If I have a flagship specialization, eating disorders is it. Having spent my early adulthood overcoming anorexia and bulimia, I then pursued an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies. This deepened my understanding of what influences body image and self worth in this culture – not only for girls and women, but for people of all genders. Finally, with a masters degree in counselling honing all-important clinical skills, I am well qualified to help in this area.
Sometimes people think eating disorders are purely physical, but there is more to them than that:
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are physical, mental, and spiritual afflictions that find expression through the physical body.
Though it is individuals who struggle, our culture sets the stage for eating disorders to arise. Advertisers and media are but two institutions that profit from the manufacture of insecurity and the fantasy of perfection. Unrelenting messages might lead one to conclude that there is some way to ‘get it right’ or, at the very least, that they are somehow getting it wrong.
As the cultural conversation presently stands, perfection is a losing game. One can never be good enough, and the goal posts always move.
Why? For one thing, our preoccupation with personal imperfection keeps us consuming stuff to ‘fix’ ourselves; at the same time, it consumes us. To recognize this – and engage with it critically – is a major step in reclaiming the power that eating disorders rob from people’s lives. It’s the difference between being in a behaviour, and being aware of a behaviour. Awareness creates distance between us and the problem.
The picture above speaks well to the experience of eating disorders. This is not an accurate depiction of the person; it is their reflection, distorted through a puddle of rainwater. On the bright side, however, sun follows rain and brings rainbows, and so it is with the struggle:
Hidden behind puzzling, sometimes bizarre behaviours is the brilliant self – beautiful, constant, and waiting to dazzle.
In addition to one-on-one counselling, I offer presentations to youth, parents, educators, and health care professionals on eating disorders, body image, and self-esteem.
I wish I had an Amanda Palmer to help empower me when I was coming of age. Wait, I did. Her name was Ani Difranco.
An inspiringly candid talk about body image with a group of self-identified men.