Tag Archives: anorexia

The Skinny On Models

fashion, anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, plus sizes, health

In the fashion industry, this is a normal size. Creative Commons: scrapetv.com

I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Back many years ago when I was in the throes of my eating disorder, classified as bulimia, I attended some group counseling sessions. Now my bulimia was not the normal one, where you gorge and vomit. I didn’t vomit. I starved myself, then gorged and then my bodily functions did a bit of a natural purge, but it was an uncontrolled desperate, self-hating way of eating and never on healthy foods. People with eating disorders never gorge on carrots or celery.

Now this counseling group was in the evenings at the psychiatrist’s home. I was the ugly duckling amongst the swans, but those swans were emaciated, walking sticks. Pretty much all of them were models dealing with anorexia. I remember the doctor asking once, “How many people have known someone who died from an eating disorder?” I didn’t but probably 80% of those models had known someone who starved themselves to death. The video below shows Isabelle Caro who died a few years after this was made at the age of 28. She looks 60.

And yet, twenty years later, we still see that the modeling, acting, dancing  and gymnastic sports industries have a prevalence toward the ultra thin person. Ultra thin to the point of sickeningly unhealthy. When I hear that models are considered plus size from size 8 and up I get angry. What does plus mean with sizing? Well, it means more than normal or average. Plus sizing when I was a kid was for truly large ladies, like sizes 18 and up.

anorexia, eating disorders, models, fashion industry, plus sizes, modeling, fashion, health, starvation

What astounds me is that this woman, by her dress, feels she's still beautiful. Creative Commons: evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com

Being classified as a plus size 8 means that you’re going to think you’re bigger than average, that there’s something wrong and abnormal about you. The fashion industry is probably the worst, with the movie industry coming in second. Seriously, these people should be smacked severely for causing needless deaths and psychoses. When children of six are worrying about their weight or being too fat, there is a lot wrong with the world. Albeit, as a pudgy child I didn’t have it easy and children are notoriously cruel, but our culture shapes what they consider aberrant.

I have Amazonian friends. They’re nearly six feet tall. Some are slimmer than others, because nature makes us differently, but none are fat. You can bet that by height alone they’re all going to be over 150 pounds and they’re going to be considered plus size. For that matter, maybe all of my friends (except one who is tiny and has size 5 feet but still has a bit of a tummy) would be plus size by modeling standards.

Hanging clothes on living skeletons who are lit and pomaded to look partially healthy gives no one the hope of looking the same in such an outfit. The pictures here are the extremes but models are often far underweight and on their way to an early death. Actors are told they’ll be fired from their roles if they put on so much as 10 lbs. Unless you’re a comedian; they’re allowed to be fat because fat is funny. And these supposedly normal size models…they stand a high chance of suffering throughout their lives, should they live that long. They’re not just missing fat, they’re missing muscle mass, not to mention nutrition to run a healthy body. Telling someone they’re fat doesn’t make them healthier if they starve themselves into nonexistence.

fashion, plus models, starvation, anorexia, eating disorders, modeling,

From Plus Model Magazine: Katya Zharkova next to the fashion industry's ideal.

There is  the beginning of a backlash in the fashion industry but obviously it’s slow when Twiggy (who was 110 lbs) would now be considered plus size. The clothing store Le Chateau perpetuates the skinny myth, where you’ll be hard pressed to find L, but you’ll find S, XS, XXS and XXXS. Shame on you, Le Chateau.  Plus Model Magazine embraces lush, curvy models, and the magazine looks a lot at unhealthy body image. This last image indicates the difference between the skeletal model preferred by the fashion industry and the body ideal that is more common for all women. There are very few women, a small percentage, who could be healthy and skinny enough to be a model without starving themselves.

So, don’t believe what you see in fashion and in the movies. Those aren’t real people sizes. If you’re wearing a size 12, that’s not a plus size. That’s average. And, mothers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be models.

7 Comments

Filed under Culture, fashion, health

The Fashion Industry: A New Type of Monster

fashion, plus size models, anorexia, Mark Fast

Mark Fast's fashion design modeled on normal sized women. sustainable-fashion.com

About a week ago, Canadian fashion designer Mark Fast supposedly set the fashion world all atwitter by using “plus size” models in his show of knitwear dresses. The clothing is lovely, weaves and provocative openings and fringes that gives a sinuous sway to the skirts.

