Tonight I’m running a psycho-educational workshop at work to help students recognize the voice of “Ed” (eating disorder) and fight it by talking back. Much of the presentation tonight will be focused on Michelle Lelwica’s book, “The Religion of Thinness” and the way in which U.S. society embraces thinness as an ideal and how the diet industry creates something of a religion out of losing weight and changing body shape. This religion, as Lelwica writes, has its own icons (e.g., thin models), rituals (e.g., exercise and weight loss), morality (e.g., “fat is bad, thin is good”), and community of “salvation” (e.g., weight loss support groups, exercise classes). As built up as this religion has become, we can each fight back by refusing to participate in the diet industry, becoming critical of printed media and commercials, and promoting body acceptance with the underlying truth that health comes in all sizes.
As much as I know, personally and professionally, about the voice of disordered eating and the religion of thinness, I still hear that voice in my own head at times (especially times of extreme stress) and still engage in aspects of that religion. Today, after an extremely anxious night fearing for the health of a loved one, I awoke and had no appetite. That’s an important sign to me, since I usually have a healthy appetite. I recognized the need to eat despite not having an appetite, so I forced myself to do so. However, for a brief moment, the voice of Ed rang out loud and clear: “This is great! You don’t have an appetite. You might lose some weight!” Thankfully, I know not to heed that voice, but the fact that Ed pops back into my consciousness every now and again is frustrating. I know I need to focus on the positives — I have the tools and strength to resist Ed and the lies about thinness that he spreads. I resisted him today and will continue to eat healthy, soothing foods until my appetite returns.
I just long for a day when the voice of Ed is “extinct” because our culture reflects different values, those which do not emphasize appearance, but emphasize the basic fact that we are all worthy of love and respect just because we are.
Peace, joy, and health,