TW: Eating disorders, weight loss
Recovering from disordered eating is very complex. There’s the physical aspect of it, your body readjusting, but the really daunting part is the mental and emotional side. For me, I don’t think it will ever fully leave me and I think that tends to be the consensus among most people who have struggled with these issues. I wrote earlier this month about what recovery means to be but I thought I’d be brave and be honest about what I still struggle with.
The biggest thing that really affects me regularly is diet talk and body shaming. This ranges in severity from people moralising food, which is irritating but not the most unsettling, through to people shaming themselves and berating themselves and pledging to “make up” for what they’ve eaten. The worst bit about it is the fact that it’s totally normalised. No one bats an eyelid at someone calling themselves fat (and using it as a negative) or broadcasting to anyone who’ll listen, that they have to be “good” and not have certain foods. And they do so without any thought for the people around them. The quote that always sticks with me is that every time we shame our own bodies publicly children (and all other people really) are listening and learning. Maybe it’s too late for my generation and possibly even for the next one growing up now but you have to hope that things will start to change.
Along the same lines is people commenting on what I’m eating. This is rife at my work and it’s so infuriating. It’s a difficult thing to confront people on because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The majority of people probably just consider it making conversation, or at worst mild teasing when in reality it can make things very difficult for those of us who are just trying to eat without comment or judgement.
Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know where I stand on before and after pictures. They are troubling on a purely theoretical level but for someone who is in recovery or recovering from an eating disorder they are so hard to deal with. Even when I wasn’t well the last time and was talking about my weight loss a lot I never posted a “transformation’ picture. I’d like to think that no matter how sucked in to that world I got I never would. Selling the idea that one body is better than another because it’s smaller is messed up. It’s not the images themselves that are the problem necessarily, in a lot of cases it’s the caption. “Can’t believe I ever let myself get like that” “I’m disgusted looking at the picture on the left” are examples of the kind of thing that’s heartbreaking and deeply disturbing to read.
Although, in the moment, when these things crop up, I can be very unsettled and anxious I don’t blame the individuals. Diet culture permeates every form of media, it enters the classroom and the doctor’s office, it’s no wonder that so many people buy in and don’t even question. They don’t question the system that they are supporting whether directly or indirectly and in most cases they don’t question, or have no idea, about how they are affecting others, across society in and in their direct social circle. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 10 American college women suffer from a clinical or near clinical eating disorder, statistics on that don’t exist for the UK but it would be hard to imagine they would much better. Due to the fact that eating disorders are massively undiagnosed the chances are there are people around you who have suffered or will in the future. That’s worth thinking about.