But the fashion industry is awash with human sticks, and there is not much shape to a knit dress on a 0 size, anorexic model. Mark Fast chose to show that normal women with curves could wear his dresses and though he was very diplomatic and did not say he was against the human hangers that the fashion industry normally hangs its clothing on (for runways designs anyways…you’ll find normal sizes in a clothing catalogue). He just said he wanted to show that women with more curves could wear his outfits too.

Also known as heroin chic, the skinny models of these days look emaciated because they are. A short google search will show stories of women surviving on lettuce, removing walnuts from their salads as being too high-calorie, and stories of size 8 women not being accepted by agencies because they’re too fat. When I had my eating disorder and attended meetings, it was about 90% scrawny models and almost all of them had known of a model who died from starving themselves. That does not speak of a good precedent. Today, Marilyn Monroe would be considered a fatty.

It’s astounding too that the press reported on this extravagant disregard for the traditions of skeletal models by calling the other models “plus size.” Size 12 and 14 (and these models may not even be of that size) are not plus sizes. They are normal for women who are tall and if you look at the pictures of these models, they don’t look fat; they look fit. Plus size really begins past size 14 when a person is carry more than an average body weight according to health guides not the fashion industry’s idea of thin. These bigger than zero size models in Fast’s runway show have a curve to their calves, and sinuous lines that indicate they are healthy women. Not one of them is fat or overweight.

The ribcage-evident, knobby knee models who have to have breast implants because there isn’t

Marilyn Monroe, fashion, normal size, plus size, anorexia

Still considered sexy by today's standards, Marilyn would have been a plus size. Photo: Claudio Andres

enough fat to support a breast anymore are the norm with the fashionista agencies telling them that they need to lose more weight if they’re a size 5 or 7. I am not blaming models but the industry itself and the media for perpetuating the image that a woman who is size 10 is fat. (We can throw the TV/movie industry into this mix of perpetuating anorexia as well.)

Supposedly attitudes in the fashion industry are changing and moving back to a more realistic norm, but if this is the case, then there wouldn’t be such  titter about two models with meat on their bones. It’s a sad statement when we ostracize hungry people and say that Auschwitz health is the norm. So, good for Mark Fast using normal models alongside the twigs. May the industry be forever set on its rear end and realize that health should matter more than clothes and that not all of us fit one size.

As for the aspect of runway modelling and that it is in fact more an art style than functional clothing, I’d say people who slavishly stick to the medium of the anorexic model are not really being true artists and are limiting themselves to the accepted attitudes. That’s not what art is about. Art is about pushing the envelope, exploring the unknown and taking chances. Congratulations to Mark Fast for taking his medium farther.

Plus-size or normal models

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, fashion, health, people, shopping

The Mind and Eating Disorders

I’ve talked before about the eating disorder I grew up with. It was always accompanied with self-loathing and vows to never binge again. Those vows were always broken. I felt I couldn’t remove myself completely from eating because we obviously need food to live. It wasn’t like alcoholism, I told myself, because you can remove yourself completely from alcohol. In many ways it was just like alcoholism.

One reason to eat all of something was instant gratification. The more my life sucked the more I could find instant pleasure in eating. I could not get enough of the taste. But then of course it was the catch-22 of hating myself for eating so much, feeling fat, sometimes gaining weight (though not always because I’d cut out most other foods), being hungry, eating sugars. Around and around and around.

When I finally sought help, I couldn’t go for counselling because it’s not covered by the health care system. But psychiatry is. Psychiatrists sort of counsel but they love to give out medications. I mentioned in my other post about the Prozac and then the Fenfluramine. Every week when I went in to see the psychiatrist he’d ask me how many times I had vomited. I would say, “Remember I’m the bulimic that doesn’t puke?” It didn’t give me much faith that he couldn’t note this in my chart or get it right.

