‘Until you look like me, you are disgusting.
What I actually saw, was all those ‘me’s were the perfect picture of grotesque and abnormal. They had ribs and bones sticking out from their chest and sides; their clothes falling off them, as there was no framework to support them, and the thickest layer of skin on their body was their lips.
But to many women (1 out of 250 women, out of whom 20% will die of Anorexia) this is clearly the image of beauty. Not just beauty but perfection — “True perfection has to be imperfect” was a line, a motto adopted from Oasis’ Little by Little, by some high school friends of mine, and the line stuck with me ever since. It really needs to be taught across the world as a guideline for people to live by! Anorexia is only one of the many eating disorders that are spreading like wildfire across the world.
The question is why? Eating disorders are not eating disorders alone but severe mental disorders. This may sound harsh to many who pride themselves on their petite waist sizes, and consider themselves healthy. Eating disorders, in this case Anorexia, are not just a diet fad and desire to lose weight. In fact these young girls and women are not anorexic because of the fact that they are losing weight, but the way in which they are doing it. It completely takes over their lives and destroys other aspects of them. An Anorexic person prevents herself from eating to the point of starvation. It is not a goal but an overwhelming fixation to change how they feel about their body. That is, in fact, the indication to help parents, teachers and even friends recognize anorexia in a patient. Some may have specific types in which the patient binges on food and then forces herself to throw it up in order to cleanse herself from all the “calories” she gained.
Ads and Television Programs reinforce the concept of the “perfect body”. Jean Kilbourne in her film, “Killing Us Softly” discusses the portrayal of women in ads, and says, “Women’s bodies are objectified” which results in inhumane treatment of women through physical, mental abuse not only though domestic violence imposed upon them, but also self-inflicted violence, and maltreatment of our bodies by trying to make them what they are not. We believe that beauty is thin and don’t connect with the idea of a medium or large sized woman being beautiful. So the ads show us thin women and television programs are centered around women who are exceptionally slim to show the viewers that something is wrong with their body if they are not thin enough. These days, the images we see in ads and images in the papers and magazines are not what they seem — and are instead redone with the use of computer technology. What happens is, as a result it creates images where the sizes are abnormally thin — and not just abnormally so, but impossibly as there is no person like the one they are portraying.
During my research for this article I came across a documentary, titled THIN, about a medical centre which helps people overcome eating disorders and I had to watch it very slowly, case by case to just keep my sanity intact. There was a woman, who is actually a nurse herself who had to be fed through a tube on her stomach for five years, due to the fact that she could no longer eat normally. She was unable to eat unless the food went directly to her stomach.
I found another documentary which completely made me catch my breath, (and not in the good sense) it was titled Dana the 8 year old anorexic, she said, “I wanted to lose weight, so I stopped eating” the person making this documentary continued to say that the number of children who were under the age of 10 who had been admitted to hospital doubled over the year. The reality about these diseases is they can be helped if caught in time.
“There are even websites, which teach you how to conceal your eating disorder,” shared a friend of mine when I told her that I was doing a piece on the issue. I felt shocked hearing those words; not only wondering why and how she knew that, but that such a thing existed.
So I Googled it and found the answers on Answer.com. There were many who answered that diseases like Anorexia cannot be hidden as it always show up and is a serious health concern which should be addressed. There was one who answered, “I will answer this question, as I had anorexia (now recovered) and know how lonely it can be. Just type in ‘pro ana ‘websites’”. My advice to you, do not search for them! You will not know how to recover from the mere shock that these sites exist, and contrary to what their disclaimers say — definitely promote anorexia by telling you repeatedly — You Are What you Eat. My opening line of this article is from such a site — Until You Look like Me, You are Disgusting.
It is easy to connect with the concept of not liking how we look, but that is not the reason and should not be the reason to motivate ourselves into thinking that something is wrong with us and we need to make drastic changes to our lifestyle to attain our idea of beautiful and perfect. What is essential for everyone to know is that eating disorders can be cured, when caught in time. It depends on the choice the individual make and the support she gets. People choose this lifestyle, as they feel they have no other choice. There are websites which help them make the healthy choice, and we as concerned friends and family members need to help them find the way to make the healthier choice.
By Radhika Ghose