Statistics estimate that 725,000 people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, yet I wonder how many more suffer with the pain of looking in the mirror and feeling inadequate. Whether it’s a crash diet for a holiday, or a instagram feed of #thinspiration’s, ask a woman what she would change about her body and she’ll have an answer in seconds.
As a writer I spend my days interviewing some of the most inspiring women in the public eye; from Vogue’s former beauty and health editor to a gold medal winning Olympian, these are women that have made waves for their achievements, not their appearances, yet we live in a world where the latter will be noted first. For me, my eyes were opened when my chat with Dr Linda Papadopoulos became less about her work as an academic psychologist, and more focused on the female body dissatisfaction she pioneers to change.
Sure, her words hit home as we talk about the crippling nature of anorexia nervosa, but they do even more so when we discuss the overwhelmingly visual society we live in. Despite no longer wearing the physical signs of the condition that ruled my life, put up a photo of me that I don’t like and all hell breaks loose. The physical act of taking a selfie is now coupled with the agonising debate of choosing the most flattering filter. As Linda notes, ‘we are actually being conditioned to focus on what we don’t like about our faces so we can perfect and change them – we’re all looking for mistakes to fix.’
So how do we change this? Linda laughs – if only there was a simple answer. Living in a society that focuses on the problem it strives to change, eating disorders become a matter of child’s play as suffers get younger and younger. The media portrays one idealised view of beauty – white, thin and photoshopped. Telling me that from a young age ‘women are constantly told, whether it’s overtly or covertly, that all that matters is how cute you are – it doesn’t really matter if you get that Nobel, what really matters is what you wear to collect the prize.’ And looking at the stash of fashion magazines under my dressing table, I cannot help but agree.
Linda leaves me with the meme worthy quote – ‘I love my lip gloss and my highlights and I think that’s great, but I love my PhD a hell of a lot more; and that will be there long after the highlights have gone.’ This isn’t a problem that will change overnight, but is one we should all never stop trying to challenge.
To read my full interview with Linda follow this lovely link.