The skinny on body image

This year at London Fashion Week models were given, instead of their usual makeup and bath products, goodie bags of condescension and belittlement, labelled as sandwiches and fresh fruit.

All of this was done with the intention of “educating the girls that eating doesn’t mean getting fat; it means staying healthy,” in the words of project co-ordinator Rachel Gibson.

This initiative will fail, however, because it attempts to provide a solution without tackling the root of the problem or consulting insiders on it.

It’s a classic example of the parent-child argument, in which the parent downplays a significant issue in the child’s life, and thus alienates the child.

If learning how to eat trail mix was the only step necessary to curb eating disorders, we would be able to force-feed a lot of women into a balanced Body Mass Index. The problem extends beyond women not eating enough.

One of the main causes of eating disorders is a distorted body self-image, something only anorexics or bulimics themselves can change.

What others can do is stop belittling them and trying to force them into making changes. They can, to borrow a cliché, love, cherish and support those trying to deal with eating disorders.

My mother learned how to be a prime example of this. Aside from the occasional argument over my eating habits, she learned to allow me freedom in my choices.

When I first told her I wanted to diet two years ago, she gave the standard you’re-making-a-mistake sigh, but let me cut my rice portion in half at dinnertime.

When, after a few months of dieting, I dropped below the 100-pound mark, she asked me to stop dieting, but still allowed me to choose my own portions at dinner.

When I began needing to shop in the girls’ department and was too embarrassed to, she stood in line and paid for my necessitated ‘That’s So Raven’ pyjamas.

When I blacked out after a blood test because I hadn’t eaten anything the day before, she drove me home, made my favourite dish, and set a portion in front of me. She didn’t say a word; didn’t ask me to eat it. I did anyway, but she didn’t even complain when I didn’t finish.

Throughout my struggle, I needed someone like my mother, who could show her love while also allowing me to make my own mistakes to reach my own conclusions.

When I finally realized I was being stupid, we went to the doctor and she asked him for advice.

What anorexics and bulimics need are people who won’t lord over them with easy, three-step solutions to deep struggles. What they need are people who don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the issue, but who choose to support their loved ones regardless.

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