Education, Detection & Prevention
I remember the exact moment it occurred to me that I was “fat” – I looked down at my thighs as a 14 year old girl and realized to my horror that they touched. It was a lightbulb moment, a thought that I couldn’t push far from my consciousness. That initial thought started the next 17 year journey of sickness and eventually healing. It’s obvious to me that for this journey to go on more more than a decade, many things went wrong before and after that moment of epiphany. 17 years in a young person’s life is an eternity – I have been shadowed by these monster thoughts for more than half of my life.
Better than treatment is early detection and prevention. I’m certain that some people have a propensity towards ‘perfection’, restriction and mental disruption but certainly there were cultural forces in effect. That initial thought should never have entered my mind, or if it did it should have been quickly set aside.
Education starts with families and I think an educational campaign aimed at parents should remind them of the dangers of negative self-talk. I will never mention my weight to my children, I wouldn’t talk about a diet, or comment on other people’s weights. These topics should be off limits, unless the comments are positive and constructive.
Parents and teachers are the first line of defence, and when a child exhibits worrying behaviour around food or body issues I think we should train both the mind and body. I have found mindfulness to be helpful – recognizing that negative thoughts at ‘real but not true’. Acknowledging that thought, and then letting it go without much investigation. It is only a thought, not reality and there is no need to get attached.
Training the body involves learning to appreciate the body, not for aesthetic reasons but because it allows us to dance, run, ski… move! Other more constructive goals than getting weight down to a certain number can be cultivated. Re-directing that willful, perfectionist energy to another goal that requires a healthy body is a good strategy. It is easier to add in new behaviours than the end old ones – looking back if I had redirected my attention to ski racing or something that required strength that would have been very helpful.
Needless to say there are cultural forces in effect as well. The move to require fashion models to achieve a certain BMI is a great step forward and perhaps this policy could be applied to Hollywood as well. Requiring a certain BMI, blood pressure or other indicators for actors and models to be insured.
Prevention to education is key! I certainly think more education for parents, teachers and adult mentors would do a world of good to prevent the next generation from being shadowed and haunted by anorexia. Education leads to early detection or even better prevention. A culture, school curriculum and home environment steeped in love (for yourself & others) should be the goal!
~ Tina Carrick