It’s eating disorder awareness week, and having suffered from an eating disorder myself I always like to acknowledge it in some way. To be honest this year inspiration is running thin. What with my current job destroying my mental health and meaning those eating disordered thoughts are creeping back in and this ME flare up which is relentless could god forbid I could just phone up and call in sick when I’m still climbing. That internalised guilt is real as well as internalised ableism.
Anywho on with the post!
I’ve been in the eating disorder recovery community for years, own recovery My own recovery starting in the summer/autumn of 2013. I’ve been through many a EDAW and had to deal with those before and after pictures. Before I knew better, I may have even participated in this trend myself.
But I feel as though these pictures, this type of awareness misses the point. It caters to the middle class white skeletal female version of what an eating disorder is. It caters to and perpetuates the stereotype which is not at all relatable or a representative depiction of eating disorders as a whole.
This image and reinforcement ignores the fact that anorexia isn’t the only eating disorder, as well as that anyone can get an eating disorder. Anyone of any race, size, socio-economic background.
Most dangerously these pictures continue the misconception that an eating disorder is just about weight. This is damaging on all counts but most importantly on the likelihood of and the success of treatment for the disorder. I know myself, only a tiny part of my eating disorder journey was spent underweight and less of that was spent emaciated. I did have anorexia and further through my recovery compulsive exercise and orthorexia but this isn’t the case for the majority of eating disorder sufferers. Many more have bulimia, binge eating disorder or OSFED who may never become underweight or may be overweight. This misconception is also damaging for those who are underweight or who will in the future end up under weight. It can make everyone think they’re recovered when ED recovery is about so much more than weight restoration. An eating disorder is a mental illness, thus to recover the mind needs to recover and this can often take years.
Instead of posting images that focus on weight I believe we should take weight out of the equation and think about warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder instead.
These can include:
- Being preoccupied with weight/shape
- Being preoccupied with food
- Denying themselves food
- Going to the bathroom straight after a meal
- Constantly making excuses as to why they’re not eating
- Not eating in public
- Hiding food
- Becoming withdrawn
- Wearing different clothing than usual – i.e more baggy
- Overexercising or exercising with the wrong motivations in mind.
- Hoarding food
- Taking laxatives/diuretics
There are many others, but these are just a few from the top of my head. I personally use a traffic light system to maintain my own recovery. Green – alls good. Amber – I’m showing a few personal warning signs but not really acting on them. Red – I’m acting on my disordered thoughts. I find this really helps me keep check on myself.
I hope this helps raise some awareness and explain some of the issues with focusing on just one aspect of a very complex set of mental illnesses!