by Megan Dreher, Senior Writer
Our bodies are one of the most uncomfortable, vulnerable topics to discuss, and yet it’s one of the most widely talked about topics in our largest circles. From the television, to magazines, to our social media feeds, the human body is out there for all to see. And yet, when it’s just you and a mirror standing alone in a room, that’s when we feel the most seen. It’s where all imperfections seem to come out from under the filters and photoshop, or once we step away from the diet tricks and the exercise classes. We glorify what our bodies should look like for 51 weeks out of the year. What’s the one week we don’t? National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week, where all are invited to come as you are.
This is my 5th year celebrating NEDA Week, and if you know me, you know my story behind why this week and this illness is so pertinent in my life. But, I want to talk about how eating disorders are portrayed outside of the eating disorder community. When you think of someone with an eating disorder, the immediate image that comes to mind is a meek, emaciated, emotionally vulnerable girl who feeds off of attention rather than food. It’s the way the media has chosen to portray the illness, with protruding bones and dinner plates of vegetables. While this isn’t entirely a lie, and is unfortunately the reality for many who suffer from eating disorders, it’s also not the whole truth. This depiction is just a sliver of a harsh reality that far too many live with on a daily basis.
Here’s a hard truth: no two eating disorders are the same. They affect people of all races, genders, ages, and body sizes. Those who suffer don’t all starve themselves, or binge, or purge, or exercise extreme amounts. They aren’t caused by the media, or family or friends, and they are the furthest thing from a choice. Eating disorders are not a “fad” or a “trend” or something you just “catch” as you’re trying to slim down for spring break. There is a toxic reality that is not revealed to those who have no connection to the eating disorder community. And you may be contributing to the toxicity that those who are aware are forced to live with, and not even know it.
Here’s another hard truth: celebrating weight loss is a reinforcement of the same system of beliefs that eating disorders are born out of. By publicly sharing that you’re hopping on the newest diet craze, or constantly shaming yourself during the holidays for that extra slice of pie you ate, you are contributing to a deadly narrative that skinny is good, beautiful, correct. Eating disorders are bio-psycho-social in nature, and by continually sharing how our bodies can be better if they were just 10 pounds lighter or 1 pant size smaller, we are contributing to the social triggers for those who suffer in silence.
I am calling on this generation of men, women, people, to do better. All bodies are beautiful, and if we are going to contribute to any narrative about body image, let it be one that promotes health, love and acceptance of all. That is why we should all come as we are.