ok but seriously I’m tired of the “Thin girl looking in a mirror and seeing a fat girl” image being used as The Universal Representation of Eating Disorders
like, yeah, okay. It kinda works like that, kinda. Even body dysmorphia doesn’t exactly work like this — a sufferer may perceive their abdomen as being “too large,” for example, but it’s not like they literally lose the ability to gauge how much physical space it occupies. From a neurological standpoint, BDD has more to do with the emotional centers of the brain than the visual cortex, which is not what these images imply.
It promotes the idea that eating disorders are a sort of hallucination, which in turn perpetuates the myth that they can be “cured” with comparison shots or simple reassurance. It also exaggerates the overlap between BDD and eating disorders — not everyone with an eating disorder has BDD, and vice versa.
As it specifically relates to photos, I also find something a little disgusting and insulting about asking a larger woman, “Hey, would you mind posing in a photo for me? I’m going to need you to personify the self-loathing of an eating disorder sufferer. Like, you’re going to need to stand opposite a really, really thin chick, and you have to represent the thing she hates and fears the most. And you both have to be in your underwear. Cool? Cool.”
In general, it promotes a warped view of eating disorders, and I also think it’s kinda insulting to bigger girls (because it’s ALWAYS girls in the photos). It’s cheesy and stupid and just plain inaccurate.
A perfectly viable replacement would be someone “body-checking,” by touching or squeezing common areas where fat is deposited. I’ve seen it as a typical eating disorder stock photo before, and though it’s corny, it works fine without perpetuating inaccuracies or being nasty.
Excuse the bad photos, but here are some rough examples:
It conveys the idea of dissatisfaction with the body. The upper arms, abdomen, and thighs are typical areas for fat accumulation, so it’s easily recognizable. It’s also something we actually do, unlike looking in the mirror and hallucinating someone three times our size.
I’ve seen it used as a stock photo in other articles about EDs, it’s just not as common as the mirror bit. It’s still kinda corny, but I’d much prefer that to the “fat girl in the mirror” cliché.