This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. As photographers of young students and teens, we want to help change the conversation around body image, self-worth and eating disorders.
We’ve had students delay booking their grad photos with us because they wanted a few more months to lose weight. We often get questions about retouching and if we can reduce overall body size, as well as cheeks, necks and arms. We've even had a student faint during their session because they didn’t eat enough that day so they could “look skinny” in their photos.
Body image is complicated. We’re definitely not here to shame anyone for wanting to look a certain way. Being photographed can bring up a lot of feelings, and those feelings are valid. What we want to say is that even though these photos are about "looking good” (whatever that might be for you), they’re also about so much more.
Being photographed can bring up a lot of feelings, and those feelings are valid.
Grad photos are about your accomplishments, both in and out of school. They’re a moment to celebrate all you have achieved and all that is to come in the next phase of life. They’re an opportunity to create memories with your friends, family, pets and loved ones. It really is what’s on the inside that counts.
We firmly believe that everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and their photos. If you’re struggling with emotions around body image and food, or are feeling anxious about being photographed, please know you’re not alone. It's normal to feel a little anxious about having your photo taken. We see you and want you to know that you can #comeasyouare
Here is some more information about eating disorders and disordered eating:
Eating disorders are diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), with the most common being anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder (National Institute of Mental Health 2016). Eating disorders are not identifiable by how someone looks — they can affect all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. There is no single cause of an eating disorder, they are the result of a combination of biological, psychological and social factors (NIMH 2016).
But eating disorders don't have to be clinically diagnosed to be real. Disordered eating is on a spectrum and can take many forms, including compulsive binge eating, orthorexia, restrictive eating and compulsive exercising. Individual experiences of disordered eating will vary from person to person (NIMH 2016).
If you are experiencing obsessive thoughts around food, exercise or negative body image, then you may find these resources helpful:
https://nedic.ca/ - This is the website for the National Eating Disorder Information Centre, a Canadian website with resources, support and referrals for local care providers.
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ - This US website offers resources, online support and screening tools.
http://Jessieslegacy.com - Based in North Vancouver, this Eating disorder prevention and awareness program offers helpful information and local resources for students, parents and teachers.
https://www.amightygirl.com/ - This website offers a collection of books, toys and movies for girls and women.
https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/recovery/support-groups - Eating disorder support groups. Although this is based in the US, there are links for online support groups and other helpful resources.
This Huffington Post article about obesity and the effects of fatphobia.
Some awesome body-positive Instagram accounts:
National Institute of Mental Health (2016). Eating Disorders. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml.