Pocochina’s Weblog

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more on ED

Posted by pocochina on August 9, 2007

Apparantly, there’s this tragic LJ community called proanorexia.  And it’s all about support for anorexics, so they can be even better anorexics.

And it breaks my heart for those girls (and they seem to uniformly be girls).

And it also makes me so, so angry about the way we frame discussions about eating disorders.

The favorite reaction to this community, I’m going to go ahead and just guess, is a voyeuristic glimpse over these girls’ posts.  “400 calories a day!” they’ll say.  “56 hours without food!” shocked readers gasp.  “A four to a zero!”  Thousands cheer!

The problem with eating disorders is not that girls will somehow ruin their good looks by getting “too skinny.”

The problem with eating disorders is not only, as tragic as it is, that every once in a while a woman will suffer physical consequences so serious that she can no longer ignore them – or more accurately, since having an eating disorder by definition means you want to hurt your body, her family will stop applauding her desire to be “thin” and “healthy” and take her to get the medical help she’s probably needed for months.  Yes, this is tragic.

But what is even more tragic is that that has become the standard for an eating disorder.  God, I am so lucky to be alive and in good health, with what I, influenced by my family and my school and my culture and its misogyny and sizeism, put my body through.  I won’t play the one-up game, mostly because it’s wrong, but also because one of those girls will find this journal, and it will make her illness worse.  And maybe she won’t be so lucky.  Suffice it to say, if eating disorders actually could have made me thin, I’d have actually disappeared.

But it couldn’t.  And so it went on, and on, and on.

And therein lies the rub.  Because no matter what a girl looks like, if she isn’t eating, she’s wreaking havoc on her body, her psychology, her spirit.  And that not-eating is usually a manifestation of self-hatred, or anxiety, or depression, or an underlying physical or psychiatric condition.

And our world tells girls who lose weight when they should not, because of all this unhealthiness, that they “look great” and they should “keep it up” – this is unbelievable.  And when they do learn about eating disorders, they see these girls at the very extreme end of the illness – that’s like telling a cancer patient she’s not really sick unless you can physically see the tumor.  Stupid, right?  I mean, not all kinds of cancer are even going to show!  But if a doctor said that – and make no mistake, doctors are just as guilty of enabling eating disorders as anyone else – forget about losing the medical license, she’d actually be looking at negligent homicide charges, and for good reason.

Eating disorders are, of course, have nowhere near the fatality rate of cancer, and for this I am profoundly grateful.  But that does not make them any less disordered.

And when you’re consumed by hunger pangs, when your mind can only comprehend self-hatred, when your mental eneergies go towards counting calories instead of realizing just how fucked up it is, when food controls your life – this is how our illnesses keep us from resistance.  I don’t care how tacky that sounds.  It’s true.  And it’s a daily choice, still, not to be stunted by self-hatred, for way too many of us.

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