The Reason I Wrote: Healing the Temple of the Soul
(A story about body image and eating disorders)
By D. Watt, B.A., PT
I remember volunteering at a YMCA when a very thin girl came up to me. She grabbed the skin of her arm and asked me how she could lose fat. I could see her bone through her skin. I knew very little about eating disorders then so I told her she didn’t need to lose fat but needed to add muscle.
On TV there would be fashion shows. I expected to see eye appealing curves and femininity. What I saw instead was skin and bone; androgynous wraiths wearing clothing that hung on their emaciated bodies.
Initially I didn’t find many books about girls with eating disorders so I wrote a book about a girl struggling with an eating disorder and body image. Knowing, that as a male, I could only take what I had heard, seen, and read and bounce it back to create the main character Cynthia, I decided to ask women I knew to read it. It was strange to have women who had and were dealing with an eating disorder tell me I was on track while professionals who worked with individuals with eating disorders told me I was far off track.
Over the years I did find some books on eating disorders. The one that stayed with me is Joan Ryan’s Little Girls In Pretty Boxes. Ryan did research on female gymnasts and figure skaters and interviewed some of the athletes. After mentioning the book to women I knew or trained my view of what causes eating disorders and body image struggles altered greatly. Up to that point I had thought eating disorders were only a symptom of trying to control body weight and appearance. I was shocked when I was told that much of it is caused because of physical, psychological, or/and sexual abuse at a young age. Healing the Temple of the Soul deals more with the need to belong, attention, and sports.
A client told me about a model friend of hers who was giving a seminar on modeling. This was another eye opener. Programs like Photoshop allow editors to completely change the physical attributes of a model. A size three can become a size zero, facial features like freckles can be removed, bosoms can be enlarged or shrunk, and the neck and waist can be made thinner. I am not a fan of what I would call the “mannequin” look.
I wanted the cover to represent a scene in the book so I asked my Goddaughter to model for the cover of Healing the Temple of the Soul. She looked healthy and vibrant in the picture so Stephanie McColl did an amazing pointillism portrait of her looking gaunt.
There’s a song I include in the book by Alanis Morissette called Mary Jane. A verse in the song says what so many people who care are:
I hear you’re losing weight again Mary Jane
Do you ever wonder who you’re losing it for
Arcade Fire’s Creature Comfort points out the need for attention:
Some girls hate their bodies
Stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback
Now there’s a new song/message from Billie Eilish called Not My Responsibility in which she deals directly with body image and weight:
Is my value based only on your perception?
Or is your opinion of me?
Not my responsibility
Body shaming can come in many forms: too heavy, too light, showing too much skin, or not enough. Sexual attraction is natural but it needs to be surrounded by respect. The movie The Fifth Element comes to mind when discussing sexuality and respect. Bruce Willis’s character Korben reaches out to touch a mostly naked Leeloo played by Milla Jorovich. Leeloo grabs Korben in a strangle hold and tells him, “Never without my permission.”
The goal of Healing the Garden of the Body is to encourage anyone with an eating disorder or body image struggle that they can overcome their fears. I also wanted to point out that everyone has struggles and the importance of support. Mostly though, I want people who are struggling to understand that there are others who care about them, including men.