“Every Body Has a Seat at the Table?”

February 22, 2021
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is a 2021 Featured NEDAwareness Week Partner.  The following is a YBIC National Eating Disorders Awareness Week post that highlights how the practice of yoga can be an integral component in the effective treatment of and on-going recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating. The shares included are from those who have first-hand experience with disordered eating or from those who are called to share their body acceptance journeys.
 Why do marginalised groups continue to be under-represented in most areas of society from Fashion to Wellbeing? This is not a rhetorical question. We do need to give this some serious consideration.  We have to vigorously challenge systemic biases, and this includes eating disorders so that recovery can take place for every body.
When you investigate the eating disorder community you would be correct in thinking that there is a strong presence of discrimination.  By virtue, the lack of representation of marginalised groups.   Allowing you to think that the social groups, including the black community, are exempt from eating disorders.   We have to dispel the myth that only white, thin women are the only social group that suffers with eating disorders.  It is so hard as a body positive advocate to not discuss how and why this is perpetuated.
The truth is that an Eating Disorder is a mental illness and can affect any one – regardless of: race, shape, ethnicity, size, gender and socioeconomic status.
Your colour, size or gender – basically your physical appearance – should not be used as a measure to determine health or the likelihood of whether you have an eating disorder. This is stretching credulity to it’s limit.  Despite the many advances we are making in technology there is a marked absence of corresponding advances in equity and equality so that all can experience what should be the birth right of health.    As a society we have become consumed with image, we have started to use physical appearance as the new way to determine health status.  Health is not some random construct that can be determined by colour or size.
The many stereotypes surrounding health, body image and eating disorders are just some of the reasons there is invisibility for certain groups. One such stereotype is that black women are often seen as “strong black women” which implies that we will not be susceptible to these issues.  And it dismisses the effects of daily traumas in the form of micro aggressions and discrimination not experienced by other groups that also affects health.
The eating disorder arena needs to be demystified in a similar way that the yoga world does. There are so many myths and misinformation that needs to be debunked so that the individuals that need help are able to receive it and so that recovery is forthcoming.
Writing this seems so appropriate as it is Black History month in America.  A month that provides us an opportunity to highlight the inequities and poor access in not only the treatment of eating disorders, but in all areas of health and wellness.  This has become even more evident during the pandemic where inequities in health care are leaving the most vulnerable communities to suffer the most.
While eating disorders were once thought to only affect a small portion of the population, we now know that countless individuals can be vulnerable to developing this disease.   We need to give a voice and platform to the powerless and bring attention to the groups of people who have perhaps been unacknowledged and ignored in their struggles with an eating disorder.
Does a lack of research that centres on marginalized groups and only focuses on the stereotypical eating disorder experience mean the only research that exists is their lived experience?   More needs to be done to include every body in both the research and treatment of eating disorders.
Greater inclusivity means making space for everyone at the table so that they have a voice and this can be heard.

Donna Noble

Donna Noble is a Yoga teacher, body positive and social justice advocate and is also the Founder of Curvesomeyoga. Her mission is to evolve the image of yoga to make it more diverse and inclusive. Donna has written for and featured in digital and print publications: Thrive Global, Elephant Journal, Yoga International, HuffPost, Black Girls in Om, Om Yoga and Lifestyle Magazine and on BBC Radio London She is currently writing her first book about Body Positive Yoga.

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