Tag Archives: eating disorders

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.

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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

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Forgiveness & Betrayal

Well, it’s come up because of my recent post on eating disorders. Could I forgive my father for what he did to me?

Let me say that my father abused me and my older sister, who had to deal with a lot more for far too many years. Such abuse leaves emotional scars that can sometimes never be corrected. It sets you back on the path of life, if nothing else, taking one much longer to achieve what emotionally happy people can. If there’s one thing I’ve learned very strongly over the years: what you give your children will be what they give back in years to come. If they are abused in any way, chances are they won’t succeed in some area, that they’ll be petty, mean, abusive, unstable, wounded, or worse. Some will become criminals. We’re lucky in my family that none of us strayed too far down that path.

Forgiveness is something I can grant many people who have done me wrong. I’ve been betrayed a couple of times in the last few years. Betrayal is one of the worst things a person can do to me. It hits at a fundamental level of trust. These betrayals caused such distress for me that I no longer do many things in the arenas where those people are. I lost the love to do so. I’m probably ready to return to some events, but others, it will never be the same.

Still, such betrayals are forgiveable. On one level I know that one person did what she thought was right, no matter that she was influenced by someone else. The other person, well, she had always been self-serving and I should have been wary. In each case I thought I was friends with these people but friendship means different things to different people. I can forgive them that they had a different viewpoint and that they probably didn’t think they were betraying me. It doesn’t mean they’re friends anymore or that I like them (I may or may not in the individual cases.) but I can forgive their actions as not having meshed with mine.

I cannot and not sure I ever will be able to, forgive my father. He abused and betrayed a fundamental role as father. He never showed remorse and never tried to communicate. When I went into art college, he told my older brother he would pay my way through college. I said, “I can’t be bought and if this means he wants to see me, then he needs to stop drinking and see an counsellor. Then I’ll accept and see him.” I never heard anything else on that front and I paid my way through college.

Someone who knowingly and repeatedly does harm to another is, to me, beyond forgiveness. Sure they may have been shaped by their childhoods but they know what’s right and wrong. Should I forgive the sociopaths that kidnap, torture and murder someone? Forgive them because they know not what they do? Unfortunately they know very well what they do. They hide it because it is wrong and they get off on it. How should I forgive that?

Some day, like I said, perhaps someone will explain forgiveness in a way that I can grant it. But to me, to forgive is to accept. I can’t accept the self-serving heinous actions of people who murder and rape. My father is dead and that’s a blessing. I’ve done a fair amount of work to get myself to a stable and contented space. Sure I still have anger to deal with and I’m working on it. But some people aren’t so lucky in their lives.

Like I said above, nurture your children well. Love them. For the foundations you give them today will help them succeed tomorrow.

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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.

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