February 27, 2014
Love your body: is this an eating disorder issue?
Is "love your bacteria" or "love asymmetry" a reasonable campaign for OCD?
Or "love reality" for those suffering from psychosis?
How about "don't worry, be happy" for major depression?
Not only is "love your body" something that society doesn't expect from itself, but it seems particularly unfeeling to associate with a mental illness that makes living in one's skin so terribly difficult. It's insulting, really, and trivializing to extreme distress.
I get it, I really do -- as a feminist and a parent and a person -- that positive messages are, well, positive. But since people with eating disorders, a mental illness, did not choose to feel unwell in their bodies is it fair to set that as a standard?
Does "loving" our bodies help prevent, treat, or comfort those with eating disorders?
The evidence for prevention is not there. Ditto for treatment.
I'll tell you where it does seem to be positive, however. As a parent caregiver I do want the environment around patients to be nonjudgmental of appearance and neutral about weight. I do find it horrifying to see families and patients surrounded by a toxically body-shaming culture when they are coping with recovery. Relapse prevention is hampered by mixed messages as well.
But I don't think this is limited to families facing eating disorders. I want that for ALL children, from and for ALL of us. Making this issue about eating disorders not only confuses people about the disorders but it makes ED patients seem "oversensitive" and as if they need a bubble of artificial protection. ED is a mental illness. We don't ban cleanser commercials for fear of "triggering" those with OCDs because there is nothing wrong with cleansers. There IS something wrong with diet marketing. There IS something wrong with fat-shaming (Biggest Loser, anyone?). There is NOTHING good about surrounding children with fat jokes, teasing, objectification of women's bodies, bullying of boys over their physique, rating people's attractiveness, or spending more than a sliver of our day caring about appearance of any kind.