The week before Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 2-8), the University of Guelph held their annual Eating Disorder and Body Image Awareness Exposé. The event was filled with various on and off campus organizations that address these issues. I brought Sophie Hogan's "The Body Image Project" as well as "wiTHIN", the graphic novel Emily McGratten and I have been working on.
The Body Image Project, as partly seen above, is an exercise in acceptance. A woman's naked figure is shown on one side, while on the other side, through the use of arts and images, is a display of how she feels about her body. What I like about this project is that it shows women's bodies... real bodies. Yes, I acknowledge that not all body shapes are included, nor a vast variety of diversity outside of white, able bodied, females, but it is a start. It shows that all women are not stick thin, although there is nothing wrong with being stick thin IF this is one's set point. Some have scars, some have hips and some have larger breasts than others. It is a project that encourages self-acceptance. You do not have to look a certain way in order to be happy, loved or healthy. You do not have to be a certain size in order to like yourself either. I think this is what I love most about the exposé. That attention is put on healthy living and self-acceptance regardless of size. That people do not fit into a box. That there is diversity in humanness that can, and should be, celebrated.
For most people, Eating Disorder Awareness Week was a week that probably did not get much of a second thought... For me, however, it is a reminder of my past and a thankfulness for my future. It is a week where a little more attention is paid to eating disorders and hopefully lets individuals, family members and friends know, they are not alone. Eating disorders are not a joke, nor is it something to be desired. It is a coping mechanism for an underlying issue. It can be seductive and imprisoning at the same time. It can and does kill... too many.
On Feb. 5th, I spoke at "Faces of Recovery", an annual event put on by the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Eating Disorder Coalition. It is a panel discussion by those in recovery from an eating disorder. The panelist varied in how long they had been in recovery as well as their routes to healing. Amongst the differences, however, lay many similarities. It is hard to not leave "Faces of Recovery" without feeling inspired and encouraged to keep fighting. Check out an article about the success of the event, by The Wellington Advertiser, here.
Even though Eating Disorder Awareness Week is over, let us not stop talking about it. Let us continue to challenge myths and stereotypes around eating disorders as well as the thin culture that surrounds us. Let's look at our relationship with food, weight and exercise and get the help needed in order to make them healthy and normalized. Let us make the message of Eating Disorder Awareness Week one that continues to live on the remaining 51 weeks of the year!