I'm Tired of the Media Telling Us to 'Love Our Bodies' but Ignoring People With Disabilities
How many times have we all heard it spouted from the voices of a million different bloggers, a million different magazines, a million different writers, a million different celebrities? “It’s all about loving your body.” Well, if it’s all about loving my body, why are you ramming your idea of perfection down my throat? Why do I have to subscribe to your view that x, y or z is better? And do you know what you’re doing to me, as a disabled person, or as a person with mental health problems, when you repeatedly hammer those images and diets and words down my throat? Do you even get that your ideals of perfection leave out a whole bunch of us who are pretty damn perfect in our own right?
I’m never going to be a size zero. I’m not going to be able to go back to my teen days of doing multiple different physical activities a week, like dance, gymnastics, trampolining, cycling, walking and rounders (for the Americans reading this it’s similar to baseball). But all your articles, all your phrasing, it focuses on the able-bodied community, on the people who aren’t fighting with mental health issues. You don’t look past the ableism you so often espouse.
For once I’d love to see an article about healthy eating and exercises for wheelchair users or those with mobility difficulties in a mainstream magazine. Or at least adaptations for us included in an article. I want to see articles about how we can focus on eating well and healthily and exercise while recovering from eating disorders and/or dealing with mental health issues. When magazine readership comes from a population where one in four people are going to have mental health issues in their lifetime, shouldn’t they cater to these people too? Shouldn’t we step away from peer pressure and fat-shaming? Shouldn’t we be focusing not on how much weight someone has put on or lost, but on how to keep ourselves as healthy as we can in the bodies we have?
I don’t want to have to pick up a specialist magazine to see someone like me represented in it. I don’t want to know that such and such a celebrity lost x amount of baby weight by doing this diet and these exercises when I know that diet could destroy my eating disorder recovery, and the exercises are impractical for someone who uses a wheelchair, even part-time. I don’t want to be told I should be eating x number of calories a day, when actually, because of my conditions, that’s not right. Why do we even need to focus on the calories anyway? Why aren’t we focusing on a balanced diet instead? When we calorie count, we allow people to become obsessed with what they eat. When we focus on what celebrities weigh and look like, we focus on what we think we should weigh and look like. We are all beautiful.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
I’m fortunate, on my good days, I can leave my wheelchair at home, pick up my sticks or crutches, and enjoy a walk. I may have to take it slowly, but I can do it. On the days I have to use my chair, I use a manual one. I challenge myself to push myself a little farther. Can I manage that hill on my own? Or at least half of it? How much pain is it going to put me in if I attempt it? I try and keep my muscles working in a way that will support my joints, I try and push through the pain of fibromyalgia to ensure that joints affected by arthritis and hypermobility are supported. I can’t always do it, and the pain can get too much, but I have a choice. I research the best exercises and diet for a person like myself, and I use them.
But those articles, those comments, they still get me down from time to time. I haven’t lapsed in a few years now, but I’m still in recovery from my eating disorders. I always will be. Just as I’ll always be looking for a cure for my myriad chronic pain and mental health conditions. I’ve fought long and hard to accept I’m never going to be healthy and the size that the magazines espouse is right. I’m never going to have that “perfect” figure. But what I do have is a body that despite chronic pain hasn’t yet given up on me. I have a body that wasn’t supposed to be here after my 5th birthday, but 30 years beyond that still is. I have a scar running from my left underarm up my back from the bypass that saved my life, legs that danced far longer than they should have, eyes that see into the hearts of those I love and a tummy that makes me a little extra cuddly. At 35, I love this body, even with everything it puts me through. And I hope that others in a similar condition can love theirs too.
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Thinkstock photo via mixformdesign.