Tag Archives: crisis

Stress Fracture

Part 1 of Chapter 3 of Runaway Eating: what causes Runaway Eating, and who’s at risk?

Earlier on, we talked about stress and how we women can easily turn turn to food for comfort as a result. Why do only some actually become runaway eaters?

luisa_cerano_ladies_fashionThere are some risk factors that are especially responsible. These are as wide-ranging as the media’s emphasis on thinness as beauty, or as personal as family history, or depression. The driving forces do remain the same. While having risk factors don’t ensure that you will get the condition, it does set the stage, so to speak. It might not actually start a fire, but the tinder is built up.

First, we’ll look at the beauty factor. For years and years, women has been valued for her beauty. From Helen of Troy to Paris Hilton, those with beauty seem to have everything. They have wealth, love, adulation, jobs, and career advancement. Many of us spend lots of time and money on cosmetics, manicures, and pedicures. We flip through catalogues and women’s magazines looking for the latest styles.

The sad part is that to society, beauty equals thin/skinny/slim/slender. Most people cannot achieve the desired  weight. They were not made for it. How can a big-boned woman like Oprah ever become a waif like Nicole Richie? It brings a terrible price, this pursuit.

The writers have compiled a short timeline for this.

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

Camille Clifford: the ideal Gibson Girl

The early 1900s. Thin becomes in. This is perhaps when it all started. Before this time, plump, full curves were the ideal. They indicated that the well-endowed woman was well-fed and didn’t have to work.

The early 20th century ended this trend of round people. Slim, trim, and slender was desired, perhaps to differentiate from the stocky immigrants that were pouring into the States. It was a symbol of good breeding and discipline. Heaviness, the women thought, meant laziness, greediness, and lack of self-control.

Charles Dana Gibson revolutionized our perceptions with the Gibson Girl. This woman appeared tall, very slim, fit, and athletic with a small waist. Her face was gorgeous. Naturally no one looked like this, or very few people. After all, she was merely a figment of the artist’s imagination, based on what he felt the ideal woman should look like. However, women felt bad about themselves or not achieving this goal.

Just then, a physical fitness craze hit the country. Clothes started to reveal more, making women feel self-conscious about their appearance.

A typical flapper, but a modern picture from a costume shop

The flapper.

1920s: This was the age of the flappers. These girls wanted to be free to dance, play sports, and lead more active lives than their mothers and grandmothers. No more corsets, sleeves, or skirts. Well, not really. But whatever was there barely scraped the top of their calves. Women’s anxieties skyrocketed, especially since the perfect flapper’s body was small, slim, and flat chested. Fad diets were in. Self-induced vomiting was in. Laxative abuse was in.

Advertisers took the chance to take advantage of women’s insecurities about themselves to talk about weight-loss equipment, fad diets, and much much more. The message here was: “Slim down and you’ll be beautiful and happy.”

1940s to 1970s. Thin becomes a fashion statement. We know from other reading that designers prefer skinny models. Why? Because skinny works like a hanger. Clothes hang on the lady with fewer wrinkles, while people with a little shape have more wrinkles because of their curves.

twiggy-1

Twiggy

Along the way, the hanger lady became an object of beauty. But no one looked like a hanger. Big problem. Instead of seeing that this ideal was not only unattainable but also quite ridiculous, women conformed it. They lusted after it, starved to fit into it. The result was despair.

Twiggy, a 95 lb, 5 feet 6 teen model, exploded onto the fashion scene during the late 1960s. Her sticklike figure made everyone feel heavy, even slim women. Fashions left little to the imagination. People believed, “You can never be too thin or too rich.” Eating disorders, as a result, suddenly abounded.

Fonda

Fonda

1980s. A fitness craze hit the nation. Jane Fonda turned out her famous exercise videos, urging women to “feel the burn.” The thin woman was apparently not only supposed to be hanger girl, but also have well-defined muscles, flat stomach, and a small, tight butt. Jane Fonda had all these things. Only later did people find out that she was bulimic. However, this look was impossible for most women. Those that succeeded did so only by spending hours at the gym, or starving, or purging.

