We live in a world which is completely immersed in diet culture. We think about it, talk about it, shame ourselves into thinking we should follow it. It’s on TV, in magazines, on the internet. It’s in our workplaces and schools. Despite the rise in obesity, we have never been more fixated on minimising ourselves and being thin. It is held up as though image to attain which has nothing to do with health and everything to do with appearances and our self hate. If we loved ourselves or had a decent amount of self-esteem then maybe we wouldn’t have to try to manipulate our bodies into being something that they were not meant to be. I’m somewhere in my mid-twenties and I am not supposed to have the body of a child. I have hips and boobs and no matter how much I fight against that, biologically my body will always be that way.
I’m trying to find the words to talk to you a little bit about Eating Disorders, Diets and Body Image. It’s difficult because my Anorexia is not really about how I look but sometimes that’s how it translates. I think that’s true for a lot of people. To say that an Eating Disorder is about being thin isn’t exactly true. There are far better ways to get into a smaller size dress than starving yourself half to death and destroying everything in the process. I wanted to be thin but thin doesn’t really mean thin to me. Thin meant…less of me, a silent me, an apology. It meant a hundred different things but never really I wanted to be a pretty person who was adored by others for her appearance. Now an Eating Disorder and Diet are two completely different things but I suppose they are both fuelled on our feelings of inadequacy or unhappiness. When you put rules and restrictions in your life, you have to consider where those needs are coming from. Some people may say that some individuals need to be on a diet for health reasons. Their weight is causing them difficulties linked with obesity and in order to reduce those risks then lowering a person’s weight is the option available. What I would say is that that can be achieved by having a balanced diet which is sustainable and nutritionally enough. Being apart of a culture which makes you guilty for eating something is not good for anybody.
Yet my purpose is not to preach about the crappiness of diets, but to talk about how they link in with me and my recovery. I grew up in an environment where my Mother and other female role models (except for one) were constantly on a diet. I saw the ups and downs, the failures and brief successes. It was painful to watch but I am still watching. Decades have past and they are still in the same cycle. You’d think after the amount of time and energy they put into this they would at least have an understanding about what is good for them and what isn’t. When my Mums on a diet, she skips meals, lives on cereal for dinner, and when I question her and say “What would you say to me if I was doing that?” her response is usually “You have a disorder, I don’t”. The impact that her behaviour has on me though is ridiculous. She engages and I see it and I hate it but I am also jealous. She gets to still do that and I never can. I can’t pretend that my happiness can be found in a lower number anymore. Her actions tap into the eating disorder part of my brain and it clings on for dear life and all my reasons why I should recover or overwhelmed by the reasons I should not. I’m better at handling it now because I know her but it’s getting harder when there are more people engaging in this lifestyle. I spent the day with my Manager today who is currently under-going some kind of health kick. She says things that I don’t think she realises are ridiculously triggering for me. I suppose when I was unwell, she was used to me being able to talk about those things because I didn’t care if I was triggered. Now…when she tells me she won’t eat one type of wrap because they are higher in calorie than these other ones and I have those higher calorie (which are not actually higher) wraps sat at home in my cupboard, I pause and panic. Should I be eating those? I don’t want to be triggered by these things. Logically at times I know that I’m being ridiculous but Anorexia is a powerful disorder and those constant simple comments, hearing her talk about foods that used to be classed as my safer foods before treatment, well…they make me doubt myself. I am trying to fight through these thoughts and not let them alter my actions. I am trying to implement the tiny meal plan changes made by my care team but it’s hard to not think that I am wrong doing so. I am distrustful of educated people by uneducated words. That has to change because I can’t keep listening to something and taking it as truth because it aligns itself with the disordered parts of my brain.
I really hope one day that we’ll eventually see a shift from diet culture. Yet I suppose my message tonight is that we have to remember that diets and disorders are not the same thing. As much as I wanted to believe and the people around me still believe, an Eating Disorder is not a diet gone too far. It is a psychological illness. It is not about health neither is it about being a certain size. I struggle with my body image daily but it is not about my body as such, it is about things that felt wrong which I didn’t know how to verbalise. The body becomes the battleground because it’s easier to say and think that you’re fat than to acknowledge all the painful things that you don’t want to think about. I think our disorders are fuelled by the things that we cannot bear to say and it is only through figuring out what that is that we can begin to heal.
I hope your day has been kind to you.