My bias towards the category of sex stems first from the fact that it stands out as unique due to the way that the “pronoun problem” interferes with eating disorders affecting a male population. For example, even if a clinician develops a workbook or program which might be better suited to teenagers than someone in their fifties, if they are writing to an intended female audience or discussing body image as a problem facing women, then at least their pronoun use will be consistent. There is, of course, nothing wrong with writing to an intended audience, and there is undeniable value in acknowledging the unique ways that one’s position in society based on sex and/or gender identity may play a role in a negative body image or an eating disorder.
The problem begins when the focus upon the statistical majority (women) is such that the already marginalized male voice is practically silenced and erased from the conversation. The first thirty results from a quick search for the topic “eating disorders” in the books section of Amazon.com in December 2012 reveals the following: out of thirty books, only five were authored or co-authored by men. If we exclude more academic writings such as clinical handbooks or guides tailored to professionals and focus purely on books intended for a general consumer audience (such as parental guides, self-help books, memoirs) that number drops to three out of thirty, or ten percent – which is, coincidentally, the same estimated percentage of male anorexics. While the sex of the author(s) is not deterministic of the content or focus of the writing, the more noteworthy finding is that out of the first thirty results, fourteen out of thirty books (essentially half) either specifically had words like ‘woman’ or ‘girls’ in the title or, despite a gender-neutral title, featured a female on the cover. The latter is especially concerning due to the fact that titles and descriptions of these books sound as though they written in a gender-inclusive or gender-neutral fashion, but then through their cover art or imagery implied that they were actually written for or about women.
…As a male-bodied individual, much of my recovery from anorexia required me to squeeze into a recovery culture which had been tailored and designed for women. To create space and dialogue which is gender-inclusive requires an investigation into the reasons that negative body image and eating disorders have historically been associated with women or regarded as a “women’s problem.” The word choice here is deliberate. I have on occasion found myself employing the phrase “gender neutral,” but as I stated previously, I believe there is value in the unique experience of how one’s sex or gender may play a role in their recovery. Gender inclusivity is preferable because it is also a fluid phrase which does not limit itself to an idea such as “a dialogue which includes men” or is otherwise rooted in a binary understanding of sex or gender; rather, it could accommodate an infinite number of genders.
Now that the holidays are here, I can breathe a little easier. I’m lucky that my job is at a university, which happens to shut down for almost two whole weeks over the holidays! Which means it’s time to get around to updating this page!
Holidays used to be a big challenge for me. Being around family, having food prepared for you or going out to restaurants you aren’t used to, your whole schedule thrown off… sometimes that chance to relax is actually more stressful than your day-to-day. Over the years I learned that it’s the times when you’re challenged that it’s most important to stick to what works for you and put recovery first.
Maybe you want to get out of going to that restaurant, or just make excuses to avoid meals with other people all together. But I think the best gift you can give to yourself is to do things for you and not whatever negative voice in your head might tell you otherwise. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but recovery is something you do, meal by meal, day by day.
If you’re working, in school, or both, the holidays (basically all of November and December, if you’re anything like the average American!) can just add stress and make it harder to focus on taking care of yourself. But those are the times when it’s the absolute most important to maintain healthy choices and self-care. When you find yourself overwhelmed, where you do go for a breath of fresh air?
If you’ve struggled with an ED in the past, odds are that one of the reflexive reactions is to slip back into those kinds of patterns. That’s why it’s really important to have a plan for taking good care of yourself. Having a few friends who understand where you’re coming from that you know you can call in the moment when you’re struggling can go a long way. Why not go for a walk, a drive, a bike ride? Call a friend?
We all need a breath of fresh air sometimes. The question is, where do you go to get it? Do you turn back to old habits, or do you seek out new ways of dealing?
When you’re in the moment and all that anxiety about food feels so overpowering, it’s easy to feel as though there’s no other option but to engage in disordered eating behavior. But the best gift you can give to yourself, no matter what holiday you may or may not celebrate, is the gift of self-nurturance and self-care.
Well this is exciting! I’ll be on a live segment of the Huffington Post tonight to join a discussion about the public perception of eating disorders! It starts at 8:40pm EST and will last about 20 minutes. You can tune in at http://live.huffingtonpost.com/!
If you have one you’d like to share, please email me at EDsNoMore@gmail.com with:
-a clear picture of the tattoo
-the story or inspiration behind it
-how you’d like to be identified (1st name? Alias? Anonymous?)
Aiming to publish Monday. Please reblog/signal boost!