1990s. Welcome to the era of the middle-aged woman who never gets old. Think about the 40-50 year olds (like Goldie Hawn or Demi Moore) who look like 20 year olds. These woman have an unusual combination of genes, along with personal trainers and plastic surgery. They have set a higher standard: looking your age is bad. You should be doing all you can to look young.

tn2_demi_moore_3

Demi Moore

I can’t deny that. It seems that every single magazine I open is filled with spreads and spreads of anti-aging commercials. It’s not just the commercials, either. Most women’s magazines include a beauty section which will inevitably include some creams and serums which will make you look younger. The product testing department also has a few products. Why? Because right now there’s a demand for such products. We want to look young. We want to look young now. We also want to continue to look young at age 50-60, just like Demi Moore. I don’t think Moore or Hawn are responsible for the problem, but the fact that the media commends them and emphasizes the fact that they still look young even at such an age makes most women feel inadequate for not being like that.

Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn

Playing with Wordle 1

Made at wordle.net, the words are taken from a blog post of mine. I adjusted all the colors and fonts to get the feeling I wanted.

The funny things were that the biggest words were Oprah, bodies, life, and world. Interesting.

By clicking the image, you can get full size.

Enjoy!

wordle1

Broken Mirrors

Part 1 of Chapter 9 in the book Looks

In this chapter, Dr. Patzer talks about the dark side of physical attractiveness. He tells us facts about anorexia, bulimia, and other unhealthy behavior that may occur.

Deleese Williams

Deleese Williams

The chapter starts with talking about a woman named Deleese Williams. He describes her like this.

Her jaw was deformed, crooked teeth crowded her mouth, her eyes drooped, and her breasts were hard to find.

She had a childhood of endless horror. Her classmates made fun of her. Her marriage was a disaster, with her husband abusing her and letting her know constantly that she wasn’t much to look at. 

Williams had hope when she heard about Extreme Makeover. This was a reality program that gave ugly people like Williams the gift of beauty. People enjoyed watching that show, for whatever reasons. Anyway, she applied to the show in 2003. The producers were delighted. Soon, Williams was meeting with the executives and team. Describing it, she said that the psychologist and the physicians told her that she “needed” her eyes lifted, her ears pulled back, and breast implants as well as chin implants. They also concluded that dental surgery was needed. They promised her that the free makeover would “transform her life and destiny.”

250px-XtrememakeoverHowever, the producers wanted to let the audiences see how being ugly is so very problematic. Beauty is good, and its absence is bad, after all. Remember our first post? They sat Williams in front of a camera and had her describe how being ugly had invited the cruel teasing and abuse by her husband. Even though her family didn’t notice (or pretended not to notice) her ugliness, they were coached to focus on her flaws.

Kellie McGee, Williams’s sister, was reluctant to trash her sister. The producers essentially forced her to do so, however. 

It was tough for Deleese to take. She thought it would be all worth it. Williams believed that her real life could begin at last… happy endings.

Then the bomb fell.

A producer told her that the makover, cosmetic surgery… all off. Why? It didn’t fit in the show’s time frame. The doctors told her that the recovery time and surgery would take a much longer time than the duration of the show.

The tragic part, says her attorney, was that she became too ashamed to go out in public. Even worse, her sister, who had been forced to speak disparagingly about Williams’s looks, killed herself. She had beens struggling with bipolar disorder for some time.

ABC and Disney offered their condolences, yet said that they bore no responsibility since Deleese had known that they could call the whole thing off at any time.

empty-plateBeyond this example, physical appeal centered media messages continues to encourage unhealthy conditions on millions.

Eating disorders have become common in America. This is accompanied by a preoccupation with food and weight, and those with an ED often share physical symptoms with those who have experienced starvation. This is also marked by an obsession with food.

In 2003, a team led by Dr. Hans Steiner of Stanford University learned that mothers with eating disorders demonstrated greater concern over their children’s eating habits. By the time the children were age 5, they displayed the same symptoms found in teenagers with eating disorders. He was surprised to learn that half of the children of elementary age wanted to weight less. Three-fourths cited their family as the primary source of dieting related information.

There are three distinct types of eating disorders, not counting EDNOS.

1. Binge eating

2. Bulimia Nervosa

3. Anorexia Nervosa

3092_MEDIUMBinge eating is uncontrolled eating. It’s frequent, and very common. It’s accompanied by the feeling of being out of control. People who binge eat often feel depressed, guilty, or disgusted when they do so. 

I know a few girls who have problems with binge eating. In fact, I know a lot. However, in their case, the binge is followed by a purge. This brings us to bulimia nervosa.

The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine has described this condition as a serious, life-threatening eating disorder affecting mainly young women. They eat large amounts of food, then try to lose all the calories by fasting, exercising, or vomiting or using laxatives. This is known as “purging.” At first, it was hailed as a new weight loss trick. The women could eat whatever they want, and then throw it up later. They’re not gaining any calories, and they still get the cravings down, right?

