My brother, in search of a good profile picture, sent me this link that he thought I would find interesting... it is called "11 secrets to taking amazing nude photos"... for the record, he would probably like me to note that he insists all of his photos will be clothed, he was just looking for tips on things like flattering lights and camera angles. The site is a joke site, often in good humor... I used to read it regularly and found some of the columns quite funny, but I stopped reading it a while ago because there is often sexist, misogynist, heteronormative and occasionally even racist humor. This one got me thinking about my own relationship with diet and exercise.
For the purpose of this post, I would like to show tip number 3... and at this point I feel I should include a trigger warning for eating disorders.
Don't eat on shoot day. Have you ever gone a day without eating anything? It completely changes the way you feel. When you look in the mirror, you'll just feel like you look great. It doesn't matter if you weigh 95 pounds or 295... if you go without eating for the day, when you look in the mirror, you'll think you look better.
So don't eat on shoot day. (If you're anorexic, on shoot day, skip the can of Diet Coke for breakfast and lettuce leaf for lunch to avoid third worlding out your belly.)
By not eating, you'll (1) look better without a meal sitting in your belly and (2) more importantly, feel like you look better. It comes back to that confidence thing.
I could understand, maybe, if it said don't eat a heavy meal before the shoot... but this is definitely crossing the line. I, for one, do not feel like I look great if I haven't eaten all day... I feel like I'm going to pass out. If I think I look better when I look in the mirror, it is only because the image is probably getting blurry. Without food, I do not feel confident, I feel sick. It upsets me that women might feel more confident when they are starving. Just look at these quotes from models/actresses...
I don't think there is ever an appropriate time for anorexia humor... it just isn't funny. It is a very serious medical condition that kills women (and men, but mostly women). With websites purposefully encouraging anorexia, it needs to be clear that none of this is funny.
My own struggle with my weight has been quite unhealthy. In grade 4, our teacher had us each go up to the front of the class and weighed us in front of the entire class. We had to write down everybody's weight and make a chart out of the data. To this day, I can tell you how much I weighed when I was 10 years old. There were 4 girls in the class who weighed less than me, and I was jealous of them because, even at that age, I knew that weighing less was a good thing, but only for girls. So my best friend and I would talk about dieting and exercising to lose weight. We would spend our allowances on teens magazines and used them as step by step instructions on how to diet, exercise, and aspired to look like the models from the fashion pages.
This was the same year that a girl in the class started telling me that my butt was so big that I wouldn't fit through a door sideways (I was a gymnast, so I was very muscular). I can remember spending long stretches of time standing on the ledge of the bathtub so that I could see my body in the bathroom mirror and thinking that I looked like a freak... and I was 10 years old. I also remember wishing that I had the willpower to become anorexic, because I thought that would help me. At night, I would resolve to stop eating the next day, then I wouldn't make it past lunch. But I would exercise instead to make up for it; it was about body image, but it was also about control. Did I mention that I was 10 years old?
By the time I was 13, my best friend and I would exercise together and discuss food, weight, boys, fashion, makeup... all of the things that this magazine told us to that we were supposed to think about. We even began counting calories and measuring ourselves regularly to make sure puberty was not making us get bigger.
By grade 8 I was a competitive figure skater. I was really healthy and fit and in great shape, but I hated my legs because they were so thick... it didn't matter that I could press more weight than any of the boys in my class using the leg press, or that I could beat them at the 1500 meter race (the longest in my age category). I was a girl, and girls leg muscles were supposed to be long and lean, and mine weren't lean enough, so I would do a lot of ballet-style stretching and exercising to try and lengthen my muscles.
My first pregnancy was terrifying for me as well. Women are actually supposed to gain weight... but I heard so many horror stories about trying to lose that weight that I was scared to gain it. From the day I found out I was pregnant until the day I gave birth, I gained a total of 12lbs... The doctor had me coming in for weekly visits at 5 months because I was losing weight instead of gaining. I started exercising 5 days postpartum (most doctors recommend waiting 4-6 weeks). I would go for long walks (10+ km per day at 2 weeks postpartum) with the stroller and work out in my livingroom 2-3 times a day. And people kept complimenting me on getting my pre-baby body back, so I kept at it. And the less control I had over my life (the more abusive my partner became), the more I would exercise.
I am currently the heaviest I have ever been in my life, with the exception of my second pregnancy... which means only that I no longer have to purchase any specific clothing items from the children's section at most stores. I eat... I always have... that is not my issue. I struggle with exercising. I need to figure out how to find a healthy balance. I tend to begin exercising, go all out for a week or two, get scared, and stop altogether. Maybe the healthiest way to do this would be to pick 2 or 3 days a week and only exercise those days. Or to only choose fun ways to exercise, then it is entertaining and not compulsive. I'm not sure... I haven't thought about it much yet. But I can guarantee you that it does not help when I see jokes about how great I will feel if I don't eat for the day. Or quotes from celebrities normalizing unhealthy dieting behaviors. Or ads depicting which standards of beauty I am supposed to conform to.... this list could go on...