We never talked about how I felt, why I couldn’t control my eating or why I had a bad body image. We talked about my writing, in the least likely way to relate to eating disorders. He told me, oh you’ll lose weight on these drugs. This psychiatrist specialized in eating disorders and had evening sessions at his home for people to talk about their experiences. I’d go and there would be a bunch of skeletal models and me, the bulimic, the fat one. It didn’t inspire me to feel like I wasn’t the only one with my problem. Instead I felt like the only weirdo amongst the weirdos. But still, all of those models knew at least one person who had died from anorexia. I didn’t. I think I only attended one of these meetings.

It’s said that people’s serotonin levels balance how much they eat. Too much and they eat little. To little and they eat a lot. I don’t believe my serotonin levels were out of whack to begin with but with the years of the disorder I do believe that they became unbalanced and that’s why I never felt full. I don’t know if this is accurate but it did seem to change. After about a year of taking the drugs and not losing a pound, of fruitless “counselling” and seeming to go nowhere, I quit the drugs and I quit the psychiatrist.

I did realize then that in fact my eating behavior had changed. I felt full when I ate. I could now have some chocolate in the house, or ice cream and not eat it all in one sitting. I still rarely keep these things in my place for fear of triggering the disorder but I can have them in small quantities now. When I’m depressed or unhappy there is still the urge to gorge but it’s more controllable. I feel less out of control and I can rule the food as opposed to it ruling me.

When people look at an overweight person and arrogantly say, She/he should just lose some weight, they need to understand it’s not an easy thing. True, dieting in and of itself takes time and isn’t easy but there are many factors than someone judging by looks alone can’t know. There could be genetic factors such as thyroid issues, metabolic such as a sluggish one or high cortisol factors, emotional factors such as past abuses, psychological such as phobias and blocks, and other external factors. One can’t know unless they’re in those person’s shoes. And even the person dealing with eating disorders and weight issues may not know. I’m not a medical professional so I can’t name all of the aspects that could affect a person’s weight but to gain or lose weight is not always as easy as just willing it.

The brain is a powerful tool and it can kill us. People with eating disorders struggle enough within themselves. Not one, whether thin or fat, wants to be that way. They either see themselves as fat when they’re not, or possibly thin when they’re not. However, an overweight person or a skinny person does not automatically mean an eating disorder. As I said, there are other factors and some people are naturally not in what we conceive of as the norm for body size, and some are happy where they are. But one thing is for sure, the more ridicule the person with a disorder receives the harder it is for them to get to a state of mental health.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, drugs, food, health, health care, life, memories, people, security

Michael Jackson: Shooting Star

I grew up with Michael Jackson, or his music anyways. But that’s not hard to say for most of us. After all, when a career spans forty-five years, many people can say the same thing.

As the news rolled in, people and media have expressed their shock, that they were stunned. Sadly, I can say I was not. I have said that I expected that Michael would die an early death, like Elvis, than live to a ripe old age. I have called him a shooting star for years, for he is and was exactly that. A shooting star ascends high into the heavens, or so high up that everyone can see that light. But such a bright light eventually comes to an end. As opposed to a star that shines constantly and brightly for eons and then fades out at the end of a long lifetime, a shooting star seems all the brighter for its briefer lifespan, and that it will descend much quicker. The candle burned out long ago, to paraphrase Elton John.

That Michael Jackson was a brilliant musician and stage presence, the greatest pop icon of his time, is obvious by the number of albums he sold and the money he made. It’s irrefutable. That he lived a happy and normal life is arguable. The signs are not so hidden at all that Jackson was a troubled and unhappy individual. Like many of us, I’m sure he had his moments of happiness, but like many of us he was also unhappy with who he was. And he had the money to do something about it.

He was a good looking, handsome black child who grew to adulthood and was still attractive. Looking at those early pictures of Michael, you can see he is still black, his hair curly yet fashionable. Slowly his wide, broad nose, narrowed and narrowed again to the skeletal aberration that it became. I certainly hope that the plastic surgeon who mangled Jackson’s face doesn’t advertise that he did the great Michael Jackson. Of course, Jackson also had surgeries to change the shape of his jaw, his lips, his cheekbones, his eyes until the face does not resemble the earlier Michael Jackson at all. How much plastic surgery is needed for a burn of long ago? Not that much, I would think.

