I’ve worked in the eating disorder field for more than 20 years. I’ve helped thousands of patients and families.
I’ve seen the many fluctuations on the continuum between darkness and inspiration that come with the struggle and recovery from eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa.
I’ve heard almost every imaginable excuse to avoid treatment.
I’ve seen the damaging impact of body shaming. Simple words that can send someone’s mind into a tail spin of pain, self-doubt and shame.
Have I mentioned that I’m a 50-year old male?
Before you question what makes me qualified to work with a population where our female clients make up the majority of the treatment milieu – or talk about body shaming specifically – hear me out for a minute.
I’ve never had an eating disorder. But I do have a physical self. I live in the same culture that loves to dictate what our height, weight, shape and appearance should look like. I’ve experienced the attacks on my own self-worth at any ounce of “imperfection.”
Body shaming is all around. It’s there when I turn on the radio and hear someone tell me how I need to make an appointment with Dr. Youthful who promises to “fix” my imperfect neck. It’s there when I’m reading Men’s Health and see an ad “encouraging” me to join the “Hair Club for Men” for those not having an acceptably thick amount of hair on our heads, yet have to go to another “club” to get hair removed off my back and chest. It’s there during the constant plugs for weight loss products every time I turn on sports radio. With all these messages, I too, find myself questioning my self-worth and body confidence.
For women and men suffering from the infliction of an eating disorder within this cultural back drop, it’s no wonder why it has become increasingly challenging for many to feel comfortable in their own skin.
So, what can we do? Here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned:
• Tune out the cultural norms that promote an idealized physical self as the sole definer of who we are. In reality, how we look should be an afterthought of who we truly are. Our value and worth should never be defined by what’s being said on TV or shared on social media.
• Set the right expectations with the media. Realize the final image that gets published or aired is most of the time unrealistic and unattainable. Many photos in magazines or social media are photo shopped to meet their own standards of “beauty” (note the quotations).
• Realize the real meaning of beauty encompasses all shapes and sizes. Don’t let people discriminate or criticize your body or anyone else’s body.
• Stay focused and be reminded of your positive characteristics, values and beliefs. A body shouldn’t be judged by its cover – appreciate all the amazing things our body does for us (like keep us ALIVE) and remember to notice, with greater value, what’s inside the physical being!
Whether you’re a 13-year old girl or middle-aged male clinician, we’re all in this together.
What other advice would you have? (Yes, I want to hear from other men, too!)
Bob Bordonaro is the Director at Walden Behavioral Care’s Peabody Clinic. In this role, Mr. Bordonaro is responsible for ensuring effective clinical programming, program staffing, selection and supervision of staff, budgeting and compliance with all organizational and regulatory agency standards. Formerly, Mr. Bordonaro was Timberline Knoll’s Professional Outreach Representativefor the Northeast region.
Mr. Bordonaro earned his Masters of Social Work from Simmons College, Boston, MA. He is the current President of the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Metro Boston Chapter and has been a member of the National Association of Social Workers since 1998.
*This blog post does not necessarily represent the views of Walden Behavioral Care and its management. The Walden Blog is meant to represent a broad variety of opinions relating to eating disorders and their treatment. Comments are welcome, but respect for the opinions of others is encouraged.