“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
I have given myself a day before writing this post, largely due to the fact that yesterday, I suspect my hurt and outrage would've overcome and ability I had to form a coherent and explanatory post about this subject, also, it gave me more chance to think about it all. I shall begin with an incident. I am in my local area, I have set myself the task of going to get something to eat, sitting with my iPad and, well, eating it. Sounds simple? I was shaking. I chose a large, inoffensive coffee shop that I know should be ok. I got a soup and a salad, figuring I could have half of each. Or, if one were too overwhelming, swap one for the other. I went upstairs, as I knew this particular establishment had a large seating area upstairs, where I hoped I would be least ambiguous. I chose a nice, large table in a corner, where I figured I could sort of huddle away and get on with my task. I sat down and set myself up. It was at that point I noticed the group of youths (oh God, I'm only 21, did I really just say that?) At least one of them went to my old senior school, I only knew this because of her uncanny resemblance to an older sibling. Said girl lent in to her friends and said something, tilting her head back at me. They all tried to subtly look, at which point she scolded them for all looking at once. I sat,in what had a few minutes ago felt like a safe,enclosed, table area, suddenly feeling like a caged freak at a circus. I was embarrassed and upset and angry. Yes, I set myself up for this kind of thing with this blog most probably, however, one would think that if people recognised the crazy girl with the eating disorder, they would perhaps have enough sense to not make a spectacle of her when she is about to attempt to eat. As it was, my meal was completely hijacked by fear and upset. The soup did not get opened. The salad got separated, carefully and meticulously in typical anorexic fashion. I tried to be subtle, but I was shaking, close to tears, with the horrible horrible anorexic monster sitting across from me grinning and saying "see, you're a freak,whatever you do, you are a freak". Now, I'm sure the group had no idea of the consequences of their actions, but it got me thinking about the way all that we do can be a hell of a lot more damaging than we could predict.
I've been in close discussion with the GDST (girls day school trust) about their approach to Eating Disorders within schools. It's been really interesting, working with 2 women who work within the trust, myself, and the writer Emma Woolf (I got a bit overexcited). One of the projects we've been looking into bringing into schools is the idea of 'fat talk free week'. The concept is American, conjured up by the sorority Tri Delta, and bloody hell, it's a good one. It's become ok, in fact, a sort of ritual, for us to bash ourselves, our bodies, and one and other in the process. It is used to bond us. "Do I look fat in this?" "Oh my God, I feel obese", "God, she's gained a LOT of weight", "Wow, she's slimmed down, she looks so much better". Now, with each of these statements, these simple throw away statements, I want you to consider the message you are reinforcing. That looking a certain way is bad. By bashing your own weight, you are sending the message that you do not look 'right'. Think of the knock on effect this has? Your friend, of a similar size, may begin to doubt that she looks ok. Your child may start to cut carbs. We spend so much time bashing the media for their part in the 'epidemic of eating disorders', but really, sometimes, we must step back and realise that we ourselves are promoting unrealistic beauty ideals every single time we bash ourselves, our peers, or even, hale those who loose weight. Fair enough encouraging those who need to eat better for their HEALTH, but that goes both ways. Maybe ask if someone is FEELING better, fitter, next time you notice a change. I am not saying screw dresses, makeup, heels, because I love all of these things, I am saying, think about the repercussions of your words. Consider the connotations everything to escape your mouth can have. Love each other and judge each other for more than just how we look. Eating disorders are NOT all to do with how we look. A few people around me didn't say they were feeling fat and I decided not to eat. I have been in a sad state for a long time and decided that starvation was my form of self harm. I chose to try to disappear in a World that was all too much. Slowly and delicately I wanted to fade away. There was, however, a reason it was so easy at first. In our society, a person losing weight (who, may I add was healthy in body), was praised, my determination and 'self control' were heralded and envied at first, until suddenly, I was too thin and it was dangerous. Avoiding carbs at the age of 13, 14, however old, is not seen as totally out of the ordinary. Ordering a 'skinny latte' is 'normal'. All these things, these habits, rituals, all of it, have their connotations. Think about it. Consider it all. I will too.
Here's a video from Tri Delta. We're hoping to bring the week into GDST schools, or something similar. Do you guys have any other suggestions of what may be helpful within schools?
Thank you and enjoy the sun xxx
*NB- To the girls who were out yesterday, I want to clarify, I really am not angry with you. Every day I come up against adversity, a blip, the tiniest thing can send me into a spiral (that's the nature of the beast). You've in NO way done something that is out of the ordinary for anyone, nor did I think it was spiteful or malicious. That was sort of what I was trying to get at in my explanation of fat talk and the work i've been doing with the GDST. I am 100% guilty of things too. It is my OWN insecurities that lead a minor incident to worry me so much and plunge me into a spiral. My goodness, anorexia is a monster that will use any excuse to tell you not to eat. A day at an ED clinic can have you watching a perfectly rational conversation taking place about how someone cannot eat this meal as they have been given the wrong fork. I simply used yesterday to exemplify what we all do all the time, something which i've been discussing with the GDST, and how to help one and other over come it. I do it too. I promise. You have in NO WAY made my eating disorder worse, nor have you set my recovery back 500 miles. These things are sent to try us and they do really. I was very tactless in using such an obvious situation as an example and do not wish to cause any upset.