Disclaimer: This is a mishmash post of thoughts and observations which isn’t meant to offend, trigger, target, or annoy anyone. I am just interested to hear other people’s views on these issues, and how you may cope/react to them.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people may or may not be affected by friends, family, the internet and the media in regards to eating disorders. I have been trying to figure out how easily influenced I am by others, and it’s quite contradictory. I’d be interested to hear how any of you feel you are influenced, either in a positive or negative way.
Yesterday, I read some links on this website recommended by another blogger which I found really really helpful. It gives a lot of good advice for those recovering from eating disorders, and the need to eat a substantial amount of food (a lot more than you’d think) in order to repair the damage both inside and out. Reading this information did have a positive effect on me, so much so, I went and grabbed 2 Guylian Chocolates to eat while I was reading (it wasn’t ‘snack time’, and spontaneity doesn’t always come easily to me so this was a big deal!) It was useful to read the blogs and forum entries from people who were actively trying to recover, particularly those around my age (advice is often aimed at teenagers). Reading how well they’re doing, and how their feelings and discomforts are similar to my own spurred me on and reassured me that recovery is the way forward.
Blogs I have read on here, and people who have commented on my own blog have also helped enormously. Without encouragement and advice from other bloggers, I would never have tried Nut Butter or bought Nutella again. I wouldn’t be eating porridge every day. I wouldn’t be having milk on cereal. I wouldn’t have eaten that KitKat chunky. I’d be stagnant. Not going forward, not going back, just floating along semi-recovered as I did for so long. That is where I have found myself positively influenced. Encouraged to try new things, reading food other people have eaten and firstly being envious(!) and then accepting that I can, and should, eat things like that too. It’s also reassuring to read when people are finding things difficult, showing that recovery is bloody hard, and people do have rubbish days but it doesn’t always have to be like that. I found this website this morning and it was nice to read over and reaffirm why I’m doing this. I want my life back.
Then there’s so called ‘thinspo’. I’ll be completely honest, I have never, ever, looked at thinspo and although I’d heard the phrase I was pretty unaware of it (naively perhaps) before starting this blog last year. My anorexia didn’t develop from there. One thing I’ve learned since becoming aware of thinspo = It’s bloody scary. Really scary. It’s not glamorous, it’s not pretty, and it certainly doesn’t show the mental torment many of these girls will be suffering. Do people in recovery find themselves triggered or affected by such websites? Or are they predominantly read by those not in recovery, still in the depths of an eating disorder? I don’t search for ‘thinspo’ blogs and try my best to avoid them. I find it hard to read things where people are promoting eating disorders. Whether that’s a trigger or not I don’t know. It’s too easy with a brain like mine to distort things I read, and by reading that someone has eaten 200 calories in a whole day my ED brain starts to scream that I am greedy and so for that reason, I avoid it.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I watched a program the other night called ‘Goks Teens’ and it got me thinking. Gok Wan (overseas readers may not have a clue who he is! He’s a guy who loves fashion & making women appreciate themselves, apparently) goes to meet teenagers who are struggling with body image. One boy was 15, 6ft 9 and 24 stone. He was an absolute sweetheart, so shy and felt so embarrassed about his size which was a result of an illness. Then there were two girls, both stunning, aged between 14-16 years old. Both these girls struggled with their body image, one was diagnosed with anorexia and was in recovery, the other was fixated on ‘thinspo’ and strived to lose weight. It was heartbreaking. These kids are so young, they shouldn’t give a fuck how they look and be comparing themselves to unachievable, unrealistic models. The power of the media and the internet on young people is staggering.
Gok has proposed designating an hour a year in the National Curriculum for a ‘body image’ session in schools. I think it is without a doubt a good thing, an hour a year is nothing (yes, the curriculum is packed already but if it prevents even 1 child going through an eating disorder it’s a life effectively saved). But here is where the contradictions start. I was fortunate in that I had no body image concerns whatsoever in school. I ate whatever I wanted and was never overweight, my nickname was “Little One”. I didn’t know what anorexia was, and to be honest, looking back, I was ridiculously naive! If these sessions existed when I was in school, I certainly would have been more aware of my body, but I can’t say it would have prevented my eating disorder. My anorexia only appeared after I finished University in my twenties, so it’s hard to say what affect, if any, these school sessions would have had on me personally.
What I’m wondering is, are some eating disorders actually preventable? Would educating children and teenagers on uniqueness, varying bodies, appreciating what they do have, actually stop someone developing an eating disorder? One of the girls on the program who was obsessed with ‘thinspo’ went to a modelling studio and saw a 5ft 11 model have 3 hours in make-up, then some photos taken, then saw them being retouched on the computer – her legs were slimmed and lengthened, stomach flattened, hair thickened etc. It’s so fake, and so horrible to think people are influenced and want to be like these pictures.
Personally, I can be positively influenced by others just as easily as I can be negatively influenced I think. I don’t blame the media for my eating disorder, it had nothing to do with it, but I do think they have a huge affect on a lot of people and should be aware of their level of influence. Friends and family can be a positive influence on me, through encouragement, and eating similar things. I can’t expect this forever though, I can’t expect my friends to eat cake just because I need cake, I need to take responsibility for my own recovery and not feel so negative and greedy if I eat more than others. That’s where the ED creeps back in negatively. Also reading articles, forums and blogs where people have such healthy, balanced diets, or completely vegan, or no junk food rules, these make me feel so guilty, greedy, unhealthy and fat. That’s where I’m negatively influenced. I am absolutely in no way saying it’s anybody else’s fault, it’s bloody free world and people should feel free to post what they want, when they want, and read what they want. What works for some people doesn’t work for others, that’s life, but I personally find it difficult to quieten the ED thoughts of (Greedy! Fat! Gross! Lazy!) when I read how much exercise somebody does and how healthy their meals are. That’s my downfall and I’m slowly but surely learning to cope with it.
Now I’ve written it, I think I lost the original point of this post, and can’t actually remember what it was! But I am interested in other people’s views. If educating teenagers and children on how to cope with body image distortion can prevent eating disorders then it’s an entirely good thing. They should be aware that anorexia isn’t glamorous. Somebody may not be happy at their current weight and want to be slimmer, but through anorexia they won’t ever be slim enough. Ever. It’s never enough, and from my personal experience it only ever leads to misery. Finally, I’d like to thank people who have written such great posts of their own, showing the stages of recovery they have experienced and making me feel a lot less alone in this 🙂