How To Get An Eating Disorder
Because it has to be said…
Video guide for the deaf:
No doubt you’ve clicked on this video because you have, at one point or another, had an unhealthy relationship with food.
If not, you’re probably a dude. And lucky you.
Let’s start this video with a disclaimer. I am not not here to endorse eating disorders. I am here to explain why you hate your body and what you can do about it. In ways that have nothing to do with punishing yourself.
Now, my notes for this video have hit over 1000 words so I’m going to try and keep it as short as possible. I think the best place to start, is the media. In my opinion, the media is the Western woman’s ultimate frenemy and the reason most of us have orthorexia (show definition) or worse.
It starts when we’re young. Everything we’re exposed to, the magazine we read – or read the headlines of – the TV shows and movies that show us how girls are ‘supposed’ to act or eat or look like. They show one type of woman. Mostly white. Mostly Princessy. Mostly skinny. Concerned with her looks, what other people think of her, and how that will effect her in her life-consuming search for “The One”.
Is that who we really want to be?
As we get older, the media grabs on to these ideas because they know our indoctrinated search for perfection makes them a lot of money. What was free lipgloss with your Disney Princess magazine turns into headlines that scream “LOSE WEIGHT NOW”, “FLAT BELLY, finally” “GET A BIKINI BODY” “LEAN AND SEXY NOW”. Capital letters, condescending tone and all.
So not only do we get introduced to these money-minded life bibles with sexualised, hyper-photoshopped pictures of some of the most naturally ‘flawless’ women around, but our bodies get a mental assault at the same time. Just in case you didn’t already feel insecure in comparison. Even in GQ, we see a ridiculous disparity in gendered covers. These are a professional professionalmale vs sexy object female share from recent years…
And when these images and this content is all so similar, how easy can it be for a young woman to decide she should be anything but a ‘perfect’, hairless, thin, but busty, poreless, curvy in all the right places that doesn’t push diversity’s envelope
As the old feminist argument goes, you can’t be what you can’t see, right?
And this is where food becomes a problem. In the UK, it is now reported than 1 in 10 women have an eating disorder. I would beg to differ. I think it’s more. I think even if we’re not skipping meals or throwing them up, most of us have a disordered relationship with food.
Personally, my mom was always on a diet and it actually wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I started to think about food as nutrition or even cooking for myself. Food came with a lot of baggage, and when I started blogging…pre-LelaLondon.com, pre Livejournal even, there were these pro-ana (or pro-anorexia) communities on xanga that I read all the time.
I didn’t starve myself. But I suddenly found ‘tips and tricks’ that didn’t seem so different from the magazines I was reading and thought, hey, control is a good thing. If I am skinnier, like these emaciated images suggest, I will be better. I can “eat this, not that” (insert magazine) and eat like supermodels! And everyone wants that, right?
Wrong. So wrong. I know this now, but not then: when you allow yourself to be consumed by food, the calories you’re eating, the “right” or “wrong” foods that make you feel like you’ve done a great day of starvation or fallen off the wagon, you’re orthorexic. And I think a lot of us are.
Media, the internet, and people who can profit from us buying into such things are not looking out for our best interests. They know if we hate ourselves, we buy more, and they are as happy to tell us what to buy as they are to do a “get sexy” guide from a two-bit nutritionist.
Celebrity culture would suggest that the hotter – and therefore skinner – you are, the better you are. This is where the celebrity food diaries come in and mess us up even more. You’ve seen them, the article where the super-gorgeous celebrity talks through their carefully PR-planned eating and exercise regime only to be judged by some faux “nutritionist” that says they should really cut out the daily avocado because its high in fat and she wants to keep those quote, “killer curves”.
Let’s get one thing straight: Eating disorders kill. Not a shapely bum.
God, I need to do an entire separate video on gendered language, don’t I?
Do you know it takes less than mere hours in an online course to be registered a “nutritionist”? HOURS. Yet magazines praise them, month in and month out, for having some sort of secret that will make us perfect in only 30 days! It’s all food secrets, diet secrets, superfoods, tips, tricks, etcetera, bloody, etcetera. The baby food diet, the mastication diet, look how TONED she now looks on the air diet.
No really, that’s a thing.
Any scientist worth their degree will always end up with the same diet: nutritional, unprocessed foods and more time on foot than bum. They aren’t reading “what body type are you?” quizzes or chowing down on bright pink “meal replacement” bars that taste like old sand. Processed foots are shit. They make you feel bad, encourage disease, et al. But it’s worth noting that swapping your chocolate muffin for the gluten-free alternative is not an inherently healthier choice, either. It’s a restrictive choice.
All this craziness has taken a turn for the worst in the digital age. Instead of only having to worry about body-shaming from the insecure, powerful, and profiteering, we now have have every other instagrammer touting “strong is the new skinny” jargon under their hyper-filtered gym selfies. My question is this: Why in the world would we need “a new skinny”? The “old” skinny gave me palpitations. No-one needs to idealize an entirely new body type and stressful coinciding lifestyle that goes along with it!
I work out, I eat well, I am enough. And so are you. Your value is not in the way you look or what you eat.
And this is my point, worst of all, being obsessed with our bodies, food, and looks in general means we are spending a lot of time hating ourselves and feeding the consumer monster that wants us to be that way. We are hungry, but not hungry for equality, or hungry for free speech, or hungry to make positive change in the world, just hungry.
So, what kind of relationship SHOULD you be having with food?
Eat what you fancy. Do not diet and do not feel bad if you’ve consumed something you’ve seen in a “not that” column. Eat food that looks like food. That doesn’t have an ingredients list you can’t comprehend (because that messes you up in an entirely different way). Feed your brain and organs and future self.
The cure to this madness is practicing self-worth; educating yourself to bad-assery, improving the lives of everyone around you, promoting equality and love, and treating your body and mind with respect.
It’s not easy. It only took the arrival of a Cara Delevigne thigh gap Twitter account for me to almost Google “ways to get a thigh gap”. But I didn’t. And I wouldn’t. Because I know I am 5ft tall, have a Kardashian-esque lower half and didn’t even have a thigh gap when I was gaunt from being medically ill.
I have a new mantra. Feel free to adopt it if you feel the same.
If you have the audacity to make me feel guilty for the way I look or things I eat when there are people in this world suffering with terminal diseases, being killed because of their gender, religion, skin colour, or place they happened to live or be – hashtag terrorism – you can DO ONE.
Remember, you can’t be what you can’t see so do share this on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, wherever, and hopefully we can start to get some power back over our bodies.
I’m also going to leave a few links to some helpful places to contact if you’re struggling with an eating disorder – male or female – but do leave your own experiences and thoughts in the comments because I would love to hear from you.
Also, subscribe if you’re new! I have a lot more videos of this nature coming your way. Thank you so much for watching, and remember, you’re beautiful just the way you are.