“I’d like to see people going back to feeling good about themselves.”
In the words of Lynn Grefe, the CEO and president of National Eating Disorders Association, that is the goal of many this month, and a lifelong struggle for some women.
Besides Valentine’s Day, February is known for campaigns and events involving body pride and eating disorder awareness.
Despite attempts at body pride and acceptance this month, it’s difficult to love your body when advertisements are constantly throwing products at you to improve your “imperfections,” and magazines are forever providing ways to be thin, as if that’s the only option.
Even women’s magazines like Marie Claire, which shows an attempt to promote body image by providing a fashion column for plus-size women, don’t do enough and have conflicting messages. For example, one Marie Claire writer wrote a blog about how fat people are disgusting on TV and in real life. Turns out she has a history of anorexia, and she was just contributing to one of the largest women’s issues – the unhealthy societal expectations for women to be unnaturally thin and “beautiful,” with plastic surgery and pounds of makeup added in. And she certainly wasn’t helping eating disorder prevention.
Grefe said that unrealistic societal expectations, media and advertisements don’t cause eating disorders, but that doesn’t mean they’re blameless.
“It sure puts out the landscape to make people feel bad about themselves, whether they develop an eating disorder or not,” Grefe said.
There aren't enough Dove-like advertisements out there to counteract the presence of only extremely thin models, who don't represent the general population. Although it will likely take a long time to get rid of the obsession with thin, she said there are some things to consider.
“We need more leadership in the media world and the fashion world,” Grefe said. “I think that we need to stop having size 00s. I think it’s really important that we start focusing on the health of the person as opposed to what their number is.”
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is Feb. 20-26, and in 2011 the theme is “It’s Time to Talk About It.”