Written by: Kelly Maughan
An old Cherokee told his grandson “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, empathy, and truth.” The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” And the man replied “The one you feed.”
Eating disorders are so very misunderstood. I am here to tell you this: it REALLY has nothing to do with food. I promise. It has to do with a tiny voice in your head that at some point in your life, started out small- maybe you don’t even know where it started, but you listened to it, and it helped you. It helped you feel in control, it helped you feel loved, it helped you figure out a way to deal with things. And before you know it, that voice is the only thing you can listen to, and you realize that you’re very much NOT in control at all. That voice becomes one with your own, and you don’t even know which is which anymore.
Earlier this year, I was photographing a wedding when I heard something that really shook me. First, I have a huge soft spot for kids- I’m a nanny, I’ve always loved kids. And when the topics of eating disorder and kids collide, it deeply moves me, because I was a kid when all of this started for me, and as I dive deeper and deeper into myself, I am remembering more and more about how I felt. So I was doing my thing at the wedding, photographing the bride as she was getting her hair and makeup done, bridesmaids buzzing around, proud family members, etc. One of the junior bridesmaids
came out of the bathroom wearing her dress for the wedding, spinning and twirling, saying “look, Mom! My dress fits SO much better now!”. The Mother of the girl (who was probably 10-11 years old), turned to me and put her hand on my shoulder and laughed and said “she’s been starving herself all week to fit into that dress”. And my heart sank. It did a million flips in my chest, and then it just sank. Not only was this poor girl starving herself to fit into a dress, but she was being praised by her Mom for doing so. I tried to smile through what I’m sure was a horrified look on my face, and I kept shooting. I thought about it every time I saw that girl that day. I thought about it on the way home in the car- I cried about it. And then I cried about it again the next day. I wanted to shake that Mother and tell her what she’s up against if her daughter develops an eating disorder. I wanted to scream at her and tell her that her daughter isn’t even done growing, that her body isn’t even done becoming a full-grown body, and the last thing her daughter needs, is to hear that starving herself is the answer to not fitting into a dress. I am speaking to all parents- because every time a child gets positive reinforcement for fitting into something that used to be too small, you’re feeding into it. Each time she gets praised for eating less than normal, you’re feeding into it. Every time she sees you speaking badly about your body, you’re feeding into it. You’re feedingwhat eventually becomes, the voice. THEIR voice. Choose your words wisely.
It’s safe to say that I was effected by this, even though it may seem very small and harmless to most people. But for SO many girls (including myself), this is exactly how it starts. You innocently want to fit into something, and when you do, the praise you receive is so great, you’re obviously not going to stop. After a few days went by, I was still thinking about it, and I really just wanted to make sure that girl was ok. I happened to be close with a few family members from the wedding, and I did end up saying something privately, a few days later. I just couldn’t sit with myself and not say something. Thankfully, it was well received, and appreciated, which made me feel confident in my decision to speak up. If I can do anything to help prevent someone from falling into a hole that is damn near impossible to get out of, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. DON’T feed the voice- feed the love, feed yourself, feed your soul, and be sure to speak with compassion.