allow them to function, so how is it they are still functioning? As Peter Hamill, author of A Drinking Life, says "If I was able to function, to get the work done, there was no reason to worry about drinking. It was part of living, one of the rewards."
Or as Benton says, "Having outside accomplishments led me and others to excuse my drinking and avoid categorizing me as an alcoholic. My success was the mask that disguised the underlying demon and fed my denial."
I guess I bring up this whole point of the "high-functioning" eating disordered person, because I think a lot of us fall or have fallen into this trap at one time or another. We may not completely flat and out deny we have a problem, but there is still the idea we can somehow be both. While it is true, this can work for awhile, eventually our bodies and minds will catch up to the deprivation. And by that time, sometimes it becomes too late to fix the existing damage.
The take home message is to not be fooled by "high-functioning." Because in the end, it's still an eating disorder. Or as Benton says, "It’s not the number of drinks that defines an alcoholic. It's what happens to you when you’re drinking." In this case, it would be, "it's not the number of calories (or weight) that defines an eating disorder, but rather what happens you when actively engaged in your eating disorder."
Note--*For further reading about the "functional alcoholic," Caroline Knapp's Drinking: a love story is excellent. I actually found myself significantly relating to this book more than other eating disorders ones.