Body image

PHOTOSHOP YOUR EATING DISORDER: It’s all about faking it till you make it

Photoshop and other editing software can actually help a person deal with body dysmorphia disorder or distorted thoughts about self. Hear me out.

I used to work as a primary therapist at facilities for women with eating disorders. Glossy fashion mags—where celebs are heavily Photoshopped—were considered contraband and taken away if found. This would leave the client annoyed and feeling ashamed for “idolizing the industry influencing her disease” and what not. I understood the good intentions but never fully bought into it. To me, this was such a paradoxical lesson we were teaching. Eating disorder therapists, medical doctors, loved ones, body-shaming vigilantes, and anyone who decides to speak on behalf of women dealing with hating their bodies should support and appreciate all forms.

Some of the women I used to work with did compare themselves to images in the illegal print they’d hide under their beds, but It is natural and healthy to strive to become our best or admire others who appear to have what we want. The part where it gets tricky is when these desires become unrealistic and overcome a person, sabotaging any initial good ideas. That, combined with a predisposed genetic makeup for mental illness, can lead to a deadly eating disorder acting as a poor coping skill. I’m talking about self-hatred combined with any one of the bullshit manifestations that can occur: Anorexia, binge-eating disorder (BED), bulimia, feeding or eating disorders not elsewhere classified (OSFED), body dysmorphic disorder, you pick. They all suck and are devastating when they transform what used to be a person’s innocent aspirations into a full-blown medical disease. These things can happen whether you’re looking at manipulated images of beautiful men and women or not; though it would be a hell of a lot easier treating patients if it were those glossy photos that caused eating disorders.

My sister died of complications from alcoholism and anorexia when her heart gave out May 22, 2002. (You can read more about this here.) I have also had my unfair share of anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, and what-the-hell-would-you-call-this? I’ve weighed anywhere from a gaunt 100 pounds to a plus-size 170 pounds as an adult. I joked with my therapist that I was a fat anorexic and a lazy bulimic because I never got thin enough. I always dismissed my health issues because my eating disorders never landed me in the hospital or seemed as severe as my sister’s or the clients I used to work with. But I was playing Russian roulette, and at the ripe age of 35-something, I am tired. I’m exhausted at weighing myself first thing in the morning, counting every single calorie, over exercising, obsessing about grocery lists and meal plans, berating myself every time my clothes feel too tight, pretending to be OK when I want to hurt myself, feeling so uncomfortable in my body that I want to either shrink and hide or scream at the top of my lungs! I’m humbled when I think of all the things I’ve missed out on because of my eating disorders. But although I’m worn out, I’m not depleted. I’ll never let my messed up interpretations of myself—and what those turn into—prevail.

I’ve recently gained weight and at times it’s almost unbearable. Desperate, impulsive thoughts of needing to do something to compensate for my “lack of willpower” or “disgusting behavior” pulls hard at me to repeat nasty habits. One of my tricks to avoid going there is gratitude. I look at old and recent pics where I look pretty good, if I do say so myself. Blushed-face and wide-eyed, I’ll admit that sometimes I take selfies and filter the F out of them. It’s fun. And it’s still me. I don’t post many of them, but I admire me. Behind that mask, that clouded technological screen, I’m still that little girl who is dreaming of becoming like Marilyn Monroe on a red carpet. And that’s cool; it’s not “buying into my disease” or tricking myself. It teaches me that I can also look in the mirror, with no makeup on and certainly no filters other than dirty glass, and feel the same. It’s a process. But you get there.

My point is that I’d rather wear a filter posted on social media than a fabricated smile in real life. I’ll gladly live my life in a Photoshopped existence and praise other Photoshopped people. I’d much rather do this than beat myself up over every flawed thing that I can find about myself. You be you and I’ll be me. There has always been smoke in the mirrors, every second a person decides on what they want to reveal. It is our cleanest internal filters that are the most beautiful. The ones that allow a person to be who they really are and net all the garbage talk they may be tempted to spew at themselves or others.

