I started a book, but never finished it because I felt that it was too heavy. And it made me depressed for a while because it didn’t talk at length about the solution to the problem but rather focused on the problem itself. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it just didn’t suit me. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I really think it’s a good book. Just heavy and packed with information.
Also, I’m not feminist. That’s another thing.
Here’s what I wrote. This is just from reading the introduction.
The book is titled Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: the frightening new normalcy of hating your body by Courtney E. Martin. You can check out the writer’s website at www.courtneyemartin.com. This book was published fairly recently, in 2007.
Martin writes in the introduction that eating disorders affect more than 7 million American girls and women, 70 million people worldwide. Over half of the females between ages 18-25 surveyed would rather be mean or stupid. Anything but fat. A survey of parents found that 1/10th of them would abort their child if they found that he or she had the genetic tendency to be fat. (Thanks, Mom and Dad. They were your genes to start with.)
She states that we live in a time when getting an eating disorder, or at least being obsessed over weight, is thought of as a rite of passage. The writer talks about her many friends who bought into this kind of thinking. They sound like my friends. Many women use what they put into their bodies or/and the amount of exercising they do to define their worth.
It is not our kindness, or courage that we count at the end of the day, it is our calorie intake.
I, too, know people with really screwed up ideas about health and fitness. There are the girls who believe that any food is bad and that they have to exercise to get the Tic Tac or chip out of their system. There are my friends who daily post stats on how much they eat per day. Their limit is 210 calories. Not per snack. Not per meal. For the whole freaking day, they restrict themselves to 210 calories. What goes in those 210 calories? An apple. A 60-calorie lollipop. That’s it. It’s not about eating healthy, it’s about eating less. Then there’s the miserable girl who eats food – lots – when she’s depressed, and then purges it later.
I know girls in my church who struggle with this as well. There’s one who exercises often. She’s 13, goes to the gym, and does weights. In front of people, she talks about how fat she is, and picks at her food when eating in front of others. She always worries that she is too fat, even though everyone else could tell her that she isn’t.
In fact, I recently talked to one who was stressed out about her homework. She’s 12. She said she was eating like a pig and was fat. I told her she wasn’t fat. “Ask your big sister,” I said.
She replied, “She says that I’m fat.”
I think this kind of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we cease to notice it.
Martin puts it well when she writes that we’re not apathetic, we’re distracted. What about the starving children in Africa? I’m thinking about whether to have a granola or skip lunch altogether. She continues that we can’t see the the needs of others because we’re too busy looking at ourselves in the mirror. We don’t want to go to the beach because we don’t want others to see us in bathing suits. It’s all about us and how we feel.
What can we do about it?
This is a social problem as well as psychological. Some people believe that this is normal. I say that our culture must be pretty messed up, then. I knew a bulimic girl who wrote on her public food diary, “I don’t want to be normal. I don’t even know what normal is.” It seems that “normal” nowadays means women and girls stressed out about what goes into their mouths.
Martin says that womanhood “was about something solid and beautiful right in the core — a vulnerable yet unbreakable center of strength and openness.”
I can identify with that. That sounds like the definition of a woman from the Christian book Captivating. Except that God is our core.
At the center of most of the young women I know today are black holes.
On the outside, we’re busy and active. On the inside, we’re crumbling. We have these holes that we try to fill with anything and everything. But they’re still there. We’re starving, because the distractions are never enough. We’re just not enough. Not good enough. We have no control.
Our ultimate goal is “effortless perfection.” We’re to be everything we’re supposed to be, without showing any apparent effort. Of course, this is impossible. I know another girl who said, “I want to be able to fast for days at a time without struggling. I want to be able to have no desire for food. I want to be able to stay skinny without such hard work.” Effortless. Perfection.
The perfect part really does get us into trouble, either with an eating disorder or with an unhealthy obsession with food and exercise. It really turns out to be such hard work.
The truth is, we waste a lot of time on our bodies. How much time do we spend thinking about what to eat when we could be organizing a fund-raising event devoted to some cause?
Martin puts forth the mission of this book: a call to action. She wants this book to move us to admit that we are sick, but also tired of being sick and ready to do something about it.
Note that this isn’t a purely American problem anymore. I remember the ballerina from Denmark. She had been struggling with anorexia for some time. The disorder came to a point where her bones were too weak for her to stand on her toes. I’m a ballerina too, and to stand on your toes, you need to have very strong bones. Because of the disorder, the calcium was steeped out of her bones, leading to brittleness. She loved dancing. Really loved dancing. But what could she do? This was the price she paid, and she felt that she couldn’t do anything about it.
There was the girl form Brazil and the girl from Taiwan. There was the girl in Spain and the girl from Wales who messaged me on facebook begging for help. There was also the girl from Qatar, a country so tiny that people don’t even know it exists.
The Independent, a London paper, reported that 1 million in Britain have eating disorders.
Martin closes the introduction by saying that she believes “in the possibility of a world where a girl doesn’t learn to count calories at the same age she learns algebra.”
That’s the world I’m fighting for, now.