I sat down to write a post about some of the debate in the body diversity and eating disorder advocacy world going on over Miss Universe’s decision to pose nude in an Australian magazine without photoshop. Its lovely, no? Info about it here: http://www.beautifulyoubyjulie.com/
Here’s the thing though – over the last month or so, several advocates such as Voice in Recovery – http://www.facebook.com/#/AVoiceinRecovery?ref=ts – have noticed a trend to discuss body types as “real women.” As in, Miss Universe is not a real woman because she fits within the runway model physique. The term “real women” has been used to refer to women with larger hips, breasts and in general stature or shape. In referring to some models as not “real women” they essentially state that one shape is better than another.
I think this hurts women, and hurts those in recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating. Why? Because by saying one shape is better than another, or truer than another, or more “womanly” than another, the same paradigm of appropriate, acceptable, laudable still exists. You are “womanly” from your ability to give birth and/or nurture children and things. You are “womanly” by your ability to create and conceive, be it children or campaigns or clothes or constitutions. You are not womanly from your shape. I love many women who are terrific mothers and shaped like pencils, some like rulers, others like chalk erasers. Not all women are shaped like hourglasses, some are closer to clocks, others like the hands on clocks. Nor are you more of an eating disorder advocate based on one shape over another.
I’m particularly fired up about this issue because I think referring to one shape or another as “real” is incredibly harmful to those in recovery from eating disorders or disordered eating. When I was at my smallest point, not even acknowledging that I was restricting, only referring to it as entirely losing my appetite and not eating, where friends would call to make sure I’d eaten something like three meals (me: “coffee, yogurt, bagel” them: “that’s one meal, not three”), I could shop in the children’s section. I’m 5’8″. I remember saying this to the law student running the eating disorder awareness week at my law school. She agreed – it was the only section where tops would fit, she said. I couldn’t believe that her round frame had ever been as small, as flat chested as I had been. And here’s what sucks – I didn’t want to look like her, so I put off facing my food issues for a long time. I put off fully totally surrendering the weird crap I do with food to both a higher power and a nutritionist because if recovery looked like her, I wasn’t going to be able to tolerate it.
Recovery from eating disorders or disordered eating (what I went through), doesn’t look like anything. It isn’t big or small or constantly cheery or mad all the time. It isn’t turning into a poet and sticking your middle finger up at the world. Its being healthy. Eating to fuel your body and your mind and your spirit. Thats what being real is. Its getting real with yourself and your own individual needs. Its flaunting your awesome perfect body, whether you have beautiful muscles, or long lines. Curves or angles. Its being real with who you are and what you bring to the table. And pencils and rulers and chalk erasers and clocks and hourglasses can all do that. Because they are all real.
And for you yogis who think that there is only one shape or size of a yoga teacher – you are wrong. In America, in gyms maybe there is one acceptable size of yoga teacher. But true teachers come in all forms, sizes, shapes and teach in all manners. Check out Christina Sell’s wonderful book, Yoga from the Inside Out, which discusses her own battles with bulemia and addiction and yoga and the anusara yoga tradition/lineage’s approach to shape.