Tag Archives: starving

The Red Bracelet Encourages Starvation

anorexia, bulimia, fashion, death, starvation, eating disorders, mental health

Isabella Caro was a fashion model who died from anorexia at 28. Before she died she posed for a campaign on anorexia awareness.

The other day I ended up on some anorexic’s blog. I was researching a story about zombie fungus and then wanted another name for fuzz, which lead to lanugo (the light fur babies are born with and that anorexics get because there isn’t enough fat in their bodies to keep them warm). I was derailed from my story research for three hours as I surfed through blogs on anorexia.  I became more disturbed as I learned a whole host of new terms. There is a whole lingo that I didn’t even know about. It includes ana, mia. pro-ana and thinspo. What is this? It’s a short form for anorexia, bulimia and those that support these eating disorders. Thinspo is pictures of scrawny and skeletal people from celebrities to everyday people as a form of inspiration to keep going with the “diet.”

Support?

I knew of eating disorders and grew up with my own. I know of people struggling and fighting to be healthy before they kill themselves with starvation, or become grotesquely obese. I know it’s tough and many women die. Others have their health affected for the rest of their lives. I know that the movie and fashion industry, as well as even professional gymnastics are partially to blame for perpetuating an unhealthy ideal, which is unattractive and deadly. I know all this.

What I didn’t know was that there was a sub-culture of people who are supporting each other in their choices to starve themselves into skeletons and prepare for an early grave. From the blogs I surfed, these seem to be people mostly in their teens, and mostly women. They’re not just on a quest to lose weight and be a healthy weight. They want to achieve a BMI of less than 17.5 and weigh 100 lbs no matter their height or build. A BMI under 18.5 for most people is considered underweight.

Eating disorders can cause a host of health problems and conditions. They include but aren’t limited to: lanugo, stress fractures, osteoporosis, dehydration, kidney failure, hair loss, dry skin, gastric rupture, erratic heartbeat, peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, gall bladder disease, cholesterol issues, impaired organ function, impaired mental capabilities, high or low blood pressure, reproductive problems, blood sugar issues, diabetes, death. If one does recover, some of these symptoms never go away.

As I read the blog I thought it was a joke at first, and that the few comments of  “congratulations,you’re getting thinner” and “don’t give up hope; you’ll get there.” were tongue in cheek. But as I went from one person’s blog to another’s, with pictures of skeleton legs, I grew alarmed. A girl with legs so boney there is no shape was trying to diminish her calf muscle. Another or the same was happy when there was a gap between her legs at the very top of the pelvic girdle. Another wants to know how you keep your boobs when you’re starving yourself. Another  comments that she’s pissed off her blood sugar is high when she’s eating between 700-1000 calories a day.

Nicole Richie, eating disorder, ana, mia, aanorexia, thinspo, starvation

Nicole Richie, normal and anorexic. The picture on the right would be considered Thinspo. Creative Commons: tollieschmidt, flickr

I won’t list most of these blogsites because I think these people need serious help before they die over an obsession. There is something seriously wrong with a culture that perpetuates the existence of such a debilitating and often deadly condition. Several of the blogsites mentioned Ana Boot Camp or the ABC diet.  They also talked about wearing a red bracelet. So I went to the site. It seems the red bracelet is supposed to show support for someone dealing with a disorder, let them know they’re not alone. All right, that’s fairly noble. Don’t make these people feel worse when they’re so mentally unhealthy. But the more insidious aspect of this is that it’s not for supporting a person as they go through therapy to gain back a healthy way of eating. The undercurrent is that these young women can share and encourage each other to keep dieting and losing weight to point of death.

The Ana website sounds good at first when you read part of the disclaimer that says: This website is for support for those with an eating disorder who feel alone and by themself with this issue. I support the recovery of the indivdual when they are ready and will never support those who ‘want an eating disorder’. (sic) When you read farther down you get this: As well, if you are looking to get anorexia / bulimia by being here then please leave now. You will not find information contained within this web site, forum, or any site linked to / from this website on how to become anorexic or bulimic. Well that’s good, right? Don’t help people further their eating disorders. Support them in getting over it.

Unfortunately it’s not true as the Ana commandments are listed:

1. If you aren’t thin you aren’t attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy clothes, style your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner.
4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good/gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.

It would be better to say, here is what many anorexics believe but you should not follow these. The site also goes on to give recipes and ways to feel full without eating, and a diet regime (Ana ) where you never eat more than 500 calories and as low as 50 calories (or fasting) per day. There are Auschwitz victims who ate more than that, and they still starved. So the claims that the site does not encourage bulimia or anorexia are false. But then it’s being maintained by a 17-year-old anorexic in England, whose mental faculties could very well be impaired by her disorder. I’ve talked about the mental impairment that happens with depression, and the feeling of isolation and shame that comes with an eating disorder. I would however, never support continuing with a disorder, or encouraging people to lose more weight than is healthy, and what these young women think is ideal will affect them for the rest of their lives. I would encourage getting help, refusing to look at pictures of anorexic celebrities, and finding someone to talk with about the problem.

