Anorexia looks extreme: the weight loss, restriction and rituals. But it doesn’t begin that way. It creeps up on you and hoodwinks you into allegiance to a dangerous ally. That’s my experience anyway. How are we influenced? And why?
This poem looks at two vastly different experiences. I’ve lived the experience through my cultural lens and watch my daughters struggle with their perceptions of their bodies. During my travels, I’ve come across women with far less wealth but a powerful sense of self.
Food, arghhh! It’s complicated isn’t it? I love food, I really do. Even at my most vulnerable, as a restrictive anorexic, I loved food. I loved watching people enjoy food. ButI loved chips and chocolate. My mother’s ongoing sabotage of my love of greens, probably helped to keep me alive.
Mama always kept treats in our pantry. It smelled delicious, like a deli. And it was. Treats included chips and chocolate. I caved time and time again gorging and then self-flagellating. It gets better right?
Body image. Being female. Life’s challenges: wedding dress or bikini? Both bring us face to face with our bodies. They are emotionally charged experiences, all mirrors and expectations. Bikini shopping lays us bare, as close to naked as it gets. But the wedding dress final fitting puts our flaws under the microscope on a grand scale.
Can you relate to the image of the girl on that special day, hand on tummy, breathing in, eyes avoiding while desperately seeking the mirror? She’s present but has checked out. Self-acceptance is out of her comfort zone.
Today, I remember being a bride. Like many young brides, I’d planned the perfect day which of course included the perfect version of me. Life keeps changing, princess to bride to young mum, to superhero to middle age. The changes physical, emotional and mental can be confronting. At times we don’t recognise ourselves.
‘Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who in this land is the fairest of all?’
Undoubtedly, the mirror is essential for grooming. But how do we feel about it? More accurately, how do we feel about what the mirror shows us about ourselves?
Making sense of the struggle has unearthed many questions. The cycle of body image, perfection, calorie counting… had to lead some where. Beauty. The well-worn path meandered, looping carelessly back to the past and stretching outdated values into the future.
Beauty, what is it? What happens in the mind of a person with anorexia? Is their perception of beauty different? Can the insidious web of the disease keep the sufferer trapped, centred on a fixed idea? How did the idea of beauty arise? What did that mean to me?