THE BLOG

True Acceptance

24/06/2016 14:53

No action can be taken when we demonise and ban certain body shapes; reformations and change can only materialise when we take action on the things that we can change: our mind-sets; a true acceptance, regard and love for of all body types, big or small. Which is why I feel that Sadiq Khan's recent decision to ban body-shaming advertisements on the underground is a well intended, yet vain attempt at addressing merely the tip of the iceberg and surface level of eating disorders.

It's great that he feels inclined to tackle these kind of messages, but he is only complicating mild envy of a photo shopped model's body with far more complex mental health conditions such as anorexia. Khan's announcement follows the controversy over last summer's Protein World adverts, in which a slim blonde woman in a yellow bikini appeared alongside the sexist message "Are you beach body ready?"

As a recovering anorexic, marketing slimming products or bikini clad models does not feed my anorexia. There were many factors which contributed to my eating disorder, but models in bikinis was not one of them. I'm accustomed to living in a body obsessed society which promotes thinness and worships the diet industry. But the size of a model's thigh gap on the front of a glossy magazine or the size of Victoria Beckham's waist line doesn't faze me. Anorexia is not jealousy or competition with another, it is a mental illness, a war within yourself.

Khan's ban only consolidates the misguided myths existing towards eating disorders; often friends will say to me, "I wish I could have your self-control". But my experience of anorexia is not about self-control or pining after a model's body, it's of loneliness, hospitalisations, osteoporosis and extreme cold. Life for an anorexic is far from vanity or wanting to get beach-ready, it is about the feelings behind the food. In fact, it's cognitively impossible to give a second thought or care about your beach body when you're half-dead starving yourself. But surely it started from initial desire to lose weight to be thin - didn't it? If that were true then a far greater proportion of the population would have an eating disorder. The origins of anorexia are far more complex.

Of course we're constantly bombarded with images of the idealised flawless body shape and type, which can dent anyone's self-confidence. You cannot escape the stream of messages and constant marketing of how we should look and be, but eating disorders are not the result of simply wanting a beach body. Eating disorders are unyielding, controlling and sometimes fatal. When we point the finger at the media as the main driving force for eating disorders we reduce and simplify eating disorders into mild-envious feelings and confuse it with being narcissism rather than a mental health condition. More focus and action should be given to helping sufferers, early intervention, treatment, access to hospitals and specialists clinics, and increased funding for charities and research. Little can be gained from these types of knee jerk reactions to what is effectively just another chauvinistic and sexist advert. Khan would do better to campaign for increased funding for mental illness, early intervention and ensuring that eating disorders are firmly on the political agenda, rather than issuing bizarre prohibitions on certain body-types.

With the diet industry estimated to be worth around £2bn, its pretty conclusive that adverts like Protein World is not an anomaly, which is why all of us, anorexic, bulimic or healthy, need to take responsibility to not allow the advertising industry to control us.

True acceptance means welcoming all shapes and sizes. By banning an image of a slim woman, what message are we then endorsing about being slim? Is being thin wrong as well? Instead of demonising just another body type, we need to take control and responsibility of our own reactions. Why not refuse to buy magazines or watch programmes which diminish women, snub diet talk in the office, reject the diet industry and its product and advocate self-love.

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