When bad things happen to good people, our first instinct is to look for someone to blame. In doing so, we'll often willfully ignore the facts and eschew all knowledge of the notion that there might be two, or many, sides to a story.
For example, I'm almost irresistibly tempted to blame the tabloids for this very phenomenon. It isn’t actually entirely their fault. But they love a scapegoat, and, partially because of this, so do we.
This is particularly true when it comes to eating disorders. Because eating disorders are baffling. And being able to point the finger at ‘parenting’ or ‘the media’ or 'fashion' or 'bullying' or ‘celebrities’ makes us feel as though we’re making sense of them.
You may be surprised to hear that I like to think of the rise in eating disorders as being a little like the evolution of life on this planet. At the beginning of documented time, conditions were exactly right for Earth and all its living beings to flourish – the temperature, the humidity, the air pressure, the soil, the sea, other things which clever scientist type people understand……..all these things were exactly as they needed to be to give rise to life as we know it today. If the Earth was a few miles further away from the sun, we might all have one eye, located slightly to the left of our belly buttons (may I stress once more that I’m not a scientist and will not, under examination, be able to explain how this causal link would ever arise. But you see my point).
In the same way, conditions are exactly right for low self-esteem to flourish, in the western world. The reasons for the body confidence crisis are manifold, and the only thing you can do, in attempting to tackle it, is to address these contributory factors one at a time.
What you shouldn’t do, though, is claim that contributory factor is solely to blame, or make villains of people, when your beef is, in reality, with an attitude, or an industry, or an ignorance, or a prejudice. This is what is known as “oversimplification” (or “Tash will throw nearest objects to hand at her television and shout the word ‘bollocks!’ repeatedly to the surprise and alarm of her flatmate”). It happens all the time.
“New study finds Mums responsible for body confidence issues in daughters!”
“Angelina Jolie: Frail frame gives damaging message to young girls!”
“Call to ban airbrushing to end body insecurity!”
It’s headlines like these which promote the idea that it’s only teenage girls who suffer from eating disorders, that they’ve all had trauma in their childhood (or have terrible mothers), that celebrities want us all to stop eating and that the media is one huge ogre, chasing us around all day bellowing at us relentlessly until we feel like shit about ourselves. They also represent the sort of social attitudes which gave birth to the inexplicable need for Supersize-v-Superskinny to assault our television screens every Tuesday. And I don’t think any of us can forgive them for that. But of course I cannot just blame the headlines, or Dr Christian (however tempting that might be) because that would run counter to my argument.
So, imagine my delight when an article came out in the Daily Mail Online today in which "she of the fabulousness", Body Gossip ambassador Zaraah Abrahams said “I don’t want to be anyone’s thinspiration!” and defended celebrities against our tendency to blame them for promoting anorexia. Hurrah yippee etc. Read it here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2123257/Zaraah-Abrahams-fights-disturbing-trend-spurs-weight-loss.html
Tomorrow my delight will continue, as a new book hits the shelves: ‘Hope with Eating Disorders’ by Lynn Crilly. It’s a guide for friends and family who may be concerned for someone with an eating disorder and want some unbiased advice. If you read it, and I hope you do, you’ll see that Lynn is determined we stop playing 'The Blame Game'. Her message is consistent: Blame makes us bitter and exhausted. We’re all trying our best. Here is some support.
To find out more about Lynn’s book go to: http://www.lynncrilly.co.uk/MyBook/HopewithEatingDisorders.aspx