February 21st to 28th was National Eating Disorders Awareness week. For a full seven days, health and wellness professionals around the world came together to raise awareness and global recognition on a debilitating group of illness that affect so many men and women.
By 2015, I thought we would have conquered the prevalence of eating disorders in the Western world. Instead, its prevalence grows alongside the quest for unrealistic ideals of perfectionism.
In the end, it’s our humanity that is at stake. We continue to lose sight of ourselves as shining examples of the beauty of individuality. We replace our uniqueness with the ideal of a ‘perfect self’ that was never really ours to begin with.
I have suffered with disordered eating for many years.
It was both a dirty little secret and a cool club of insiders—all at the same time. And here's why: we live in a CULTure where white Nordic European standards of beauty reign supreme.
No one without serious will power and a glam team can ever live up to the impossible beauty standard set so many years ago. An airbrushed image of perfection has become the standard to which all of us, regardless of size and colour, are measured up against.
According to body image and eating disorder specialist Dr. Linda Smolak, Ph.D., "The average woman is 5-foot-4 and weighs 140 pounds. The average model is 5-foot-11 and weighs 117 pounds.” This makes most fashion models thinner than 98 percent of American women.
This ideal of perfection has contaminated all of us.
We all are unhappy with some aspect of ourselves—and for most of us, it’s centered on our bodies. How can you not be obsessed with how you look when you are constantly being told to lose weight?
We are a culture obsessed with self-improvement and acquisition. We never seem to have enough material possession and nothing is ever good enough just as it is—especially not our bodies.
These messages are easily internalized, and somehow, it always seems easier to believe the worst about ourselves rather than celebrating the positives. We have been conditioned to want more, to do more, and to never settle for less.
An ideal body, created by marketing gurus, is sold back to us as the key to happiness and success. What’s funny is even those we think have the ideal body type are never happy either. It’s the classic story about the miserable lottery winner whose happiness never did improve, even after the windfall.
We are always trying to fix something, and it needs to stop.
I’ve just returned from an event in Baltimore, Maryland at the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. This healthcare facility is dedicated to teaching people how to battle their way back from disordered eating.
While there, I shared my story of holding on to my life by my fingernails as I battled against disordered eating that threatened to consume me. I shared my story of never feeling worthy or loved because I didn't look a certain way.
What I saw before me were men and women as young as 10 years old, struggling desperately to find a way out of their own disordered eating. I saw people trying to connect with their bodies in a culture were weight loss and extreme fitness is rewarded with acceptance and approval.
We are all seeking acceptance—just as we are.
The push to look a certain way erases our ability to connect with our own bodies and minds and threatens our ability to connect with each other.
Not all diets and weight loss schemes end with eating disorders, but all eating disorders do start with a diet: the diet that teaches you that you are not good enough. What if we shifted our thinking and redefined enough? What if we started to believe: I am enough, I have enough, and I do enough?
Through my own disordered eating, National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and my experience at Sheppard Pratt, I have been reminded that we, as individuals, have the power to heal this culture by changing our way of thinking.
Recovery is possible.
I have learned to no longer participate in activities that diminish our collective human spirit. I urge you to boycott advertising, blogs, and media that disparage us. I challenge you to stop supporting entities that disempower us.
Join me in speaking up against this social injustice. Join me in practicing self-care and self-love through spiritual practices.
Let us all practice Ahimsa (Non-violence) and Satya (Truthfulness), so that we can all find Santosha (Contentment). Our actions single-handedly have the power to shift global consciousness, and I urge you to choose wisely. It's time to take back our lives.
We have so much more to offer the world than our physical appearance. It’s time we believed this as true. ~Dianne Bondy
What kind of world do you want your children and your future generations to live in?
Do you want them to live in a world that celebrates the uniquely precious gift you created, or do you want them to inherit a world that screams at them day after day to do more, to try harder and to keep chasing an unachievable, unrealistic ideal of self-worth?
I’m asking you to think, speak, and act as if our collective humanity depends on it—because it does.