In the year 2000 I was accepted into the Emergency Medical Technician program at SIAST in my hometown of Regina, SK. This is when I met one of the most inspiring and encouraging human beings of my life (my primary instructor for the program and now good friend, Heather). I don’t think to this day I have ever explained to her that it was her class and her presence in my life that caused a shift in my very way of thinking.
I recall first becoming aware of my ‘pudgy stature’ when I was about 11 or 12 years old and my older brothers started calling me “Little Piggy”. I used to think to myself, “What’s wrong with you loser? Why can’t you just be like all the other guys?” Many people will say “Well that’s just how boys are…”. To me, however, it was utterly devastating. It would reshape my brain, my body and my entire life for more than a decade to come.
Many people have asked me similar questions: 'How can you openly speak about your ED?' or “Are you scared that people will judge you for having had an ED?” Others ask, “What if you are not hired for a job because of your history with ED?”. So, I feel it is time to start sharing my answers!
So what does feminism have to do with issues of body image and eating disorders anyway? Try everything.
The following dialogue from the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”, in which Olive, a seven-year old aspiring beauty queen asks her grandpa a question, illustrates part of the problem:
“Grandpa, am I pretty?”
“You are the most beautiful girl in the world.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“No! I’m madly in love with you, and it’s not because of your brains or your personality.”
Eating disorder. Simply say the words and there are many others that immediately spring to mind. For each person, the association will be different; however, one thing is clear – it’s an emotionally charged issue. As a former eating disorder sufferer, I confess that one of the words I didn’t anticipate encountering on my journey with anorexia was also one of the most damaging – isolation. As the years passed, my ED injured not only me, but also my relationships with my friends, my family, and my world in general.
I am an activist. Sometimes it rocks. Sometimes it feels like I am swimming against the stream. But it always feels true. I woke up to realizing that something wasn't right when I was healing from my eating disorder in high school and I determined to become part of the change. I summoned my inner activist, the courageous part of me that intuitively knew that something wasn't right with a culture presenting limiting stereotypes for women and men. I went on strike from the madness within my mind and healed the split on the inside.
An Easy-Access Resource for Those Working With Vulnerable Youth
I was taught from a very young age that being thin was the “ideal” standard of beauty. “You’re so tall and thin – you could be a model when you grow up!” This comment was typical, as I had always been tall for my age.
My name is Jay, and I am an Athletic Personal Trainer. I am also someone who has recovered from an eating and exercise disorder. My issues, like every person who has had an eating disorder were individual to me. All too often we label or group eating disorders into specific categories, but anyone who has dealt with one themselves, or through someone else knows that the behaviours come in all forms, for all different reasons, and are reinforced from all different pressures.
One of my aspirations is to do my part in undoing the feelings of insecurity and incompleteness people feel in trying to measure up to society's "ideal" beauty standards. However, I find it quite challenging to live up to this ambition on a daily basis. I still sometimes catch myself engaging in fat-talk and making appearance-based judgments in the name of "health" - when I know better. I'm trying not to be so hard on myself because I'm fighting against years of hard-wiring to believe that skinny is the only way to be healthy or beautiful.