Our walls of “perfect” bodies need to come down…
Graciously re-posted from Gurze Publications: A while back, Tom and I took our spring break to travel to the East coast and present Andrea’s Voice where we were invited. We spoke to packed rooms, evidence of the desire for more information on eating disorders. After speaking at a university in New York, I received an email from an audience member. She thanked us for our informative and moving talk and then went on to speak to the body obsessions so common among college-aged women.
This young writer admitted that although she was of normal size and weight, she “definitely want[ed] to be smaller.” She explained that she and her roommate have a wall in their dorm room dedicated to photos cut out of magazines of bodies they see as “perfect.” Our talk made her consider taking them down. Yet she felt ashamed to admit that she hadn’t yet removed these ‘bodies to aspire to’ because she still “want[s] to look like those girls.”
Your struggle with taking down the posters in your room is understandable…we do not change overnight. I can tell you that there is a lot of research that shows the detrimental affects of the images in magazines: after a mere 20 minutes of looking at these photos, our self-esteem drops and we begin to feel badly about our own bodies.(1) I can also tell you, with complete confidence, that the girls in those photos do not even look like that. Check out this video on YouTube.
I went on to suggest that she may want to explore, with a skilled therapist, the question: What is going on in my life that causes me to be unable or unwilling to look at what’s making me want to change my body?
With honesty and guidance, you may discover that it is not your body or what you are eating that is the problem but instead “what’s eating you.”(2) You may think nothing is bothering you, but what I have discovered personally is that when I think I must change something on the outside it’s ALWAYS because there’s something bothering me on the inside–I just haven’t wanted to admit it or face it. Focusing on my body takes up a LOT of time, therefore, I do not have time to feel or experience the uncomfortable fears, self-doubts (or whatever) that are nagging at me. That’s my experience.
It takes more than one impassioned presentation to convince others that their walls of “perfect” bodies need to come down. Again and again we need to model how this is done.
Until next time,
(1) Field AE, Cheung L, Wolf AM, Herzog DB, Gortmaker SL, Colditz GA. Exposure to the mass media and weight concerns among girls. Pediatrics, 1999, vol. 103, no. 3, p. e36
(2) Portion of a quote from Amy Baker Dennis, eating disorder expert. The entire quote, “Sometimes it’s not ‘What you are eating’ that matters, it’s ‘What’s eating you?’ and ‘How are you dealing with it?’”