Thursday 25 July 2013

No, success in life isn't about what you 'look like': why this report is so wrong...

I love Beat, the UK eating disorders charity, I really do - like most of my eating disorders network. Yet, yesterday, this report was brought to my attention. And, I can tell you, it's raised a few eyebrows amongst the eating disorder community so far. I am not the first person to blog or comment on it...

It is so wrong, on so many counts.

Despite their different sizes, these women look pretty near perfect - as if to say "You look perfect once you recover from an eating disorder".  And, just to make sure, we'll give you a spray tan, too. Because bodies without spray tans aren't quite so perfect...

Well, sorry, but not everyone looks perfect. Eating disorder or no eating disorder.

So people that haven't quite 'come up to scratch' for whatever reason... maybe, genetically, they have unusual body shapes, maybe they're post-menopausal like me and long to have a washboard stomach but know they haven't a hope in hell of achieving it, maybe they have surplus skin left from being huge while pregnant, also like me. Nothing short of surgery would sort out my problem - and I am sure that many, many women across the UK - post eating disorder or not - have this problem.

And when my well-meaning son, Ben, says: "But it doesn't matter what your belly looks like, mum, you're ancient - and dad loves you as you are", it does matter to me, and I mourn the body I used to have when I was 25, even if that body was 'engineered' to a certain extent through unusual eating patterns...

But I put it to one side and tell myself that there are more important things to think about than my 'middle', my growing wrinkles, my bingo wings or whatever. And, anyway, it's 'who' I am, not 'what I look like'.

Which isn't what this report conveys...

And just to go back to the paragraph above...

At 25 I went through a bulimic phase. I had already been through restricted eating phases since the age of 17. So the great body I had back then was 'engineered' to look great. If I'd left it to nature i.e. without food issues, then I would have been bigger.

Yet I looked good. Like the women in this photo. My point is that it doesn't convey what might be going on inside the person - a person might have an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship with food and yet look physically 'perfect' like any of these women.

And here's another thing...

I have a network of a hundred or so friends from across the world, some recovered eating disorder sufferers and others parents of eating disorder sufferers. I have only met a handful of these 'in the flesh'. I have no idea what they look like except for their Facebook photos, and even then the photos are sometimes disguised.

Yet they are all wonderful people, and I really really like and admire them.

Regardless of what they might look like in their bra and knickers.

And I know for a fact that some of the women I know don't look too great at the moment through illness and surgery.

Yet I don't like them any less.

If anything I like them more.

And, because of illness and surgery, they can't climb Everest or whatever else the report says that these women have done (as if to endorse that there's more going on in their lives to celebrate their recovery from an eating disorder than standing in front of a camera half naked and that, therefore, this justifies the camera shot and report).

So, please Beat, remove a report that implies that success is down to how you look at the end of the struggle, whatever your own personal struggle may be.

It isn't.

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