He took to straightening his hair, getting rid of any semblance to the negroid curl. And his skin turned white. It’s said that he suffered from a skin pigmentation problem, vitiligo. On white people this sometimes shows as a darker patch, or a pinker patch of skin. On black people, it shows as white or pinkish skin. This could possibly be true but any person I ever saw who had this condition, where the melanin starts to leave the skin, had it in patches, not an overall and even discoloration. Though it’s possible that he started with this and had a chemical depigmentation performed using monobenzone, to even out the skin tone. He also did not exhibit conditions of albinism, evident by the darkness of his hair and eyes. (The Philipines, as one example, sells many skin lightening soaps.) There are numerous ways listed on the internet on how to lighten your skin tone. Michael Jackson had the money, which gives you the means, to do this to the extreme. Perhaps it started as a pigmentation problem but I believe he went in search of being a white man.

These extreme examples of changing his body indicate how unhappy he was with who he had been born. And proves that money can’t buy you happiness. He was too famous to walk anywhere without being recognized, therefore negating his chances of having normal life experiences. As Michael grew farther away from a normal life (even as a child in a performing family he was more used to spotlight than to family life) it became more unattainable.

Where were the family and friends that could bring him back to center? His family wasn’t a good example as they all lived in the limelight to one degree or another as well. If Michael’s only friends were other stars (as often is the case) then they may have been his yes men, only telling him how wonderful he was, never saying, Michael you’ve gone too far. Or Michael, you’ve got to eat or you’re going to die. But if there were those who tried to balance Michael’s extremes, maybe he just didn’t listen. After all, he was rich and powerful in the music world.

Michael lived in fantasy palaces, with private zoos and was probably happiest when he took his creative genius into the realm of  music where he was an innovator and a leader. I was never that in to pop music but I would argue that there is no better music for teenagers, because pop music is catchy, upbeat and fast enough to engage a young mind. Yet Michael was seen as a god, not as a man. I’m sure he was a romantic icon for enough teens as well.

We have a tendency in our world today to put rock/music stars and movie stars upon pedestals. They are our modern gods. But we (people, the masses) are a fickle lot, that get bored too quickly and demand too much. If our gods slip up, we will pull them down, we ridicule them and we hate them for the fame and money and beauty that we cannot hang onto ourselves. We will pick at their every flaw and as their pedestal crumbles we will hack it to pieces.

And then Michael, the unfathomable recluse who invited children into his palace, was charged with child molestation. Whether true or not, such an accusation is devastating and scarring to the core. It could not do other to a man estranged from a normal life who could only live on the idolization of his fans. Even the supposed three children he had with the rather plain woman (who disappeared from the scene shortly after) were suspect. No matter how a man bleaches himself, or suffers pigmentation problems, they won’t transfer to his children. And black being more dominant than white would show in the features, yet these kids (the few pictures that exist) are more white than anything else, one especially being extremely white.

Michael Jackson’s life had become a circus, the star on its descent. The millionaire who owed millions. When I recently looked at a progression of pictures of Jackson through his life and I saw how thin he was (not just slim, but very thin) I knew he suffered an eating disorder as well. This fits in with someone so desperate to change into someone else. Anorexia starves the body on all sorts of levels. Not enough nutrients to feed the muscles or the organs and then those organs must work harder. Anorexics, unless they try to seek help and recover, often die of heart attacks when the strain on their hearts become too much. It really was inevitable.

Michael Jackson may have had other conditions too; it’s not clear. But one thing that is, is that he was fighting his body his whole life. To be so gifted and die so conflicted. Could most of us ever hope to shine so brightly? Could any of us fear to burn so painfully? I feel sad for his life, that he couldn’t have loved himself more. Michael Jackson joins the other shooting stars, the famous who died suddenly before their flame burned out naturally: Jimmy Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, River Phoenix, Princess Diana, John Lennon and many others.

