Today’s blog post is about the role that perception can play when it comes to eating disorders – about the accuracy (or inaccuracy) that an individual might have when it comes to perceiving their bodies and what they truly look like.
It’s no secret that often, people who are suffering with an eating disorder can have a distorted view of themselves – ie, they perceive themselves as bigger than they are, or perhaps even see themselves as overweight – despite being underweight or within a healthy weight range. This is generally linked to Anorexia Nervosa, but is not only limited to that particular disorder.
Even individuals WITHOUT eating disorders can regularly experience a distorted view of their body – and this distortion can occur for a whole range of reasons. There are people who often talk about having “fat days” – just as a once off, for example. Relatively speaking, it’s actually a pretty common and somewhat “normal” thing.
The way in which we view ourselves, as I already mentioned, can be influenced by a number of things – perhaps what we’ve eaten, comments that people have made, comparisons we tend to make between ourselves and others, if we have managed to implement some good ol’ self-care in recent times, what clothes we might be wearing that day and how those particular clothing items make us feel, if we’ve exercised or if we haven’t, what time of the month it is, heck – what HOLIDAY it is really, if we think about Christmas and Easter and the like and all the excellent food goodness that tends to accompany those times. Some days we might have “good” body image days – and see ourselves in a better light than we might usually, even if we look exactly the same as we did yesterday when we were having a “fat day”. Again, this can occur for a multitude of reasons.
I don’t know about you, but I am aware of the fact that I do not see myself accurately. 98% of how I view myself is not based upon facts, but upon feelings. Upon how I judge myself as a person, and upon what thoughts my eating disorder imposes upon me. And how do I know my view is inaccurate? I know this because of the facts. I know this because of what people close to me, and whom I trust deeply, tell me. My perception is inaccurate because yesterday I didn’t like my body and today I do. I know this because of what clothes I might fit into, and what clothes I might not. I know this because my perception of myself changes MANY times a day, and that’s just not a realistic thing – sure, weight fluctuates throughout the day, but it is in NO WAY apparent in the physical sense.
And I know this because I am aware my eating disorder is incredibly deceiving and distorts my perception of myself – but it seems like such a real reflection and so I fall for it every time.
Have you guys heard of lenticular printing? You know – those animation cards that you look at one way and it’s a picture of a tiger leaping over a crevasse, and then you look at it from a different angle and the image has completely changed? Or how about those pictures that, if you stare at them for long enough, your eyes start to see a different picture emerging from within it? What’s accurate? What isn’t? How can we ever truly know? This is EXACTLY why we need to look at the facts. Our brains are AMAZING. They want to see SOMETHING. They want to find SOMETHING. Anything. And eating disorders want to focus on the flaws and obsess about the little things. Eating disorders prevent the individual from being able to look at the “big picture”, per say.
So – in conclusion. Your eating disorder is a liar, and is more than likely going to try and distort the way you see yourself. As challenging as it is, look at the facts. Trust the professionals, and those closest to you. Bear in mind that how you feel about yourself as a person can directly influence how you see yourself as a person. And remember that regardless of your weight or your shape or whatever the hell you look like – you’re 110% valuable and lovely and important – and NOTHING can ever change that, no matter what side you look at it from.