Eating disorders can be triggered by a number of factors and they’re different for every sufferer. I feel that the media is one of the most unhelpful influences and the mainstream representation of body image can be seriously damaging, particularly for young women. Magazines, adverts, billboards are constantly telling us that we need to look a certain way and imply that if we don’t match this ‘ideal’ body then we are the outsiders in society and need to change our ways to achieve the picture perfect body.
This can be a huge knock for your self confidence. Comparing ourselves to others can lead to anxiety and can trigger the negative thoughts that lead to disordered eating. I can certainly say that this was a trigger for me. Comparing myself to others became an unhealthy obsession. One of the most frustrating aspects was seeing friends who I thought of as ‘slim’ eating whatever they wanted, including foods that I deemed as ‘bad’, and doing little exercise. Why did I not look like them when I was restricting myself from these ‘bad’ foods and going to the gym every day? It just didn’t make sense. I’m not fond of looking at photographs of myself; I always compare my body to those around me and want what someone else has. There are times when I see photos of myself and get angry if I think I look fat when I know I’d eaten well that day and been for a run. It’s not fair. Friends may disagree and say you look lovely but when the negative thoughts descend it’s difficult to see past them. When I’m at my lowest I stop listening to people and the reflection in the mirror warps into something else. This is a constant battle and often one of the most difficult things to convey to others. It’s much harder to overcome than just looking in the mirror and telling yourself you look good. It’s learning that the problem isn’t your body; it’s how you are viewing your body.
I find it a challenge not to compare myself to other girls at the gym, flaunting their toned bodies in tight Lycra pants and sports bras. In an open plan gym it’s tricky to block them out of view completely, so I’ve found it helpful to inwardly focus on my workout and what I can achieve in the next hour because I go to the gym for me and no one else. After a workout it’s important to remember: my body did this and that’s incredible!
An inspiring moment occurred when a friend said she wished she had one of my body features. Really? You want to look like me? I had always focused on other people’s bodies and never considered that it could work both ways. Without a doubt, people look at you and long for your long curly hair, your curves, your eyes or your confidence. Don’t let the eating disorder tell you that you’re not beautiful because you most definitely are. Celebrities in magazines and on TV spend hours in hair and makeup, their designer clothes are handpicked for them and their photo shoots are airbrushed. A friend always tells me, “yes, they are beautiful, but you’re beautiful too.” There’s no tick boxes dictating what beauty looks like; it’s found on the inside as much as the outside. Anyway, how boring would it be if we all looked the same? We are all different shapes and sizes and that’s what makes us unique.
As Ed Sheeran says (and we all know Ed is a fountain of wisdom):
“Life is more than fitting in your jeans” (What Do I Know ÷ )