It bothers me that body image gets so much attention when it comes to eating disorders. Almost every ED prevention program that I know of is focused around the theme of “love your body.” Every time eating disorders come up – in newspaper articles, on talkshows, in general conversation – body image inevitably gets mentioned, and usually becomes the center of attention.
Now, I’m not saying that body image issues aren’t a part of eating disorders. They are. And it sucks. And I’m also not saying that focusing on ways to improve body image without necessarily “improving your body” aren’t important. They are. Highly.
But I feel like most of the general population doesn’t get that body image isn’t the only fucking thing that eating disorders are about.
Hell, during my first two “sessions” with anorexia, it was almost like I didn’t even know that I had a body. I was so completely dissociated from my physical self. Back in eighth grade, I didn’t even register the physical changes that were happening to me. I didn’t even know that I was losing weight. I had no consciousness of what was going on with my body. All I knew was that I absolutely, unquestionably, with deadly certainly could not eat. Everything else was secondary. Then my freshman year of college, while I did weigh myself – every frickin day – and while I was dedicated to an endless pursuit of driving the number on the scale as far down as I could possibly get it to go, I didn’t think of it as making myself skinnier. At that point, I wasn’t on some quest to make my stomach more concave, my legs more stick-like, my arms more like rails – though I certainly wasn’t happy with any of those body parts as they were. But the goal was not to change my body, beyond making it lighter. It wasn’t until I became more conscious of myself, physically and emotionally, that focus on the particulars of my shape started up. It wasn’t until after I started the process of “recovery” that I began to fixate on my body itself as the problem.
And so that tells me that there is something more to what is going on with me. Body image is not the end of the story. Body image issues are merely a symptom of something far more serious.
And I’m worried that for too many people, the deadly error will be made of never seeing that.