National Eating Disorders Association
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Ramadan is like a Spiderman movie.

I wait anxiously all year for its release. Once it arrives, it ends way too quickly. Afterwards, however, I am happy knowing that, inevitably, there will always be next year.

If you’re not a Spiderman fan (but...but...James Franco!), just fill in with your choice of Avengers/Harry Potter spinoff/Emma Watson project.

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I remember the magic of my first cross-country season back in 7th grade. I remember how running felt more like playing. How I literally laughed as I ran, because I was having so much fun. How races were adventures between me and my teammates. 

I remember so clearly, because this free-spirited joy in running now feels elusive. In high school, the pressure to perform in order to get recognized by college coaches is high. Once in college, the competition is fierce, sometimes even amongst teammates. Perhaps most insidious is the underlying belief that thin = fast.

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Perfectionism is often a trait of many folks who are in recovery from eating disorders, including me. My childhood traumas left me feeling flawed, inherently bad, and not good enough for anyone. I believed that if I was a “good girl” and excelled at all things, my life would be better. 

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There have been many moments in my life when I have questioned if I am lovable. My belief about what being lovable looked like began when I was a toddler and realized I'd much rather play with the boys than be around the girls. As we aged together I began to feel rejected as some of the boys uttered, “You can’t play with us. You’re a girl!” The words, “You’re a girl” would be repeated by many others as I grew into my young adult years. Each time was another blow to my gut, knocking the wind out of my body and leaving me feeling lost, broken, and unaccepted.

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Despite recent progress, many autistic people’s unique issues around mental health and eating disorders continue to be misunderstood or dismissed outright. As the number of people being identified and diagnosed with autism increases, it is vital that both professionals and recovery advocates include autistic voices in the conversation about body image and eating disorders. 

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Marcela Sabiá is a 26-year-old Brazilian illustrator who loves dogs, astrology, and creating art that makes the world a better place. She first started creating art professionally in 2015, and now, nearly three years later, she boasts an Instagram following of over 20,000. We chatted with Marcela about her art, her feminist awakening, and what she’d tell young women who are struggling with body image issues or eating disorders. Check out our interview below!

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I used to go to birthday parties just for the cake. No, really, I did. I always found the social aspects of birthday parties to be incredibly difficult. Too many people, who was I supposed to talk to, would the birthday girl or birthday boy like the gift, and the food. Oh, the food. What was I supposed to do? 

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Many Autistic people have openly shared their struggles with body image and eating disorders (take a look at our Autism Acceptance Month #NEDAchat recap for reference), but their unique issues around food still tend to be misunderstood or outright dismissed by professionals. 

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As a teenager, I’d often be in a group with other girls when the subject of our bodies would come up. My friends traded anecdotes on which aspects of their body they loved least, and what was wrong with them. Because I didn’t chime in, most people assumed I had fantastic self-confidence.

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In the beginning of April, I participated in a NEDA chat about eating disorders, body image issues, and how they affect me as an autistic woman. After the chat, I had so many thoughts swirling around in my brain. The questions and answers brought forth memories long forgotten. 

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