In fact, if I had a child, with the way today’s culture seems to favor the ultra thin,  I would watch her (or him) closely to make sure they were eating properly. And I still say that I’d rather be overweight than underweight. At least with a few extra pounds your body has more resources for recovery. I feel shocked and sad that there is such a culture out there where skeleton women encourage each other to look more like death, not even warmed over.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 20-24

zombies, brains, food, dieting, eating, apocalypse, diet, dining

One way to solve the post-apocalyptic food shortage. From thinkgeek.com

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 20:

I had Chinese food leftovers again today. And somehow this last week had a lot of dining out in it, which isn’t that common for me. Dinner consisted of a half a flour tortilla with two slices of diminishing cheese, some sundried tomatoes and garlic. Later on, dinner consisted of calamari at the restaurant. And wine; did I forget to mention the wine? It helps the zombies go down.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 21:

Saturday; I almost cheated today. I was out so late last night, and ended up in complete lazy mode. I didn’t do much but watch movies. I even forewent eating until the evening. Then I thought, oh how easy it would be to order a pizza (I eat pizza about three or four times a year). But then I remembered I’d been out Friday, and I was going to Gibson’s Landing tomorrow, which would be more money and more eating out. So I made a stir fry with the last of the baby bok choy, carrots, onion, garlic, some slowly wilting chive tops, shrimp, jalapeno, fish and soy sauce. Notice that the range of vegetables is going down. Normally I would have had more greens in there like broccoli and green beans, plus mushrooms. I did use the last of the lotus root which is a fun, wheel-shaped vegetable. I think I’m not cooking it right though because the texture is like potato and maybe it should be fried crispy. That was served on red and brown rice.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 22:

I didn’t eat at home today at all since we were up early and off to catch the ferry to Gibson’s Landing. So breakfast was a bagel, lunch consisted of sharing nachos, and dinner was prawns in garlic butter. Oh, and with a lot of wine. I had a hangover by the time we got home at 8:00. This trip was to receive the nominee’s pin for the Aurora Awards. Last year, my poem was nominated. Tarol Hunt also won the Aurora in the graphic novel category for his book Goblins. It was pretty rainy in Gibson’s. We looked through a few shops, and chatted with people so it was a nice day trip. Gibson’s seems to have fewer zombies. I get the sense that they stumble up to the piers and fall into the water, becoming food for desperate fishes.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 23:

Breakfast of champions; some leftover rice with heated almond butter and a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips. Lunch was some spicy peanut soup that I had frozen. And guess what I found in the cupboard? Kraft Dinner in all its orange fakey cheesery goodness. Unlike many, I didn’t grow up with this rather bizarre food, since my mother didn’t do a lot of prepackaged stuff. So I cooked it up and mixed the powder of doom with water and margarine, then added in some stir fried broccoli, onion, sun-dried tomato and garlic.

apocalypse, end of the world. food, eating, starvation, zombies, diets, food supplies

There won't be any fresh food at the end of the world. http://www.apocalypse2011.com

I decided to make chocolate chip cookies tonight. I have a lot of eggs and don’t really eat them. I hadenough flour but when it got to the sugar I was short that half cup. I ended up crushing sugar cubes with a rolling pin to get the rest of the sugar. Now there is no more sugar (except cubes) but if I’m frugal I might get two weeks out of the cookies. I misjudged on my chocolate and I ran out, in January. Oh chocoholism, what shall we do now?

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 24:

Today’s breakfast was (cough) two cookies. Lunch was the other night’s stir fry. The not too exciting midweek crunch. Dinner was the left over Kraft dinner but I was still hungry. So I popped up the last minibag of microwave popcorn, and burned a third of it. And I was still hungry, so I had this (very) mini bag of Prez, a type of pretzel stick. Then I had some nuts I found, cracking about five hazelnuts and one walnut. And I had this Knudsen’s boysenberry soda. I really don’ t like sodas (or pop) that much and it didn’t really appeal. But it was one of those nights of bits and pieces.

Boredom with all that one has is still a strong factor. Going into the local co-op to buy toothpaste had me eying cactus pears lasciviously, giving broccoli the once over, running my fingers along the curved sides of tomatoes. But no, I’ve still resisted the buying temptation. I look at all those foods like a brain starved zombie but I shall prevail (and I still have a lot of food).

For those just popping in, the apocalypse happened on January, 1, 2012, just in time for people to freak out about the Mayan calendar. Of course, since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I will not be going out for dinner often.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will call my experiment  ended.
  5. I believe I’ll be able to eat relatively healthy at least until March.

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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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