Thursday, February 26, 2015
NEDA Week Post #5: Are Eating Disorders Just a Desire to be Thin?
"It's nice to take lingerie out of the bedroom and just mix it up, give it a little twist." Pardon me, but that is what I just heard as I flipped television channels and stumble upon the 'Victoria's Secret Swim Special: Behind-the-Scenes' on CBS. The thin model on the screen flashed a grin and the camera panned out to give an all-too-revealing glimpse of her bikini-clad body.
And for the first time: I got it.
I now understand the anger of women across the nation, across the world, who look daily at these shows and ads and believe they don't measure up. I can't say I've ever paid too much attention, I've tried not to. But tonight: God has opened my eyes. I felt the gut-wrenching ache as I realized just how many young girls watch shows like this and see the ribs and bones of the Victoria's Secret models, only to feel inadequate and ugly as a result.
And I was angry.
I was angry for those women, for those girls. I was also angry at the models: How come they are allowed to be so unhealthy? I can't do that. I can't because it's unhealthy and as glamorous as it looks on the screen, it's not. Always being cold, getting bruises everywhere, being afraid of food, getting dizzy: None of it is worth it. But for some reason, these models get to go on national television and pretend like it is. (RELATED: Let's Talk About Eating Disorders)
Now do you see why I'm angry? I don't typically vocalize my distress in such a manner but I believe it's no coincidence that I flipped on the television this evening before I'd written my NEDA Awareness Post for the day. I believe that God is speaking through this, giving me a greater sense of compassion for the youth who are so susceptible to these messages. I am so grateful that I didn't really deal with it much. Though I felt pressured by the norms of athletes, I didn't pay much attention to the standards society has encroached upon us women. But it still subtly found its way in to my brain. And that leads to my topic for today's misconception about eating disorders: That it's all about body image. (RELATED: Beauty is Distinct)
I can't speak for everyone, but I didn't think beauty was too as a kid. I always considered myself average, not very pretty. But before you get all glassy eyed for poor little Hannah, understand this: I didn't care. I was way too busy running around in my bare feet, writing and reading, being a kid. Clearly, there were some deeper issues that I was dealing with, but a heightened focus on outer beauty wasn't one of them. (RELATED: Do You Think I'm Beautiful?)
Many people think that eating disorders are driven by social pressure to be beautiful. As I explained in Post #1, there is a proven neurological cause of eating disorders. One way to look at it is like there's a gun, a bullet and a trigger. The gun is the biological predisposition, the culture is the bullet. The trigger, on the other hand, can be a number of things (Lynne Grefe, CEO of NEDA).
For me, the trigger was my parents' divorce. That trigger can also be bullying, insecurity, social pressures, trauma, loss, a move or a severe crisis. The list goes on. The point is: Society is not the cause of eating disorders but it certainly does exacerbate them.
Eating disorders don't result from the desire to be thin, but the societal and cultural ideals that are in place often act as the tipping point. For me, it was only after I reached an unhealthy weight that I began to pay attention to the "ideals" in a greater way. But for others, the unhealthy images around them could be further up in the chain. I want to make it clear that I never desired to lose weight. That was no motivation. What I wanted was control and perfection. But the further I fell, the more I looked to the "ideal" images with a longing for such a life.
But here's the truth: Victoria's got no secret; nothing to hide. It's all flaunted across the worldwide web, across national television. We do. We have tremendous value that is not to be sold for a cheap profit or a quick self-esteem boost. If we know that these fake images and unhealthy "role models" can act as the bullet, why are we loading our guns so easily, allowing models to parade across our screens with bones protruding and faces hidden behind layers of makeup? (RELATED: You Can't Fly Solo)
Misconception number four is that society causes eating disorders. Nope. Not true. But it does act as the bullet. Now, here's the deal: In the whole equation (gun, bullet, trigger), what is it we have control over? Exactly.
So let's do something about it.
Post #1 for NEDA Awareness