The relationship between body image pressure and eating disorders is complex. As a former competitive dancer, I experienced the most harmful and impactful messages through subtle means, rather than overt statements regarding my body and weight. When I was 10 and getting measured for my dance costumes, I had to wear a body suit with a giant number on the front indicating what size I was. That year, I needed one of the largest sizes in my class.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know is one of many books that examines the differences between men and women as presented in the corporate workforce – specifically, the ways women still lag behind men when it comes to confidence. Motherhood, lack of mentorship opportunities, socialization, and biology all may play a role in the underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of leadership. But what about the role that body image plays?
In facilitating discussion with parents on children’s body image, I often introduce the “how to talk to your daughter about her body” debate. A blog of the same name instructs parents: “Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.” The message?
It’s 9:30am at a school in York Region and I’ve just finished talking to a hundred eleven year olds about developing healthy relationships with their bodies. First shy, then clamoring for attention, a gaggle of girls queues up to talk about what’s normal. Their weight – is it what it’s supposed to be? Are they too tall? Do they look their age? It was easy enough for me to tell them that they were perfect the way they are. But how do busy parents address the normalcy question at home?
The person sitting next to you in class or in the cubicle across from you might be suffering from a severe eating disorder. How do I know? Because that person suffering was me.
The expression, “I had no idea,” was a consistent theme in the story of my eating disorder. “I had no idea, McCall,” the phrase I heard on repeat when I finally emerged from the eating disorder closet.
Dealing with an eating disorder is a daunting, disheartening and isolating experience for anyone. It is an especially difficult struggle for those who identify as transgender or claim a gender identity that falls under the larger trans umbrella of gender diversity.
Six years ago my sister stopped eating. It started after she began experimenting with dieting and seeing some results. First it was just cutting out all junk food, and then the portions of her food kept getting smaller and smaller until she was barely consuming anything in a day. And where was I? In the middle of the chaos that was going on in my home, feeling a mixture of a bunch of emotions that I wasn’t very proud of, and felt unable to express. You can almost think of it as getting a new member of the family.
When I was first approached by NEDIC with the opportunity to submit a blog post several emotions overcame me. The most overbearing emotion was guilt. Although I felt minimal feelings of honour, accomplishment, and a sense of pride, just because my recovery has not been picturesque, that same voice who fed my ED for years was still screaming at endless decibels that I was not good enough. I was a false example of life in recovery. My lost count of slips since leaving residential treatment were by no means something I should have any pride in.
It can happen to anyone. When you think of someone suffering from an eating disorder you picture a young female or a famous celebrity that you have seen in a magazine. You never think of a male. But I am here to say it does happen to men and I’m using my time now to write about it and explain what happens.
If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked what my 'background' is, I'd be rich.
Growing up as a racially ambiguous person with a white mother and a black father, I more
often than not got looks of confusion or even asked if they’re my real parents. During my
teenage years it was especially difficult figuring out my own self-identity as a mixed person
who ‘didn’t look mixed’ as well as accepting the changes happening to my body.