“No, I would never want her body. She’s in shape but she is way too muscly.”
Almost a year has passed since I delivered my talk to NEDIC on the link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and eating disorders. In that time more research has come out to support this surprising overlap between these seemingly distinct disorders. In August 2013, Simon Baron-Cohen and his team at the Autism Research Centre published a study that examined the cognitive profile of 66 teenage women with anorexia. Compared to their peers, women with anorexia had elevated autistic traits, reduced empathy and high levels of systemizing thinking.
When I was in grade four it was mandatory to be in the choir. Although I was no "diva" I enjoyed the camaraderie of the choir and felt participation was what mattered most. However, moments before a special performance, the music teacher pulled me aside and directed me not to sing: “Sarah, why don’t you try to lip sing for this concert.” This experience greatly affected my ability to find my voice and to express myself.
Bullying is something that is happening all around us on a daily basis. It comes in various forms such as cyber, verbal, physical and emotional. To break things down even further, weight has become a leading cause for these forms of bullying to take place. Weight based victimization is happening more and more in today’s youth, with the picture of ‘ideal’ women and men stuck in their heads. It is important that we take a look at this pressing issue as it is not only affecting the emotional and mental health of the victims, but can also affect physical health (e.g., through binge eating).
As a personal trainer I spend a minimum of 30 hours in a gym every week. People of all different fitness levels, abilities, and body types surround me. Unfortunately, my industry is one that is often driven by a certain set of stereotypes around what fitness is. Magazines, posters, and commercials of fitness models drive a message that being fit and having a very certain look go hand in hand.
In part 1 of this blog, the bad and ugly side of the Instagram-body image debate was explored, and the main issue addressed was the recent trend of pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia support groups emerging among Instagram users. This is a problem because these users are reinforcing each other’s harmful behaviors through “likes” and comments on “thinspiration” pictures and in doing this they are normalizing disordered eating.
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At times when I was very ill, I made every effort to avoid food. It was normal to throw it out or lie to my friends and family about having eaten, However this was against my personal values. I would have never imagined that I would throw food out when there were people in the world who couldn’t find food to eat. I never thought I would lie to my loved ones! Yet, here I was, doing these things. Why? What was happening to me?
The weigh in has to be, like most things in my life, perfect. I walk to the scale, carefully being watched by the nurse assigned to observe. I pull in all my breath and step onto the scale, eyes glued to the numbers facing me. I needed a perfect number to get weekend pass. I needed to leave this place. I needed perfection. The number reached its stopping point, one pound short of my goal for that day. Ms. Perfect on my one shoulder leapt forward, screaming failure, while Ed on my other shoulder jumped for joy at still having control.
When you flip through the fashion magazines, you won’t find my body anywhere. When you watch TV, you might see me as a background character, meant to offer inspiration to the show’s main hero. I am the woman with a visible physical disability. You probably see my wheelchair, my cane, and my guide dog. Or you may notice my scars, my speech impediment, and my caregivers…yet, in many ways, I am invisible.