Are alcoholics ever really recovered? One drink could throw them back to that dark place. This is something that society readily acknowledges and accepts.
Are ED sufferers ever really recovered?
Are they just one image away from those triggers; one bad day away from a spiral of self destruction? How does society not acknowledge this, and why are advertisers allowed to utilise marketing that pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour?
Would we deem it acceptable to brand a beer or wine as non-alcoholic when it really contains alcohol? Thus disguising our sales & marketing to reach an unsuspecting audience? Is it acceptable to brand a photoshopped model as ‘plus size’ when the image has been altered to represent a perfect size 10? Being photoshopped with no label may be insulting to the model, but it is standard advertising protocol. With the label, it almost becomes dangerous propaganda.
I see many patients in my nutrition clinic that are struggling to recover from a variety of eating disorders.
I have struggled to get myself to where I am now following a spell controlling food in association with pain reduction. I struggle with self image, and it gives me insight into how some of my patients may be viewing the world in comparable imagery, and also how devastating these negative images can be.
I use techniques with some of the patients that attend my clinic that involves them only looking at images I send them – they are encouraged not to peruse magazines and social media. I send them positive healthy images of male/female potential role models to imprint in their residual memories.
Imagine my horror when I stumbled across an advert for Calvin Klein heralding the use of a plus size model that appeared to anything but plus sized. The model presented is superbly stunning with a radiant glow; an image any woman would wish to see reflected back to her in the mirror. However, she is very clearly NOT plus size in the image.
Upon further research I discovered that she is indeed a size 14, borderline plus size, but the image was altered to make her appear to be a size 10.
Is this insulting to the model?
Is it insulting to the public, assuming that we are not intelligent enough to realise?
Is it a dangerous advert that could trigger an ED sufferer back into their spiral of controlled food mechanisms?
Most definitely, on all counts.
When I posted the picture on my social media I was contacted by several troubled souls that were re-living memories and being haunted by past events triggered by this image. The fear of the slide back into the enveloping blackness that they have struggled so hard to break free from, is very real and very raw. The seesaw of an ED is a precarious one; I fear that companies do not understand the impact of their campaigns, especially for someone suspended temporarily in an assumed normality. They insist on using techniques that they believe make their garments appear more saleable. They are still utilising girls with low BMI’s that have amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of menstruation) amongst other health issues. Repeatedly, we hear that the catwalks of the world will change and that healthy is their true priority.
Can we honestly detect a real shift, or is it clever marketing and blanket white washing with a mere suggestion or hint towards change?
Is anyone prepared to police these issues?
I naively assumed that the health and fitness industry would be about health. When I first dipped my toe into the scene I found that I was faced with trends, one of which was the myriad of fresh faced bikini competitors who seem to be delving into skinnier and leaner realms with every competition. Each trying to be leaner than the previous winner to hold that illustrious trophy. The pages of magazines including high profile publications use vogue-esque models adorned with gym wear, rather than fitness models, girls with muscles or athletes. I even read an article in a copy of Marie Claire that was not only flaunting these images but advocated the advice of an “expert” stating that women should aim to hit 1200 kcals total in a day, not under 1000 kcals. In my opinion that is irresponsible and I sincerely hope it was a misprint.
Social media is peppered with images of slim girls with abs that are the role models of every wannabe fitchick, and why wouldn’t they be?
These girls are popular, with many followers, and appear to have a luxurious lifesyle that we all covet. Pangs of jealousy and desire to emulate these lives can manifest extreme behaviours to achieve the unachievable. But are these images any more real than the model that is photoshopped?
We see a snapshot of planned posts, in good lighting, with the addition of filters, all of a life that you wish to live, that is not perhaps an accurate portrayal of their reality. Of course there are exceptions and a few girls that are fabulously real role models, but how does the average Joe Bloggs ascertain the difference with a postulated 100% of images altered or photoshopped in magazines and 75% on social media?
Within the western world, the number of people suffering with eating disorders is increasing.
They are potentially fatal and should without a doubt be regarded as serious conditions. The pressure on women in our society to conform to a certain look or size is gargantuan in itself. While ever we are allowing the control of the presented imagery and advertisements to be led by those looking for sales and not to present positivity, we will be subjecting ourselves to this self-perpetuating cycle.
If these images sell, they will continue to use them, women will continue to aspire to emulate them, and eating disorders will continue to manifest themselves.
I acknowledge that EDs have always been a presenting feature of society, in certain eras they were such an integral part of the social etiquette that if you didn’t join in you were an outcast. However, in this age of empowerment and female camaraderie, can we not force the change and see the images we want to inspire and enhance our lives?