We’re now over mid way through ‘the week’. Campaigners and advocates tirelessly work day in night out in their hope to raise mental health awareness (MHA) but a week of our year is allocated to really pressing down on it all. Sadly a lot of us sometimes feel mentally exhausted during this time as we are a little sick of awareness and want some well needed action. Not the kind of action that involves a green light that probably cost the price of lots of mental health care that many could have had no thanks to you, Theresa May.
Awareness helps, but action is more needed. Those who’ve been struggling for a long time are especially aware of this.
Anyway. I guess the aim is we spread spread spread the awareness like I like to spread butter on crumpets as it seeps in the holes….then what happens? Like when a message goes in one ear and out the other. The crumpet (mind) retains a smidge of the flavour (information), but the rest of the butter (awareness) lies melted on the plate soon to be washed away (forgotten). I’m starting to think I’ve gone way too far with this metaphor…Yet a nice intro to the the theme this year which is BODY IMAGE as I’ve mentioned food. Food can link to body image. An easy link as many deliberate and think again and again before they consume wandering what impact it will have on their body and its image.
Links aren’t always easy though. To understand. To comprehend. To help ourselves or support someone else. Food also isn’t always a related issue…this many might find hard to understand. Issues around body image and eating disorders not always being about the physicality and food. There is very much so an ever present mental process that is involved and hard for many to navigate.
My body image challenges started pretty young just like many teen girls when they are ‘figuring it all out’. Breaking news: that doesn’t happen. I’ve had formal diagnosis when it comes to eating disorders but I more often get swept up in the day to day issues with it all such as pre-occupation with food that many go through. Some may struggle. Some will see them as fleeting thoughts and they pass like clouds.
“Body Image. Body Recognition. Body Privilege. Body Culture.
The stereotype your heritage can define beauty standards by. Or the media, at times, a vulture.
Preying on the vulnerable. Seeking to make you weak.
Selling ‘hate your body’ products by the second as we speak.”
Every body is different. We know this. Yet some of our society and media like to influence our mindsets shifting them deviously into uncomfortable spaces, flooding our feeds with imagery and content that suggest we all need to fit into a box. A box of what’s considered ‘beautiful’. There’s more to beauty than appearance.
Our bodies are also worth more than their ‘image’. We know this. People give birth. People have illness. People have less limbs than others or artificial. Able. Disabled and more. Athletic bodies. Strong bodies and weaker bodies. No right or wrong. Bodies and minds that don’t feel like they belong…
I’ve had nights where I cry because I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin and cover myself in my duvet. It hurt me to write and reflect on that. Yet I have days where I feel body confident, liberated and free in body spirit.
We need to pay attention to the messages we are inundated with. Ones many are struggling with. They can indoctrinate our minds and have the power to take over. It can take a lengthy amount of time to then undo all those twisted thoughts that may even become deep rooted beliefs if we do not catch them early.
We can’t place all blame on social media or magazines. We shouldn’t self blame for having diet culture talk all around us passed on from generations and sometimes engaging in it ourselves, but we can be aware of what we are saying and how it may mean more than what is on the surface of being said. “Going to walk off my big dinner.” “I won’t eat breakfast tomorrow because of last night.” “I’m on holiday next week so I’m ‘being good'”. Harmless for some. Harmful for others. Constantly we say these things. They’ve become our norm. Commenting when people lose or put on. I never forget one time I did that thinking somehow it was a compliment to the person and the reaction teaching me a valuable lesson. We may not know the why behind the gain or loss to rightfully assume which I had done. Of course this isn’t always the case and some may be fine but it can be contributing towards the same old narrative of beauty in relation to body image.
Body image issues can lead to eating disorders which can be fatal. Imagine your day to day thinking consumed by intrusive thoughts that rarely leave. Distorted images of body negativity filling your mind leaving little space for anything else. The control you think you may have is potentially you being controlled. It’s scary.
We have a lot of work to do. Body shaming is rife especially fat shaming. A lot of fat phobic people try to legitimise their shaming by saying lines such as: “Oh, it’s only because I care about their health.” What about their mental health? There’s not one without the other. Statistically diets don’t work. They don’t. They sell though. That’s for sure. We can’t tell things just by looking at someone. Just like the expression people love about bing kind because we never know what’s going on.
Here are some people I have found to be great educators around the topic that specialise in this field – my ultimate crush: Body Posi Panda – Megan Crabbe, Hope Virgo Dr Laura Thomas and Natasha Devon. These are some of my go to power women who talk coherently and frankly about the topic.
There’s common misconceptions eating disorders are all about food or body image. Sometimes it’s about control. Control we desperately seek at times. Control we would rather lose. Sometimes it’s about coping. Using something we need to nourish ourselves, comfort ourselves and sometimes using in not the best of ways.
Don’t assume when it comes to these things.
Every BODY deserves at least that respect.
For eating disorder support and info visit b-eat