Behind every fake smile, Photoshopped image, squeaky-clean demeanor, perfect life, and person you’ve always wanted to be, there is truth. You should focus on your own exterior and love it, nurture it, believe in it, until you can do the same for your inner self. It’s all the same.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Barbie and the fashion industry cause eating disorders no more than the big dreams of little girls and boys wanting to be superheroes and princesses. My sister chose Star Wars over Barbie and look what happened to her! It’s mental health issues and the shit in the middle. It has nothing to do with vanity, striving for perfection, or wanting more out of life. In addition to good professional help (sadly, there’s a lot of bad), fake it till you make it until it’s the negative BS in your head that gets cropped out, and not your chance at living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

 

image courtesy of Pinterest @Marilyn Monroe

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Briohny Smyth and Yoga for Eating Disorder Treatment

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Jordan Shakeshaft’s Q&A with Briohny Smyth on dailyburn.com  is truly inspiring. Briohny shares how yoga was the starting point for her recovery after battling eating disorders for years.

Yoga helps people struggling with body image issues and eating disorders because practicing yoga gets people out of their heads and focused on balance, pose, breathing, and most importantly—the concept of “being one with nature”. Yoga also appropriately challenges someone dealing with poor body image to begin  acknowledging, feeling and seeing their bodies with positive regard. In yoga you learn to become aware of your breathing—our bodies provide us with life. Learning poses require you to discover and learn knew bodily sensations—our bodies deserve loving touch not self-harm. Yoga makes you sexy—our bodies are most desirable when they are healthy, strong and exude confidence 🙂

Read the Q&A with Briohny here.

 

 

Can Someone With an Eating Disorder Be in a Relationship?

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Calculating calories, avoiding situations where food will be present, obsessing about body image and isolating can make finding love pretty difficult. I cringe when I hear or read people personifying his or her eating disorder and referring to it as “Ana,” “Mia” or “Ed.” It personifies an eating disorder and perpetuates the idea of harboring a “relationship” with one’s eating disorder instead of experiencing intimacy with others. The feelings of unworthiness, depression, anxiety and crippling insecurities are what make it difficult to be in a healthy relationship; eating disorder behaviors, or maladaptive coping skills, offer the patient a reason not to participate or even try–it occupies his or her time.

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder (BED), and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) impair judgment, compromise health, lead to isolation or erratic behaviors, and are life threatening. Relationships affected by eating disorders can work if treatment, time and tolerance exist. However, more commonly these relationships are toxic because of destructive behaviors and enabled roles.

An adult’s unconscious attitude about unresolved issues can cause him or her to seek a partner that will fulfill the part of the person(s) who taught him or her at a young age a certain belief system. The person will find people that accord to this in order to trigger familiar feelings. For instance, if a young girl hears she has no chance at success because she isn’t smart enough, as an adult she may seek men who berate her in order to experience the familiar feelings associated with being “not smart enough,” thus, perpetuating negative coping skills.

One of the most difficult things for someone with an eating disorder to do is to be honest about what is really going on. It’s a genuine fear for someone who has been using an eating disorder as a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Until they know another way, their eating disorder serves a viable function in their life. In the beginning, alone, speaking the truth aloud can begin the journey of taking back one’s life. The next step is talking to a counselor or trusted adult. In addition, if enough courage and trust exist, talking to a significant other is necessary if there’s any hope for that partnership to evolve.

I knew a beautiful, smart woman who struggled with anorexia and bulimia. She had dated as a younger woman but eventually closed herself off from any opportunities to meet new people. “I trust him,” was the last journal entry that she shared with me. I think she was finally beginning to accept herself and trust others again, but years of anorexia and bulimia had compromised her health and she passed away that spring. The memory of her laughter provides a smile and that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you are in love. Therefore, I guess love and eating disorders can exist, just not happily here on earth.

MJ

Image: MorgueFile.com