Taking on Gawker...

Guess the celebrity, from Gawker:

"This super skinny A/B lister has always blamed her skinny weight on her incredible metabolism and good genes. Well, we know that every time she goes out to a restaurant, she purges her food in the bathroom. That's not the gossip here. The real story is why she does it. Her eating disorder apparently started as a diet competition between her and another celeb starlet. The two were competing for a very big role a few years ago (a role which our actress did not get) and the two openly made a goal to "underweight" one another. The celeb who got the part, lost the weight in a healthy way and moved on, but our star's ED stuck. So sad! Not: Megan Fox."

(Emphasis mine)

The real story on why she does it? Because she has a mental illness, the same as me and any of the other people I've met in treatment.

Certainly, everyone's story is unique and deserves to be heard. The exact descriptions of the triggers and whys and hows and whats are going to be different, and that's fine. But "why" someone continues to engage in ED behaviors? That's because they have an eating disorder. These behaviors are usually fueled by a variety of different factors (for me, perfectionism and reduction of anxiety were two major ones), but trust me--no one continues an eating disorder because they just want to star in a movie. Their eating disorder continues because it's an illness. It's not vanity. It's not some vapid starlet trying to win a Hollywood role. It's an eating disorder.

This person (please don't guess in the comments! That is not the point of the post!) "got" an eating disorder because she had the neurobiological wiring and then tried to lose weight--assuming that the story is correct. You can't just "get" an eating disorder the same way you "get" a cold or the flu. The weight loss competition for the part simply started the snowball rolling. And the nature of the eating disorder kept it going.

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Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. Lots of people diet. Some people develop EDs, which are not a diet, and have much more to it than that. Many people have been like, "well X can diet just fine." I always respond that it is not a diet, its an illness that has many, many, many, many different factors behind it.

Adrianna said...

I am a regular IMAX 3-D goer, and lately, there are a lot of ads running in the Saco area that say, "When real people try to emulate Hollywood's unrealistic standards, it can lead to an eating disorder." They have tacky ominous music, a melodramatic clip of a girl refusing popcorn, and tacky happy music when she joins an eating disorder program.

I cringe every time.

Cathy (UK) said...

I totally agree that what sustains ED behaviours is an individual's neurophysiology. No-one chooses to have a clinical ED.

That said, there are A LOT of young girls who have become caught up in our dreadful 'celebrity culture'. These kids idolise skinny celebrities (or their airbrushed photos) and some are 'trying to become anorexic' by following 'pro-ana' tips. In reality these girls don't want a mental illness; what they want is to be thin.

Prolonged energy restriction through fasting or low calorie diets will inevitably increase hunger and the urge to binge eat. That's why most diets fail. But, if the individual learns to purge they can ultimately become trapped in binge-purge cycles. Such individuals usually end up with a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, not restricting anorexia nervosa as they had originally hoped. This bulimia nervosa is biologically driven and triggered by trying to become anorexic.

As someone who developed anorexia nervosa in 1976/7 at age 11, during a period of extreme anxiety (and having never heard of the illness), it used to make me really angry that people were 'trying' to develop an ED. I was angry because I felt such behaviour trivialised my own experiences and years of anguish trying to fight an illness that I never 'chose' to develop.

Sad as it sounds, I do now believe that there is a culturally-mediated or socially-constructed form of ED that is triggered by our society's sick obsession with skinny celebrities (who just so happen to have pretty faces). For some girls/teenagers who are trying to develop what they feel is an acceptable identity: skinny = pretty = successful. Perhaps magazines should show more pictures of 'average' people with anorexia nervosa. The image of a bony face and body, cyanosed and with lanugo hair is certainly not pretty...

Sorry for the 'essay'...

Anonymous said...

It is totally in the neurophysiology if it develops and sticks. THe genetic pre-disposition is pretty hard to dispute.
LIke the others above, nobody would choose to have a clinical eating disorder. I was telling a women about my issues with anorexia the other day and she told me she would "love love" to be super skinny. I just looked at her and said "No you wouldn't. I'm 27 and my life is a nightmare. After 13 years the health problems are undeniable." After that she didn't have much to say and just kinda slunk away.

Adrianna said...

"The image of a bony face and body, cyanosed and with lanugo hair is certainly not pretty... "

People should see what anorexia does to your teeth. Ew.

Crimson Wife said...

As an ex-sorority girl, I can say that competition between women can definitely worsen an ED, threaten recovery, or push someone vulnerable over the edge. But you're absolutely right that it isn't the cause.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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