Reports are saying that he died of a drug overdose or a cocktail of deadly proportions. Not really a surprise. Jackson was reportedly addicted to painkillers (Vicodin, Demerol, etc.)  since the face burning episode. Put on top of that, the numerous surgeries and his anorexia and you have a collapse just waiting to happen. A bit of a star’s standard way out, whether planned or accidental. This shopping list of pharmaceuticals does support my theory of a man disenfranchised and unhappy with the way his life continued to unfold. So he closed the book.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, drugs, entertainment, health, life, music, news, people

Sexy Cartoons: the Cutesifying of Society

In one of the many online apps that I check (Facebook, Google, Yahoo Groups, various independent websites, Wiki) there are ads. We’re all used to them and probably don’t notice most of them by now. They may be for dating or specific to what you’re looking at, or little gadget ads to lure you in so they can slap a cookie and spyware onto you. There are wallpaper and screensaver gadgets, little emoticons you can use and various avatars you can create.

There has been one, obviously geared toward girls and women where you can create an avatar/toon of yourself. Now I was pretty much like any other little girl and used to love paper dolls and plastic dolls and changing their clothes. What can I say? I still love clothes and maybe that was just the early interest manifesting. Women, generally, love color and pattern and whether it is clothing or decorating your home or painting a picture, this may come out in various ways. But over all humans are attracted to color and pattern; it’s just that men have been told they have to be more “manly.” Tell the men of the Baroque era, in their lace cravats and cuffs, brocades, powdered wigs, facial patches and high heeled shoes that they weren’t men. They were; they were just in fashion for their period.

So, back to these various ads. The one that caught my eye is this one:

cutesy

Not that there aren’t other similar ads out there but this one isn’t just taking some generic avatar. You seem to be able to supply a photo of yourself and then form a little Barbie/manga doll image. Why you need a toon version of yourself, who knows? Probably just because it’s cute and different. Let’s compare the toon to the person. It’s a little hard to tell in this picture (and I didn’t want to be spammed so I didn’t click on the icon) but under the “Draw Me” tab you can see that toon girl’s waist is smaller than real girl’s. And I’m gonna just guess that toon girl will have a bigger bust too. And skinnier arms.

Now both images are of the same height but the proportions are different. Toon girl has a head longer and wider than real girl. This fits with certain styles of cartooning but not all. She also has a cupid bow mouth that is about one quarter of the size of real girl’s. But the eyes take up nearly a third of her face. And her brows are arched high. They’re very cartoony and done in a style known as manga, or Japanese comic art, where artists have given these cutesy wide open, innocent eyes on little-girl-proportioned bodies but with the breasts of women (and often in schoolgirl outfits–you figure it out).

So what we have is a cartoon of ourselves. Harmless over all. Cartoons are done for numerous reasons–political satire, caricatures, fantasy stories, etc. However, I see some of these cartoon avatars as an indication of what society fashionistas seem to want. I  admit to a certain prejudice but we have oversexed our society in the wrong ways and objectified women as well. (Booth babes, cheerleaders, pin-ups–some are fine for admiring the art of the human body but it’s gone overboard, and often that’s all people seem to want in women.)

The image of large eyes and a cute little mouth, big breasts and a tiny waist is what men hope they’ll get. What do the Barbie doll, cosmetically enhanced, botox crowd go for? Big breasts, tiny waists, large, overly full lips (one difference from this cartoon), big eyes, long necks, arched brows. It may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty but it’s what the fashion media push, to the extreme. Surgical manipulation of the body is a big business.

What we as human beings need to keep in mind is that we are human, of flesh that changes, with birthmarks and uneven coloring. We are not all built the same, and looking at too many altered stars, cartoon images, and airbrushed and anorexic models gives a false ideal of beauty.  What is truly beautiful is our diversity, the unique combination of eyes, nose, mouth, hair color, height, movement and personality. We shouldn’t be trying to iron ourselves into sameness, nor thinking that a caricature of human proportions is what we all want to be. If people, as individuals, don’t keep a good perspective, then’ we’re closer to being Stepford wives than we thought.

2 Comments

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, fashion, internet, life, people, sex, shopping

Eating Disorders and the Forbidden Food

I grew up with an eating disorder. It’s not that I wanted to be a super skinny creature after seeing too many anorexic models and movie stars. I didn’t want to layer myself in cushions of fat to keep the world at bay. Really, to this day, I don’t know what my reasoning was but I know I had no control.

