It’s talked about a lot. Comments about the size and weight of celebrities abound in tabloid magazines, on television, radio, and within various social media sites. And the comments have a theme. They are too skinny. They appear drastically underweight and sickly. A recent picture showed the normally healthy looking Katie Holmes with her rib bones protruding through her middle section as she frolicked with her daughter poolside. Model Candice Swanepoel was recently criticized for showing up at a Victoria Secret promotional event looking frail and pin-thin.
This is surprising, as Victoria Secret is typically known for images of women with fuller, curvier bodies. But this dynamic is pervasive. The models on the runway are mind blowingly slim as they make their way down the catwalk as noted once again during New York’s’ fashion week. And, of course, most of the images in magazines continue to show models and actresses who are impossibly thin.
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And eating disorders are pervasive. Girls as young as eight years old are going on diets, complaining that their stomachs aren’t flat enough and engaging in the worst of dysfunctional eating patterns: starvation, bingeing/purging, overeating followed by restrictive behavior and excessive exercise. But this affliction is not restricted to the young. Women of all ages---literally---are suffering with eating disorders. And it is an invasive, insidious disease. It takes over. Like any addiction. She becomes addicted to keeping her body slim. And obsessed with how, if, and when this will happen.
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Like any addict, she thinks about food and her body all day. Just like an alcoholic thinks about alcohol all day—when and if the next drink will come, how much longer she can hold out until the next high. Similarly, females afflicted with eating disorders or eating disorder behavior spend time dreaming up ways to lose weight or to compensate for “bad” eating behavior. She ruminates about what her next meal will be. The thoughts become all consuming. And her life no longer has room for friends, family and career. Not really. The disorder takes over and now her emotional and physical state is in grave danger.
Ironically, eating disorders are not really about food. They are not really about the body. They tend to reside in people that have pre-existing psychic pain. That have trauma, depression, anxiety, sadness…something that gets them to latch on to an eating disorder as a way of managing their feelings. Now, they are not thinking about their sadness or their loneliness. They are thinking about their dress size. And this feels “better” than focusing on the deep-rooted psychological pain that is the underbelly of this disease. Psychological intervention and extended treatment is the only way out.