“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 with the perpetrator has having little 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 on how we view ourselves and how we eat than it ever has before – Body Shaming.
Social media is available and accessible to infinite proportions and is littered with dieting adverts or blogs by someone who feels they may be qualified to talk about diet because they ate a ham sandwich in 1990, it made them bloated then they decided bread was an outright demon. 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, perhaps you’d like to trial a new diet instead. Adverts pop up left, right and centre telling you to diet or to trial a new pill that will ‘burn your fat’ as of course, you must shrink your body size to be accepted in our image- (it’s not even image-conscious, it’s insanity) controlled world.
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 or that famous-for-5-minutes reality TV star tells 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, jolly good fun!
Who cares how you do it; forget Photoshopping too, that’s so 2016, why not just remove a rib? As long as you’re thin right?!
Articles written by by unqualified ‘health bloggers’ or ‘Fitness coaches’ tell us we must be thin or look like some kind of Greek God/Goddess. 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 spend a lot of time with patients discussing media influence, body image and body shaming and advising on how comparison only leads to misery. Your situation is your situation and your body is body. You may have an apple or pear body shape and however much you diet, you will never be able to control your hunger as your metabolism will continue to tell you you’re hungry until you eat enough to sustain yourself. Neither can you change your body shape so the only thing you can do is starting accepting yourself. Be the best physical version of you that you can possibly be if that’s your goal but also relate this to your personality as that will take you a lot further in life than what you look like.
Opinions from others can have a huge psychological impact and can unearth behaviours in people that can have extremely damaging physical and mental consequences. People tell me they’ve ‘dieted for years’ and been in a constant yo-yo state, which is wholeheartedly the problem with reading unqualified and unregulated information. The key is find balance but when society and the media constantly tell you otherwise (because long-term 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) 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. We do not have to conform to subjective societal ideals.
They are promoting body positivity first and foremost. 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.
What you do after you’ve accepted you and your shape for example, 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 we to challenge them? Projecting ideals onto them shows the issue lies with that person, not them.
When people decide to voice their opinions to someone else or worse, announce them on social media, perhaps the most shocking thing about this is the lack of recognition that the opinion is subjective, therefore true to that person’s belief and their belief only.
Opinions can be doled out in abundance but that doesn’t make it informed, fact or more importantly, welcomed.
Instead of trying to detox the body, detox the 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, uh hum).