“But she’s too skinny!”
“You need to put some weight on love!”
“Get a few burgers down you, that’ll sort you out”
“Have you seen how much weight she’s put on? She used to look so good”
My real life job is to fight Eating Disorder voices, an Eating Disorder Warrior if you will (I may get some kind of jaunty Viking hat in future). We’ll refer to this as ‘The Voice’ since what is so poorly understood about Eating Disorders is that it is just that. It isn’t someone’s personality, it isn’t someone just “being silly”, it isn’t someone who wants to starve and it certainly isn’t a choice.
It is someone who has to endure the relentless nature of The Voice controlling that person every second of their day to a point where they don’t have ownership over themselves. Some Voices can be so strong, the people underneath may never have a chance against them.
The sentences above are examples of mindless comments that can often push a sometimes small Voice, simmering away in the background into a full-blown Eating Disorder and the worst thing is, the perpetrator has no idea of the scale of damage they’ve caused.
Many factors affect the development of an Eating Disorder such as environmental, social, behavioural and genetic predispositions. However one modern issue is becoming more of an influence than it ever has before – Body Shaming.
Social media is available and accessible to infinite proportions and any app you open up today will undoubtedly tell you to diet. Never mind if you wanted to read about the economic stability of Britain, or whether you want to laugh at something Boris Johnson (you ok hun?) did today; tough, you must drop everything and diet because there is an ad popping up to tell you to and of course, you must shrink to be accepted in our image-…. (it’s not even image-conscious, it’s insanity) controlled world right?
While you’re trying to shrink and those pounds just aren’t shifting fast enough (of course they won’t, it doesn’t work like that despite what the adverts tell you), you must also buy some pills to help you diet and then you must juice your all food and adopt a toddler-like approach to weight loss orrrr… just replace your food altogether with a concoction of pills and shakes and become some kind of machine who doesn’t even recognise food, fun huh!
Who cares how you do it; forget Photoshopping, why not just remove a rib? As long as you’re thin right?!
Facebook articles by unqualified Nutritionists tell us we must diet and be thin, The Daily Fail and its Sidebar of Shame tell us to diet otherwise how else will know if we’re thin enough to ‘pour our curves’ (I know, people get paid for this..) into that bodycon dress a la the Geordie Shore ladies (who, by the way may appear tanned and slim but all internal organs are undoubtedly screaming out for help). As long as they’re ‘Bikini body ready’ (Protein World, hang your heads in utter shame) then it’s ok!
I now spend the majority of my time with my patients discussing media influence, body image, body shaming and teaching them how to handle the opinions of others.
How did we get here? How are we now in a position where my job is to literally talk sense to people to the point I question whether I am actually doing anything effective. But I am because the world we live in promotes such incredibly unhealthy behaviours and beliefs around food and the constant shift between weight loss and gain that anyone with healthy thought processes around food are now in the minority.
Opinions from others are constantly pushing people to extreme ends of the scale. There is now no balance, no stability. People tell me they’ve ‘dieted for years’ and been in a constant yo-yo state, which is wholeheartedly the problem. The key is find balance but when society and the media constantly tell you otherwise because this is far too sensible and boring, how do we stand a chance?
There is a revolution coming (she says with a sigh so content). People have had enough of being told what they ‘should’ (maybe we ‘should’ stop using ‘should’?) look like and it could not have been more timely. Incredible women (now calling themselves BoPo Warriors) such as Megan Jayne Crabbe (@BodyPosiPanda) and Gina (Naked With Anxiety blog) are fighting back and proudly displaying their bodies on social media to demonstrate the fact that we can be who we want to be without fear, guilt or apology.
They are promoting body positivity first and foremost and why shouldn’t we all buy into this? They’re not telling us that they know best or what we should look like, they’re merely voicing that it’s ok to accept ourselves as we are as since that’s half the battle. They don’t profess to being health professionals or knowing what is clinically healthy because that is an entirely separate issue. Accept your body first, end of.
What you do afterwards if you want to become healthier (if YOU choose to and not because someone tells you you should) is entirely up to you and a matter for you and a health professional and if someone doesn’t want to change? So what! Who are you to challenge them? They’re not you. Projecting your ideals onto them shows the issue lies with you, not them.
When people decide to voice their opinions to someone else or worse, announce them on social media (#keyboardwarrior), perhaps the most shocking thing about this is sheer lack of recognition that the opinion is subjective, therefore true to your belief and your belief only.
You can utter as many ill-informed opinions on things such as weight, body size and image as you wish but that doesn’t make it informed, fact or more importantly, welcomed.
Nobody holds the title of ‘Queen of Body Image’ who doles out acceptance awards if you meet impossible and imaginary ideals (please America (or worse, Trump), do not let this become a reality). When did you last hear someone ask you for your opinion on their weight or size? It’s unlikely they did if you really think about it.
Instead of trying to detox your body, detox your mind; after all, there IS no ideal. You’re ideal as you are. Living in acceptance of yourself is true freedom.
Go forth and look at that chocolate cake in a way you might look at Chris Pratt in Jurassic Park (my friend likes him, uhh hum).