From February 22 to February 28 of this year, we honored all those afflicted with Eating Disorders: but why was it that I only learned of it until after the fact? As someone who knows of others who have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders, both diagnosed or undiagnosed, I know that this week deserves to be talked about in all of its realistic, unfiltered glory.
This year’s theme for ED awareness week was “Every Body Has a Seat at the Table.” This resonated with me for a few reasons. Not only does this statement mean that all people should go out into the world to be accepted as they are and show others who they are (as unrealistic as that may seem these days), it also has a connection to the meals we have when sitting at a table. Since every person is built differently and experiences the world differently, the way that people put on, take off and have a relationship with weight is different as well. This includes people of all gender identities. Too often we forget that men’s eating disorders are not recognized, and that they need just as much support in receiving guidance and support. For people like myself, losing weight and keeping it off in a healthy way is difficult, for some, it’s based on genetics, and for others, they try their whole lives to put on weight and fail due to genetics and metabolism. We fear looking down when we step onto the scale because we don’t want to disappoint ourselves when there are so many factors at play that could be out of our control. I feel that social media has a huge role to play in our views of ourselves and our exposure to certain content, but a change can certainly be made.
Just like many people, I have become prone to scrolling through TikToks in the wee hours of the morning. Too often, the women and men I see on my “For You Page” fit their respective socially acceptable mold of beauty. Are these social media algorithms this intent on silencing women and men of all shapes and sizes because they deem them imperfect? Why can’t we celebrate the people who so confidently celebrate who they are with no reservations? And how is it that I was on social media from February 22 to February 28 without seeing a single post acknowledging Eating Disorder Awareness Week?
The only reasonable (yet still unreasonable) conclusion I have come to is that when social media founders and teams create these algorithms, they want to draw as many people to their app as possible to boost its popularity. But as statistics and articles have shown, they are partly to blame for these negative self-images people have. Their solution is to show all the posts where people are picture-perfect people on your explore page, but not the instances where people are most real about who they are. This is social media’s fatal flaw. For this reason, it is self-explanatory why social media is called a highlight reel: we see the best parts of every person, physical or otherwise. We have become so infatuated with the people we see on social media that we forget most photos are edited in some way, people pose to accentuate certain parts of themselves, and that the app creators push out content to users that are most “socially acceptable”. How can we support those suffering from EDs when the apps won’t push out content surrounding its awareness to all, determined to paint everyone in a filtered light?
We can’t control what we get exposed to on social media. This is simply because we are not coders who can change the algorithm for the better. However, what I propose is this: we make every day eating disorder awareness day. We take to social media with our natural faces, natural bodies, and naturally beautiful selves to celebrate who we are, our struggles, and challenges. It is no easy task to be authentic and vulnerable in this day and age, especially when people can be downright intolerable of others. But maybe, just maybe, if we band together and support one another, we could begin to break down the stigma surrounding eating disorders and society’s perceptions of beauty.