Last month, the Renfrew Center which treats eating disorders, and is featured in the documentary “Thin,” asked women to go without makeup on February 27th in order to “promote healthy body image, self esteem, and self acceptance.” I was disturbed when I heard about this campaign initially, but I was thinking about it more today and felt I had to write about this topic.
I can’t speak for everyone with eating disorders, but for me, my eating disorder is NOT all about appearance, and I know many women who would agree. The “Barefaced and Beautiful” campaign seems to me to promote the idea that eating disorders are shallow and based on vanity- which simply is not true. Going without makeup for a day certainly would not be a revolutionary concept for me.
In fact, let me be perhaps overly honest here. Many days I have a hard time summoning the energy to brush my teeth and hair, much less put on makeup or pick out a cute outfit. I still think I’m horrifically “fat” much of the time, but this does not translate to me thinking that I have to appear perfect in every way. And when I was in my eating disorder and 20 pounds lighter, the same was true. My mind was far too busy with calories and carbs and food and insulin and ketones and negativity for me to wrest away the time to try to look perfect.I get away with having my hair in a mess and wearing “different” clothing because I look really young and normal, I suppose.
Don’t get me wrong; I love fashion and when I’m not depressed I try to make myself look pretty. In no way am I implying that an interest in fashion or makeup is stupid or shallow. But I simply don’t believe that’s what eating disorders are about. They’re much more complex. I never thought that being thin would make others like me better. I thought it would make me like myself better. And that was not about appearances. It was-and is-about the negativity I feel about myself in every aspect.
Don’t try to tell me that eating disorders are all caused by the media and society and wearing too much makeup. I was in treatment with a woman who had been blind her entire life, and struggled very much with an eating disorder. Her eating disorder was just as real and disruptive to her life as anyone else’s.
We are complex beings and when something as invasive and insidious as an eating disorder takes over our lives, it is a mistake to assume or imply that the cause is singular.I believe that we have to make changes to every bit of our lives in order to fully recover.