Wrong. This is an extremely unhealthy practice. It’s even considered a psychiatric illness. 

248012174_7b1ca0a9aaOver 2 million people suffer from this. In rare instances, bingeing can cause the stomach to burst. Purging brings heart failure from loss of vital minerals. Vomiting leads to acid-related scarring of the fingers (once I saw a site where a girl, knowing this, encouraged her friends to vomit using the end of a toothbrush instead of their fingers). The esophagus becomes inflamed from acid burns. There’s also irregular menstruation, to name only a few.

Few are able to stop this behavior without professional help. It seems to me that they have really lost control. 90% are women in their teens or early 20s. Many live secret lives in that they appear to be doing well on the outside, but run off after meals to purge in their bathrooms.

The root causes remain mysterious. Maybe it could be genetic and environmental. It could be due to family pressures, like in the case of one girl I know. Girls with eating disorders often have fathers, mothers, brothers, or boyfriends who criticize their weight. 

I do know some people who are bulimics but starve themselves for periods. This brings us to anorexia nervosa, a still more dangerous condition. 

367429618_9d69054abcAnorexia nervosa is self-induced starvation. The person with it refuses to eat. Even though she’s becoming thinner and thinner, she still sees herself as far too heavy. A few starve themselves to death, but most have life-shortening health disorders from lack of nutrients.

This disorder brings the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness. 6% to 10% die. That’s a higher rate than for cancer. It’s the most challenging disorder to treat, as it involves dealing with the physical and emotional issues as well as with body image distortion. 

Dr. Joel Jahraus, a nationally known expert on eating disorders, talked about one of his patients. Her name was Anna Westin, and he described her as a lovely young woman. However, she struggled with anorexia nervosa. Her body weight was dangerously low, and her moods changed fast. Dr. Jahraus, seeing this, recommended hospitalization.

Anna Westin

Anna Westin

However, the insurance company didn’t want that. They said that she wasn’t ill enough to get hospitalized. For a brief time, though, they agreed. She was stabilized with IV nutrition and psychological work. After that, the company declared that she should be treated as an outpatient. When Anna found out, she lost  motivation to continue treatment. “I can’t be that bad,” she said.

A few weeks later, Anna intentionally took her own life by swallowing an overdose of diet pills.

Her parents established the Anna Westin Foundation, which was dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and raising public awareness to the cause. This included the Anna Westin House, which combines treatment with cost-effective care. Maybe it’s something you should look into.

I  have also seen many sites raised to help those struggling with eating disorders. No, it’s not what you think. These sites offer tips (links not for the faint-hearted) on how to purge without parents and friends finding out. There’s lots of tips on how to disguise that you’re starving yourself, with pictures of bony celebrities as inspiration to starve. Many of these girls, looking for acceptance, turn to these sites to find it. At least they’ll find someone who understands what they’re going through, they think. They’re encouraged by words like, “Stay strong! Starve on!” Sometimes these words are what keeps them going when they’re discouraged. After a while, they start believing that they are not ill. No, it’s a lifestyle choice.

WOODENSCALEPHOTOThe danger in real recovery is that if one of the girls (or guys) visit the sites, they’ll lose their resolve and continue with the “lifestyle.” Their friends will berate them for not being strong enough and not starving like they’re supposed to. I knew a girl who was the biggest tip giver for anorexics and bulimics. She got tons of comments and praise for her “smartness and courage.” And then all of a sudden, something happened. She decided that this wasn’t the way to go. She decided that this could not continue, and she better get healthy as opposed to skinny before she lost it all. 

She lost her audience. People didn’t say anything. They ignored her. For a person who had received upward of 50 comment per post, that was hard for her.

It’s so easy to shatter.

Just looking at the pictures of celebrities that these girls use to keep them starving, don’t tell me that the media has no hand in it. I remember when one of the celebrities (forgot her name) was said to have an eating disorder. There was buzz, and many of my friends praised her as an inspiration and a strong woman for trying to starve herself to perfection.

I felt nauseated.

We shouldn’t be focused on our own bodies when we have this in the world. We shouldn’t be pushing ourselves to starve to skeletons when there actually are children in Africa who have no choice but to starve every single day of their lives. 26,000 children perish every day due to preventable causes: poverty, disease, and hunger. 

Maybe the problem is that we’re too used to looking at ourselves instead of others. We gaze at ourselves in the mirror, and we fail to see the crisis happening around us.

A starving child in Uganda

A starving child in Uganda