Last Saturday I watched a show on TLC about eating disorders. It covered a broad range of topics, including binging, serial dieting, and anorexia. Although I have never had an eating disorder, I found the show to be particularly interesting. After all, we Americans are obsessed with food.
What most caught my attention was the segment concerning anorexia. This segment presented interviews with current and recovering anorexics, as well as psychologists specializing in this disorder. It also showed images from pro-anorexic Web sites that were entitled "Thinspiration." This warped sense of body image utterly amazed me. Whereas most people dream of the "six-pack" abs, these women (this segment only featured women) strove for the coveted "six-pack" rib cage! In their eyes, success is only achieved when their bodies are no more than literally skin and bones, regardless of body type. In today's media-driven society, we are impaled with thousands of images on a daily basis. Commercials and advertisements tell us where to eat, what to buy and how to look. Clothing stores tell us what size we need to wear, and even "reality TV" is filled with potential models, rather than everyday people. Success becomes more narrowly defined as an image, rather than a state of being. Although many of us can determine when the line has been crossed and can say "enough's enough," some unfortunate souls become lost on a whirlwind path to self-imposed starvation. We all have our own critiques about our bodies -- this part is too big, that part is too little, this part is crooked, etc. However, a mentally healthy person is able to recognize the limits of his or her body, and come to terms with things the way they are. In other words, he or she is able to maintain a realistic body image. Drum corps forces us to acknowledge our body image. I know that the first time I stepped into the community showers I was keenly aware of my body. There was nothing left to separate me from my body -- no clothes, no towel, not even a swimsuit. It's no longer a matter of "averting our eyes" from the mirror when we step into the bathroom. Showering with others heightens our sense of awareness in that anything we can see, anyone else can see as well. But it is here that a critical observation is made. Drum corps brings together all sorts of individuals with all different shapes and sizes. In the locker room, under those horrendous florescent lights, it's easy to see that nobody is perfect. The perfect body simply does not exist. This awareness becomes more finely tuned as the season progresses. Many of us corps members like to joke around about tour as being a "glorified fat camp." After all, many of us see dramatic weight losses, some of us coming back literally half the person that left! Drum corps shows us the extremes to which we can take our bodies while still remaining healthy. Every day, the locker rooms keep us acutely aware of our bodies, and the bodies of our corpsmates. We can see how diet and exercise can affect different body types, and learn how our own bodies function under the circumstances. In the end, we can come home with a realistic and healthy body image. By exposing all of our shortcomings, we are forced to come to terms with them. We can learn the limits of our body, and become more comfortable in our own skin. Thanks to drum corps, we can define success in a manner beyond skin and bones, and hold an image in our heads that is more "inspiration" than "thinspiration." Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native) with a political science degree, and will age out in 2005.