Monday, March 5, 2012

On NEDA Week

This past week was Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and Active Minds (which I have definitely talked about before) as a national organization supported NEDA’s mission to raise awareness of the prevalence of, and health risks associated with, eating disorders.  This led to an interesting dialogue with one of my friends, whose first reaction (well, second, after he offered to buy me curly fries) was that he was tired of everyone saying that society is the problem.
(image credit: National Eating Disorders Association, 2009)

I mean, don’t get me wrong, society’s image of what people should look like is really screwed up.  The media does put up these generally-unattainable, Photoshop-happy photos and images of girls with waists the size of pill bottles and men with muscles larger than their heads.  And, fun fact, because these images are disseminated into society, these highly unrealistic expectations of normality ­become what people perceive as “normal.”  And, for the love of god, do not get me started on Barbie unless you want the same regurgitated list of fun facts about what a little girl’s first toy does to her sense of body image.

And yeah, the media’s presentation of body image has a lot to do with the development of eating disorders.  But it’s not like we deal with it exactly right either.  Because then the first response is always “you’re perfect just the way you are,” which is absolutely true for a lot of people.  But the United States IS facing an obesity epidemic, and that’s not healthy, either.  Obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and a whole other host of serious medical problems, and that’s not good.

The problem is that in both cases, the focus is on image and not health.  There are healthy and safe ways to lose weight, get in shape, build muscle mass, etc.  But the emphasis on the one hand is that those ways won’t have the same drastic change to your image that disordered eating or over-exercising will.  But on the other hand, emphasizing that everyone is perfect is again about an image.  All bodies are beautiful, I will absolutely agree – the human body is an amazing and beautiful thing, regardless of its size or shape.  But beauty and perfection aren’t the same thing.  But if you’re trying to change things about it, it should be because you want to be healthy, not because you want to look different.

A healthy mindset is all about loving your body because it’s YOUR body and it’s an absolute miracle regardless of how it looks…but loving your body means taking care of it, staying in shape, treating it right, and giving it what it needs.  I’m all for self-improvement, but only if it’s healthy.

Yours (with thighs that touch),
Rachel Leigh

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