This week marks the annual week of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week – A week which really shines a light on these serious mental illnesses, which affect at least 725,000 people of all ages, genders and backgrounds in the UK. In my eyes, this week should be no different from any other, every week should raise awareness of Eating Disorders – and all mental illnesses in that case. But since this week is especially delegated to this topic and it’s a subject I hold very close to my heart, I think its very important that a post is wrote.
My head is swimming with so many thoughts I wish to scribble down and punch into my keyboard, however I am aware that no matter how many alphabetical digits I formulate into words, nor how much time I spend trying to emphasise the messages behind this post, I have very little power in generating an epidemic of self-love when I am up against one of the largest stigmatizing boards currently known to man: the Media. Nevertheless, I am going to do my utmost best in reaching out to every single living being and making them aware of just how beautiful and amazing they are; both inside AND out, regardless of their shape and size. I’m up against a tough competition, but I have every faith that one day Eating Disorders will be beaten, and I will live to see that day. There is simply no such thing as fighting a losing battle, for these mental illnesses have inflicted far too much pain and agonising torture in their lifespan and now it’s time to build an army and defeat them once and for all. So, whose with me on this one?
It’s been precisely 235 days since I took to the skies and skydived for Beat, the UK’s leading Eating Disorder charity. It’s fair to say I’m pretty eager to rise above the clouds and fly again, but more importantly continue with my underlying aim of raising awareness of Eating Disorders and the work this amazing charity does.
I find it pretty hard to believe that, in 2017, we still use models with protruding skeletons, masked with layers of make-up to disguise any facial blemish and freckle and then
photoshopped, digitally modified into some kind of indefectible idealism to be then identified as perfection. Not only is this perfection cast out to be real, but it is imitated to be attainable. This distorted and fraudulent portrait, which is impossible to achieve is being drip-fed, drop by drop and fuelling the stigmatization associated with Eating Disorders. How is it that, in 2017, we can communicate with the rest of the globe at the touch of a button, speak to someone over thousands of miles away, start cars with our phones, have aeroplanes which fly themselves, and can even travel to the moon and back, but we can’t accept that ‘perfectionism’ is not and should not be a real thing. Why can’t we live in a society which is barren from always striving for perfection? A society which is measured by the size of someones heart and what they bring to the world. A society which is founded on self-love and acceptance, where equality and affirmation is granted within each and every second and where people are encouraged to embrace themselves for who they are rather than who they are not. Whatever happened to looking deeper than physical appearance? Where popularity is not based upon the number of likes or followers one receives but on the purity of their soul and the depths of their love.
Where did we go wrong? Where along the road did society become oblivious to the damage it is inflicting? I simply do know have the answer to these questions, but I do know one thing for sure and that is that it must end. I came across an article yesterday, titled “Shock Diet: Lose 30lbs in 15 Days”. Now, instantly I knew that a) this so-called ‘diet’ would not be healthy, b) It would involve extreme restriction, starvation and/or excessive exercise and c) It definitely would not be sustainable. But to a young, innocent minded adolescent whose only goal is to ‘be accepted’ and ‘fit in’ in a perfectionist and appearance orientated society – she would grab this opportunity without undue thought. With a little deeper reading, the “shock” diet behind this unhealthy sudden weight loss was called “The Snow White Diet”. A diet plan consisting of eating only apples and apple based products. Within reading the first two lines of this stomach-turning article I felt sick to my stomach at how wrong and harmful this so called diet had even been allowed to pass as a published article. Not only are we being compelled left-right and centre with articles and fad diets, but the fashion industry has now jumped on the bandwagon, selling clothing items as seen on the left; ‘”Am I skinny yet?”‘. Because ‘skinny’ is beautiful right? Where are the vests encouraging young girls to feel confident in and embrace their bodies? ‘Skinny’ is not something to be glamorised. It should not be used as an attainable goal, it should not be portrayed as beautiful. It is a dangerous adjective which encourages young people to achieve a state of body and mind which they know as ‘beauty’ and adopt dangerous habits to achieve this. This is not a lifestyle and has fatal consequences on both the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual.
“Your body hears everything your mind says. Stay positive and speak kindly to yourself.”
The plague of the hashtag #thighgap which has recently infested social media platforms like a virulent influenza and the rise of TV advertisements promoting diet pills and medication to aid weight loss and reduce calorie intake from fats, sugar and complex carbohydrates, are only contributing to this endemic. Are these rampant waves really encouraging young people to love and care for their bodies? Are they promoting healthy means of weight loss? Or are they provoking negative body image and planting the seeds for the development of an eating disorder?
“Beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.”
Is it really any wonder that 78% of young adolescent girls are unhappy with their bodies? That 4 out of 5 children are afraid of being ‘fat’? That 80% of ten-year-olds have tried some sort of diet? That only 4% of women around the world consider themselves as beautiful? That the #1 Magic Wish for young girls aged 11-17 is to be thinner? That 25% of young adolescent boys and men suffer from an eating disorder yet are less likely to seek treatment because of the perception that they are “women diseases“.
That 20% of sufferers with eating disorders die as a direct result of their illness?
These statistics are taken directly from recently published research studies and journals. There is so much stigma behind these illnesses within the media, yet they are a serious mental illness with the highest morality rate of any mental illness. Eating disorders are more than just the ‘desire’ to be thin. They are deeper than what is visible on the surface and they are NOT something to be ashamed of. They are a taboo topic which needs to be spoken about more.
For how many diagnoses will it take for society to realise that the glamorization of the perfectionist ordeal is simply fuelling so many vulnerable humans into constant body shaming and hating their bodies? What will it take to make people realise that they are more than a body, more than a number on the scales and a gap between their thighs?
Now moving away from the synopsis, and more to what I am determined to inspirit: a contagion of SELF-LOVE, because loving yourself is the greatest revolution mankind can offer. Do not allow your own mind to bully your body, stop comparing yourself to others. You are YOU, nobody else could be you even if they tried to be. You are unique, powerful and beautiful. Love and accept yourself just the way you are, release any feelings of self-hate that you once held for yourself. Accept all the mistakes you have made in your life and forgive yourself for them. No longer feel the need to criticise yourself for them. Replace all negative words that you use to describe yourself with positive words. Be patient with yourself. Love your body and treat it with respect. Let go of any insecurities you have ever felt about yourself. You are strong and empowered. You are beautiful. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. You have a burning energy source inside of you and you are worthy of all things wonderful. Release any self-sabotage that holds you back from living your life to its greatest potential. No longer judge yourself. You are not a victim. Take great care of yourself and your body, spirit and mind. Take this journey of healing one day at a time. Love the person that you are as well as the person you are becoming. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. Learn from every experience that you have, whether it be positive or negative. You only know the light because you have experienced the dark. Without the muddy water, the brilliant Lotus Flower would never be. Whenever there are shadows, there must be sunlight. Therefore you can always find the light amongst the darkness. All aspects of your life are harmonious and balanced. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. Everyday the sun sets, it leaves behind luminous colours. Those colours are the suns promise of a new day to come. Be grateful for every sunrise as it means that you have another day to make a positive difference in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Start each day with a positive intention and only send out love into the future of your day. Live with inspiration. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. Float peacefully with the current flow of your life. Do not try to swim against it. You may be a sensitive being but that does not mean that you are weak. You are like water – strong, soft and graceful. If there is ever a time when you feel vulnerable because you have found yourself in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, you have the ability to shield yourself from harsh and negative energy. Visualise yourself being covered in a protective glow of white light. You can choose who to let into this light, therefore you can choose whether or not to give people the power of your heart. You are protective of your own mind, body and heart. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. You are wide awake. Your heart is open to receive all the love that this abundant universe has to give. Live in a state of gratitude, knowing that you are perfectly designed, whole and healthy. You are able to find peace in all areas of your life. See yourself and everyone else through eyes of love, compassion and equality. Repeat after me: I am beautiful. I radiate unconditional love and light.
Life is way too short to spend another day at war with yourself. Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. Don’t skimp on that pizza if your body desires that pizza. Don’t think your worth is any less because you skipped a days workout. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying a slice of cake on your birthday – or any occasion for that matter. Love your body, take care of it and treat it well, after all it is the only place you have to live for the entirety of your lifespan.
If you’re worried about anybody who may be suffering from an eating disorder, or are suffering yourself, talk to someone. Speak to a family member or a friend you trust to help you; get in contact with your local GP; or you would prefer to speak to somebody anonymously there are a number of helplines which are free to call. Here are just a couple:
Just please don’t suffer in silence, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. You are not alone, you can fight this and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get your life back, I promise you.
“YOU, yourself, as much as anyone else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ~ Buddha.