When I was 15 years old, I stopped eating. It started with ‘no food after 6pm’ and as the kilograms began to drop off my body I started getting positive feedback: “you’re looking good!” and “have you lost weight?”. The boys at school suddenly became interested in me and I got better at sport.
So, I started skipping breakfast and throwing my lunch in the bin. My best friend said I looked like a shadow of myself. I stopped getting my periods; I bruised really easily. I could see the concerned looks on peoples’ faces but all I could see were the fat bits on my body. Looking back I can see it was just excess skin.
I was still getting the top grades at school and the boys were still after me so I started throwing up as well.
Eventually I told my mother and cried and cried and cried. That was the beginning of my many years of healing and I know that I’m still not 100% and I don’t think that I ever will be.
Seeing unrealistic portrayals of the female form in fashion definitely didn’t help my situation. The fashion industry is notorious for creating environments that propagate self-destructive eating behaviour and for many young, vulnerable people this may be the trigger to a disorder.
Eating disorders range widely and are classified in the DSM V which is a diagnostic tool used by psychiatrists. What may seem like normal behaviour in the context of the fashion industry may in fact be seen as pathological in every day society. Eating Disorders Victoria describes risk factors for disordered eating including:
- Binge eating
- Skipping meals regularly
- Self-induced vomiting
- Obsessive calorie counting
- Self-worth based on body shape and weight
Self-worth based on body shape and weight is an important concept in the fashion industry context. Certain brands may only allow models of a specific BMI on their runways which drives disordered eating behaviours and attitudes.
Some countries have taken this public health issue very seriously. Most recently France has followed the lead of countries such as Israel and introduced a law making it illegal for people to hire models with a BMI of < 18. Critics suggest that putting a number on it will not stop the illness and this is probably true but at least the government has identified that this is an important issue and is trying to do something about it.
Nowadays, I take the lead from the French way of eating and I really enjoy my food. Being in the moment and mindful about my eating has really helped and I think that it is an important skill for everybody to learn.
If you want more information about eating disorders and mindful eating go to: http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/ or see your GP.