The background is that my father sexually abused my older sister and me. That leaves a lifetime of scars. I don’t have statistics before me but I know in the past that I’ve read that something like 80% of people who were sexually abused have eating disorders. Cause and effect.

For me, it was a bit of a different style. I wouldn’t starve myself, but I would binge, but never throw up. I was missing that second half of the bulimic equation. Mostly, from such an unbalanced diet, I would get diarrhea and purge that way. Anorexics and bulimics might take Ex-lax or stick their fingers down their throats to vomit. Mine was more natural. I tried the throwing up thing once and couldn’t do it.

No one ever binges on lettuce or carrots. It’s sweets and carbohydrates; junk food and fatty foods. I was put on a diet by the doctor when I was about 12 (my eating disorder began around the same time). I remember nothing of what I was supposed to eat, except sneaking down to the freezer in the basement and pilfering cookies. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I would buy candies from various stores. Like an alcoholic, I would try to not hit the same store twice in case they started to recognize and judge me. I never had any change in my purse because I used every spare cent for sugary crap.

Once I was going off to dance class. (I was living with my boyfriend but I hid my sweet secret from him too.) I had a bag of smarties (or something similar). I threw it in the dumpster when I left for the class but when I came home, I dug it out, ashamed but unable to stop myself. No one knew I had this eating disorder. It was a dark secret, a terrible stigma. When I moved to Vancouver it continued, in my home, when alone. I ate normally in front of people.

I tried diets several times. But my pattern of not eating much and then binging on a full bag of cookies, a box of chocolates, a carton of ice cream, continued. Diets worked to a degree, until one year. I tried Weight Watchers and gained in the first week. I hated myself. I weighed 175 lbs, more than I’d ever weighed, I was single but all my friends weren’t, and I’d fallen in love (accidentally) with a man who couldn’t love me. I nearly became an alcoholic, recognizing that abyss only when I was hanging over it by a thread.

Finally desperate enough, I went to my doctor and said, “Some of my friends think I have an eating disorder.” She said, “Which friends?” I said, “Well, me.” Then she asked if I’d been sexually abused and I burst out crying, while at the same time I sat there and watched myself cry, feeling odd and disassociated with my reaction. She sent me to a psychiatrist who specialized in eating disorders. He asked me if I’d been sexually abused and I had the same disassociated reaction. At the end of that first session he said my eating disorder had nothing to do with being sexually abused. ??WTF? Then he put me on various meds like Prozac and Fenfluramine, and then Fluvoxamine when the first didn’t work. He promised that I would lose weight. I never did.

The counselling of course was nil and I’d go to his evening sessions with all the skinny anorexic models and me. At least I hadn’t known someone who died from their disorder, like they did. One thing I had never felt when eating was full. That mechanism had malfunctioned and I would only feel full when I’d binged so I never stopped eating soon enough. The medications, which made me somewhat zombie like to my friends, did not aid in losing weight, but did in fact seem to bring in that mechanism of feeling full. A year later, frustrated with the lack of progress with this doctor and with the unending pills, I just quit both. What I found was that I could now eat and feel full. Something had changed.

A year or so later my doctor asked me how I was doing, did I still binge? And I said, yes I did. She asked me what I considered a binge and I said eating two or more chocolate bars in a day. She told me everyone does that once in a while. What I then realized was that it had never mattered how much I ate but how I felt when I ate: I hated myself for having no control and then I would be was out of control.

I sometimes still get that feeling and it scares me when it happens. I unfortunately still have a sweet tooth, but I eat way healthier, and don’t have to eat all of something. If I’m depressed I tend toward hiding under chocolate. I have to watch that. I might have suffered less and had fewer sensitivities to foods now had someone given me the right help early enough, had my father not scarred my psyche, had I not been ashamed.

I was talking once with friends and the subject of comfort foods came up. I couldn’t name one, because for me, there had never been comfort in food. Just trauma, guilt and self-hatred. These days, I can take comfort in a few foods, like Lipton’s chicken noodle soup, but I never feel I can let my vigilance down because that eating disorder is still just around a corner.

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, environment, family, health care