We live in a culture where we are constantly being told through the media, movies, friends, family members and even by our own brains, what an ideal body looks like and what we should be doing to achieve one. Think of all the get-skinny-quick diets and hot new workout trends that are all over magazines and advertisements. The truth is, we all have different bodies and they are all beautiful and worthy. Somehow, all these negative messages we hear and see around body image sneak their way into our personal world and can have a pretty negative impact on our relationships with our bodies and how we feed them.
February 1st to 7th was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Eating disorders or disordered eating are a mental illness and, like any mental illness, they can be really hard to talk about and have a lot of stigma and shame attached to them. But, talking about them is really important. So many people struggle with disordered eating (it’s estimated that 1 million Canadians could be diagnosed with a clinical eating disorder) and eating disorders are the mental illness that have the highest death rate. Disordered eating affects people of all different genders, ages, races and backgrounds. There are also many different kinds of eating disorders, and you really can’t tell by looking at someone if they struggle with disordered eating or not. We live in a world where having a healthy relationship to your body and to food is not an easy thing to do.
Think about what most of the bodies you see on TV or in magazines look like. Thin bodies are so often seen as good and beautiful and fat bodies are so often seen as bad and shamed, which is part of thin-privilege. Thin-privilege creates this culture where there is a pressure to be thin and bodies that aren’t considered to be thin enough are shamed and discriminated against. Which just isn’t fair. We as humans are so much more than a number on a scale and don’t deserve to be treated differently because of it. All bodies are different and all bodies are beautiful.
We often think of eating disorders and disordered eating something that only women and girls face. So much emphasis is put on women and girl’s bodies and their appearance that it’s impossible to navigate the world as female-identifying person without thinking about or having other people comment on your weight. And, according to the National Eating Disorder Information Center 80% of the people diagnosed with an eating disorder are female-identifying. However, it’s dangerous to think of eating disorders as a ladies-only problem. It’s important to remember that all genders can experience disordered eating and that male-identifying, trans and non-binary folks also face complex and unique pressures that can lead to disordered eating and should be included in the conversation.
So what can we do to cultivate a healthy relationship to our own bodies and support others in having healthy relationships with theirs? First of all, know how the best way to support someone who has an eating disorder or where to reach out for help if you think you might be struggling with disordered eating. For information on how to support someone with an eating disorder click here and for information on where to get help click here.
Also, you can work to create a community that combats the environment that contributes to disordered eating. Two pretty cool, and not mutually exclusive, movements that do this are #riotsnotdiets and the body positivity movement or #bopo. Both of these movements are all about the radical idea of learning to love yourself and your body and how to form a healthy relationship with food and exercise. Both of these movements acknowledge that all different sorts of bodies exist all around us and are all worthy of love. There are tons of amazing accounts focusing on both these movements on social media and we highly recommend checking out both hashtags.
Practicing self-love and body positivity is one of the most radical ways that we can fight against a society that promotes disordered eating and have a healthy relationship with ourselves, our bodies and food. It’s not an easy thing to do but, be kind to yourself and know that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of nourishment and love.
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