By: Nicole Jones
It is our duty in life to share our stories, our struggles, and our hardships in order to help others feel a sense of belonging and community. This is the ideology I embraced when deciding to focus 96 POUNDS on taking control of my relationship with eating disorders. By portraying a personal battle with bulimia, binge eating, body dysmorphia, and a strained relationship with food, I have gained control of my own eating disorder narrative and created a space where eating disorders are less stigmatized and stereotyped. I have also simultaneously been working towards accepting my body and coming to terms with the reality of my disorders.
I began this series by taking several nude self-portraits that I immediately hated, every flaw I felt I had was only magnified behind the camera. I took my images into Photoshop and began the process of digitally painting every inch of my body. The digital painting process is similar to painting with pigment and a brush, only your brush is a computer mouse and your paint is computer pixels. It’s a technique I learned in high school and is a pain-stakingly monotonous process of covering up, perfecting, and control—similar to what I strived for when struggling with my eating disorders. This technique forced me to touch every inch of my body that I felt insecure about to the point where I no longer felt hatred. It allowed me the ability to cover the parts of my body that I was insecure about while leaving the ‘safe’ parts of my body, or the parts that are typically visible, unpainted.
Ultimately, I want to be the person to tell the story of my eating disorders and I want discussions surrounding eating disorders to feel less taboo. This project is the first time I am discussing my disorder openly beyond an immediate small group of people, some of whom have wrongly assumed it was their right to share details of my experience without my consent. I was afraid to admit to myself I had an eating disorder and once I felt confident enough to confide in others, only for this trust to be broken, I found myself more scared than ever to talk about my disorder due to the stigma that comes with the label. This project allowed me the space to visualize my relationship with food, my body, and my eating disorders on my terms and by putting my body on display directly next to phrases I have heard repeatedly throughout my life that have fueled my disorder, I am slowly regaining control of my narrative in the most vulnerable of ways.
I recently heard Valpo’s men’s soccer coach, Mike Avery, explain that it is our job to share our stories in order to help others feel like they belong. This is one of the main reasons behind my motivation to complete this project and to share my story publicly for the first time: by sharing my eating disorder, I encourage others to reflect upon their own behaviors that may be unintentionally harmful to those who are struggling, whether openly or still in their own minds, while also encouraging viewers to realize eating disorders are nothing to be ashamed of, and there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to talking about your disorder. It is brave, it is vulnerable, and it is empowering.