I’ve been reading a TON of theory about the link between OCD and eating disorders. Like I said a few times it’s interesting to really be smarter than your disorders but not being able to seperate yourself from them. I’m kind of a strange person because I will bypass feel-good stories, fiction or even happy non-fiction to read literature focused on theory or hard-challenging history. I’ll also bypass or disregard videos people send me about cats or cows [I love them both dearly] to watch a video made by a black creator explaining white privilege I didn’t think about before. I guess I have always liked learning and being challenged more so than being comforted.
My art is also fueled by history, theory, and including more fact-based resources as references. In fact, currently my friends and I are reading “Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi. It’s a HARD read, but one I love very much. Not because the content is pleasant, because it most definitely is not – but I love following the footnotes, learning history, being introduced to other challenging reads, and then changing either my verbiage, my behavior, my viewpoints or the way I think about the world. I hate change in every capacity, but change in myself is always one I have welcomed with open arms.
Any ways, in that same capacity of learning I have been reading many theoretical books about ED and OCD and how they manifest together. I’ve learned a lot even within this past week and when I am having mental breakdowns the science feels … calming? Most of us who deal with any type of disorder or mental struggle are fully aware that other people struggle with this but that doesn’t help us or make us just suddenly stop feeling the way we do because we know we have a community. Most studies I’ve read say that the Western world [us] don’t even classify micro-managing our meals, bodies, calories and gaining obsessions about it as abnormal. Societal encouragement really just keep this circle of obsession going, which is what this specific writing is about.
Eventually I’ll write quite a long piece of literature with references and a full on theoretical perspective of how I think society perpetuates these disorders, but for now, you get my personal take.
A few different pieces of art I have in mind have to do with the ‘before and after’ layouts as well as the selfies in the mirror with captions that discuss confidence. Both of these are LOADED images with much more than the text provides. I discussed briefly my own personal before and afters, and I will dive into that a bit more later on, but what I really want to discuss is the selfie of the girl who just lost 15-30 pounds who posts an image of themselves [looking great tbh] in the mirror with a crop top, skinny jeans, and a smile on their face. This to me is where the lines of disorder and dedication can cross. It’s not like that person didn’t work their ass off [literally] to take this photograph and post it, and it’s not like it should be shamed either. I made it to the point where I too, posted a photo, discussed how proud I was of myself, smiled into the camera and genuinely felt happy or .. somewhat happy. Because of how our culture is set up, even when we reach our goal we set another one because we still are blindsided by our ‘flaws’ that aren’t up to fitness model perfection.
So, the point of this post. So what are you endorsing? Here is my problem with these photos that I can actually evaluate on now that I am 5 years older than that girl in the photo before you. Most of the time [and I say most because there is a body positive movement happening all around social media that does include women getting over their eating disorders that promote happiness in your own skin disregarding weight] the people posting these photographs have just lost a ton of weight and are at the thinnest they have ever been. Recently I have seen several posts from women that I adore that put up a recent photograph of them with a caption like this, “c o n f i d e n c e… I used to be that girl that would change a million times before going out, I used to hate who I was. I used to not feel good anywhere or anytime I went out because …” and it goes on. Now there are two ways to digest this paired text and image – I am going to dive into them both.
- The way the fitness industry and any proud person would read this is confidence was gained. Through working out, dieting, self control and dedication this person overcame their hate for themselves. They set their mind to a goal, worked hard, and achieved it. Honestly, it’s almost not even enough just being thin any more, the new ‘sexy’ is toned or strong, which is far more unachievable or much harder work than just being thin. But yes, this should be rewarded unless we are doing very harmful things to our bodies [which honestly is most of the time].
- The second way to read this is quite the opposite. Yes this person worked hard, yes they disciplined themselves, yes they may have found confidence, but why? They are posting this image at the thinnest they have ever been, the strongest they have ever been, the most composed body they have ever created and although that is in fact hard work, it doesn’t leave the true fact that self worth is yet again found in the body and its size. So what is being endorsed? That size, composition and self discipline is the way to happiness.
Now, I am pretty indifferent two both of these angles, because I am and was fixated on one of them being true, but the other angle of it is also very true. We’ve created this society that literally sells men and women programs on quick 21-day fixes, as if everyone needs to be fixed, or before and afters that really just have a second image with pants that go above the hips instead of cutting circulation off and placing the pant line underneath them, and finally we have ‘boot camps’ being sold through every pyramid scheme that will lead you to the body you’ve always dreamed of. We’ve really began to blur that line between “is this dedication or is this obsessive disorder?” but one thing for sure is, it’ll lead you to c o n f i d e n c e.
I’m not really sure of any way that can fix this perpetual cycle. I don’t think it’s right to tell people they cant share their journey when they lose weight or get healthy and are proud of themselves. I also don’t believe in someone posting a photo about self confidence when they are seriously harming themselves with extra amount of weight [and I’m being radical here, Im talking about people who are 600 pounds, not 100 pounds over their encouraged weight]. Don’t mistake my words, I think balance in both areas is needed for a diverse group of people discussing health. Specifically people who are making good changes but also realize that the composition isn’t their worth. In fact I admire and LOVE celebrities like Lizzo and her entire instagram presence. That woman spews confidence, makes you look at her natural body and promotes healthy vegan eating all in one and i am here for it. But there is a problem with women who have never been fat [I relate to this sentence a whole lot] who constantly discuss how fat they were, and how happy they are now because they are at a size that is getting close to the unrealistic and unmaintainable ideal [unless you got specific genetics] but are just now seeing happiness because their self worth is so fixated on their body weight, size and composition.
So this post is more of a self – critique. It’s one that I have been diving into a lot when thinking about my past and where I am at currently. There isn’t a right or wrong to this idea, but I think being self aware is something that is important moving forward, especially for me as I try to override everything I have ever known with diet, my body and what it means to actually be happy in your skin.