I don’t imagine this will be an easy post to write. Usually I write pretty quickly as I just type what’s in my head. I wonder if I’ll publish this post or whether I just need to write. Or whether I’ll send it to the author who inspired me. Who knows?
Most of you know I sparingly write about my battle with a couple of ED’s or ‘disordered eating’ sometimes I refer to it as. Hey, I can barely even type the words. I’ve carried more shame and self stigma with them than I ever had for anxiety and depression. I’m still not even there yet – to be fully open and maybe I never will be. Here’s some baby steps though as I know it can help others. I’m giving it a go. For any other of those ‘half in the closet’ type people suffering, this one’s for you.
Earlier this year I was in group CBT (cognitive behavioural) therapy course for an ED I still can’t even admit to (note – my language is wrong here, there’s nothing to ‘admit’ – there shouldn’t be shame – I still have a long way to go). I thought parts of it helped but after reading the incredible book from Megan Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda – I really wish my group and I were enlightened to the ‘body positivity’ movement as part of this supposedly healing and helpful process. I sincerely think body positivity should be acknowledged and even the community consulted upon when designing these seemingly non co-produced (sooooo important – big believer in the power of lived experience expertise) courses that are prescribed to ED sufferers. This is my opinion, of course. Also based on a group for a specific ED so I can’t talk for all!
I was scepticle about the concept I’m not going to lie. I look at a few ‘BOPOs’ (Body Positivity peeps) on social media and I think wow. Go them. They’re awesome. I’m not them, though. I’ll jump on that wagon when I get to a physical place I want to be. Low and behold there’s a whole chapter in Megan’s book titled ‘I’ll do it 10 pounds from now’. It was really educational on diet culture and how for so many years it’s been deeply ingrained and dictated to us how (especially women) we should look. Body positivity promotes self love at any size. At any health status. The latter being really important actually and something I think being new to it quite a few people may struggle with. We’ve been taught ‘Health’ = looking a certain way. As our outsides represent our insides. Wrong.
Pre BOPO judgemental me would not get to grips with that latter part. I was guilty of, “but surely that’s not healthy”. BOPO teaches and preaches that we are ALL worthy (and damn straight we all are) of self love. Life’s too short. So many judgements are made and myself included have a long way to go with adjusting that mind set. There’s definitely a few influences that has shaped mine and I’m sure there are many in common with what may have shaped yours.
I’ve struggled with eating distortions since the age of 13 as I wrote about for B-eat eating disorder charity here.
There are times I’ve also loved my body. Not for the right reasons though. People often comment on my shape – “Hourglass.” “Lovely and curvy ‘but not too much’.” “Suits you because you are tall.” I grew up thinking these were nice things. When actually, my body can be whatever it wants to be. I don’t have to scrutinise what I eat. Restrict. Binge or exercise for the purpose of a ‘figure’ that is built for others or my own false sense of approval. My body does more than represent the way I look. It looks after me. It enables me. It functions. It holds organs. I am aware my weight fluctuates and like the book says – we all have a rough set point weight we end up being around naturally and it’s okay. Whatever that is. Except I’ve been taught to think it’s not okay. I’ve had comments about it. I look ‘well’ if I’ve lost weight. I ‘need to lose’ when I put on. Well, no, actually. I don’t need to do anything except accept. Accept me for me.
As a girl, correction, woman, who only months ago ran up to a family member tears at the rim of her eyes, sharing that I hate my body so much I have to cover it with all the duvet even when I’m hot and bloated when I’m in bed because I don’t want to, correction, can’t bare the thought of seeing it or even feeling it, I can say that BOPO is important. It is needed. And that EDs are real. They are mental illnesses that deserve to be taken seriously. It’s not always about body image. It can be so many things and people need to educate themselves. As the girl who is in awe of some of the way people in her circle are open with their body, getting changed without leaving a room. Wearing things I didn’t think we could/should because media tells us only certain shapes should wear those. I’ve never thought I could have that freedom. As the girl who was fixated on the eating habits of others around her because an ED controlled most her thoughts. As the girl who is definitely not there yet but strives to be and will try and retrain her mindset.
I urge you to think before you judge or speak about the physical appearance of someone else. Or your own for that matter.
There’s enough shit in this world without us having to go around putting down others based on the twisted messages from media giants and passed down negative and unrealistic ‘ideals’ from older generations.
Here’s to BOPO and body autonomy.