Let’s talk about Eating Disorders! This is a somewhat taboo subject that is very much misunderstood. My aim here is to rip the bandaid off, strip everything right down and talk frankly. Human to human. We need our bodies to walk us through life, quite literally. So why do so many people have such a hatred towards them? It is your vessel, your beautiful being.
I feel there is a big misunderstanding with lot of people that haven’t suffered from an eating disorder, they do not realise the severity, the turmoil that we go through. Even if ‘recovered.’ What a lot of people don’t realise is that “eating disorders can affect anyone and that it’s not always obvious. People with eating disorders come in every shape and size. A person’s weight or what they do with food is a symptom of much larger issues going on inside of the person”. Like most mental health issues, there is a stigma that makes it harder for people to talk openly about their issues which worsens the condition.
Fact for you: “Subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females.”
At the beginning of February it was Eating Disorder Awareness week. Over the past month I have been busy trying to promote Eating Disorder Awareness with a series of somewhat unusual photoshoots. Albeit, fun! It’s something I feel very strongly about, therefore I wanted to combine another passion of mine. As a photographer, I’m often faced with the moral struggle of being asked to edit client’s so called ‘imperfections.’ Question for you! How far is too far? So many instruct me to ‘make me look thinner’ some even want me to go as far as changing their body shape entirely, to the point where they are almost unrecognisable. How many times have you seen an image that looks unrealistic or photoshopped? This is an issue we face at the moment in mainstream media, and quite honestly, it is very damaging! Nobody is perfect. So why pretend we are?
I went on the hunt for people that had previously suffered from eating disorders and body image issues to photograph. Sounds mean I hear you say? You’re making them confront their worst fear? Read on! I asked them for a quick run down of their story, along with a playlist of their favourite songs to dance to. Yup. You heard right. I made them get their boogie on! We had anything from Shania Twain to Taylor Swift blasting from the studio! Fun fact! “When you dance, your brain releases serotonin, a “feel good” hormone.” In hope to overcome another hurdle my aim was to stray away from the typical photoshoot that idolises perfection which is non realistic and allow the human body to be in natural flow. To capture moments that represent happiness and capture moments of utter joy. All images for this project were minimally edited. (Cropping, lighting etc). But no retouching of body or skin!
Everyone that took part was ever so courageous and brave, not to mention happy! They have been bold, honest and as open as can be. They did this with you in mind. For those of you suffering. To know you are not alone. For those of you that don’t quite know enough about eating disorders. To give you a little glimpse of insight. For those of you that have recovered. To show solidarity.
One quote that sticks with me from an article that really touched home ‘14 Things Your Loved One With an Eating Disorder Wants You to Know (But is Afraid to Tell you)’ by Lisette Hoscheck. “Unlike an addict who abstains from their substance of choice, a person with an eating disorder must face eating food 3-5 times a day… Every. Single. Day. Each day can be filled with multiple challenges other people find typical.” Ages ranged from 16 years old to 40+ showing that mental health doesn’t discriminate.
The idea of this project is to show nobody is alone. That recovery IS possible. If you or someone you know is suffering, it’s ok to ask for help. As one lovely dancer in the project very truly said “We have the right to hold space in this world!”
Check out the full gallery of images here
Written by Yasmin Hannah
Citation/References and sources:
Mond, J.M., Mitchison, D., & Hay, P. (2014) “Prevalence and implications of eating disordered behavior in men” in Cohn, L., Lemberg, R. (2014) Current Findings on Males with Eating Disorders. Philadelphia, PA: Routledge.