I had no idea…
I would guesstimate that at least half of my female clients moan about themselves. When I welcome them out from the cold and take their coats and ask “how are you?” I’m often responded with “oh god, don’t look at me, I look awful, I’m having a fat day, I’m so spotty, my face looks gross, I need to sort this out” as they grapple a lump or two on their tummy. My job is to pamper clients, to improve looks, but more importantly to make women feel good. We are so full of negativity and hatred of ourselves, and you know what? It’s doing my head in. The most repetitive and painful self jibes that I hear my lovely ladies say is “urgh I’m so overweight” and this shocks me because, they aren’t. My girls look amazing! They have hips and curves and boobs and look like women. They all have these beautiful, amazing bodies that serve an it’s purpose to perfection. So why do we see so many negatives in our reflection? Why don’t we see strong bones, powerful muscles, legs and arms that carry our daily lives, our battle scars in a positive light, breasts that feed our children??
Food is a massive part our daily lives. Most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Our relationship with food often changes throughout our lives. I know mine does. Sometimes, I try to eat more healthily, sometimes I have ridiculous cravings (mainly for sugar) sometimes I have weekends where I eat way too much and sometimes I forget to eat. Yup, I actually forget to eat. When I have a lot going on, when I’m stressed or sad or excited, I find it hard to eat. When I’m in a “good place” the process of eating doesn’t even cross my mind. It just happens. I’m assuming this is how people who don’t have a “thing” with food are. We all have our weird little vices but when does it become a “thing” that we should address?
This week, is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, an it’s theme, I had no idea. A few online articles that have popped up on my social media news feed got me thinking about my “thing”.
I have always been small. Forever, as long I can remember I have been the shortest, the skinniest, the most translucent youth at school, college, work. I distinctly remember getting my uniform for secondary school and coming down the stairs to show off my bottle green jumper, pleated skirt and 15 denier tights that, of course accentuated my Twiglet legs even more, only to be met with raucous laughter from my parents and their visiting friends. “Look at those bean poles” “you look like you’re going to break” “omg you look hilarious” Oblivious to them, I was distraught. I retreated upstairs and pulled on my old bobbly woollen tights. There. Better. A bit better. Swamped by my oversized newbie uniform hopefully no one would notice my distinct child-like frame.
So surely when I developed and grew and spread I would be happy right? Yeah. That’s what I thought. How confusing, to want something so badly. Hips, shapely legs, a waist, BOOBS and to then when it comes, disgust it? I had no idea that the way I dealt with “it” had a name. I didn’t realise that I was behaving any way other than normal. Just because I didn’t fit like a jigsaw piece into one of the named slots, I can’t have an eating disorder, right?
So there’s Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, Disordered Eating and hey lets throw this one in there for good measure, EDNOS (aka Eating Disorder not otherwise Specified.)
Me? Which “Illness”? Don’t know. I never binged. I never hid food. I never put my fingers down my throat and made myself sick. All the typical traits that people label as having an eating disorder had. I didn’t. So for quite a while, I too had no idea. No idea that actually, I was one of the 13 million people in this country who have psychological issues connected with food. But there it was. A little demon (Boss, I came to call her) on my shoulder dictating what I should or more importantly shouldn’t eat. But one thing that has always bothered me is, why people feel that its ok to comment on my weight? Not compliment, comment. Why is it ok to say “You are skinny aren’t you?” but ” You are fat aren’t you?” would be met with gasps of horror. There are so many reasons why people are affected by eating disorders, poor self esteem, low confidence, some see their self control of food restriction as an achievement. They have an actual, physical control over something. These disorders are serious mental illnesses. The issues can run deep, and every person is individual. Far more in depth than I will ever understand, or for me to even to be able to discuss. For me, there was nothing to blame. My childhood was great, yeah a bit of teasing here and there, but nothing heavy, I had friends, a boyfriend, a home, a job, a career was on the horizon, yet still there she was. I still don’t understand how it all happened. But all I know is, that for that period of my life, I was quite sad. I had an invisible dictator, ruling the way I fuelled my body, the way I felt, and the way I looked for years. Why on earth was I so unkind to myself? How did I let it all happen? I had no idea.
At my salon, during an 8 hour day, each of my stylists meets, on average 6 clients. That’s 30 clients a week. Over 6 weeks, that’s 180 clients that each stylist knows. We talk to, converse with, listen to, cry with, all 180 of our clients. And we know a lot. I am privileged to know their stuff. And I promise (hairdressers code) I will take it all to my grave. But talking about eating disorders still is a funny old chestnut. We don’t talk about it. Is it because we don’t understand ourselves? Why do we deny ourselves clarity?
This year the National Eating Disorders Association is focusing on the importance or early intervention and recognising the incredibly diverse experiences of people personally affected by disordered eating. Often overlooked as insignificant behaviours when in fact many of these are early warning signs of “Boss” like disorders. Hoping to encourage sufferers to seek professional help, the support of family and friends (or hairdresser :-)) and self help from internet forums for an example, is their main aim. To increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full-blown eating disorder, leading to greater chances of a full recovery, It can prevent years of struggle and can save lives.
I read today about a lady describing her disorder status as “in remission”. I think that’s where I am too. It’s been a while. Years, in fact, since I was last controlled by Boss. I can look in the mirror at my body and can say with 100% confidence, the way I look now, is the way I was born to look. Yes, I might want to pop some tan on, wear a seriously padded bra to save my confidence or tone up a bit, but my actually self? I’m ok with. Talking to people I trusted, the god sent that is the internet and quite possibly the responsibility of parenthood, I don’t know. I don’t know when or how I learned not to listen to her anymore. She’s always there, and always will be but now she’s mute.
P.S Be kind to yourself
If this does relate to you, more than you like to admit, why not try these resources for some reassurance you are not alone.
- BEAT – http://www.b-eat.co.uk
- Eating Disorders UK – http://eating-disorders.org.uk
- Support Line – http://www.eatingdisorderssupport.co.uk/helpline
- Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/eating-problems/