Let’s Discuss Body Image

Of all the style bloggers who’ve been brought to my attention recently, this one disturbes me the most.

I don’t want to link to her or hurt her feelings. I just want her to eat!

How can one become so delusional that one’s starving body looks like a pin-up girl? This blogger likes to post several pictures of the same outfit, often posing saucily in front of various landmarks. She appears to be youngish, but her face is wrinkled from starvation and perhaps bulimia.

Just the other day, my sister and I were recalling our bouts of teenage anorexia. She can remember the exact moment that she decided to lose weight. We both remember how it was triggered by our dad, whose offhand comment about her weight was devastating to a sensitive 13 year old.

I can’t remember what triggered my anorexa, but it started when I was living in a place for juvenile delinquents. I got down to 96 pounds but still worried about calories. When I ate eggs, I threw away the yolk.

When you have anorexia, the image you see in the mirror can never be thin enough. Even your bones look too fat. All you care about is being thin and staying thin. You lose all capacity for being rational about your body.

A couple of years ago, I met a girl with anorexia who was also a drug addict. She reminded me a little of my younger self, and she was like a wounded bird that I longed to protect. She confessed to me that she cried after eating an apple. I tried to explain that her thinking was distorted.   She   died from huffing, thin as a twig.

A new study suggests that the propensity for anorexia begins in utero, due to hormone fluctuations. There is also a genetic component.   Therefore, it’s not just a reaction to cultural pressure and stereotypes. Maybe it’s an issue of seeking control when you   feel powerless: If you can control what you put in your mouth, you are in charge. That is the fallacy.

I hope someone can help the poor blogger. I hope someone can reach out to her, although who knows how many people may have tried and failed.

The good thing is that once you start to eat, your brain can work again. You begin to end the struggle with your body, and the spell can be broken, just by gaining a few vital pounds.

If you’ve battled with this shit, or you have an opinion, let’s hear it!

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138 Responses to Let’s Discuss Body Image

  1. dust says:

    Riots not diets – it is true that we are conditioned to pick Mars bar over Brussels sprouts, it is also possible that someone who makes the right choice is called anorectic. We are conditioned to be unhappy, right? Now what? How do we riot? Or listen to our bodies? Love our bodies, do what’s best for them?

    I find mainstream dieting and bulimia more dangerous than a die-hard one, cos’ it’s stupider thing to do(not trying to be rude just simplify) and wide spread. I don’t feel like waiting for moment to hear that we are looking into ways to compost the discharge for environmental reasons.

    Just asking, it’s all wrong and I wouldn’t mind rioting, I just don’t know how… if it’s a part of our current official culture, we’re fucked. How long it takes a person to eat shit to realize that it’s not edible?

    And what is edible?

  2. Scary comments says:

    I googled the girl’s name and blog, and she left comments like this on other blog posts about skinny models… it’s SO scary.

    “Role models do really count… Skinny does attract more skinny wannabes.”
    “I find it positive that all shapes and sizes are out there. We should have the right to be what we want to… skinny or not!”

  3. annemarie says:

    Everything we do, feel, and say creates or perpetuates a thought pattern, however unconscious that may be. The “change thinking=change behavior” formula is the basic premise of all cognitive therapy. BUT, I never said that it was either that simple or that easy. It’s not. It’s fucking hard. Hence the enormous attraction of comfort zones, even the most horrid ones.

  4. Laura says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble SW but you still have anorexia and obviously still starve yourself otherwise you would be fatter for your age and not look so gaunt with dried out hair.

  5. Amy says:

    SW, I really love your blog, and I’m glad you’ve given people a room to discuss this issue on your blog. I feel the same way you do about Sea and JS, but I think calling them fat is just hitting below the belt. …especially in juxtaposition with this post.

  6. Amy says:

    What I’m trying to say I guess, is that I hope you won’t call people like Sea and JS fat in future posts, now that you have made this post.

  7. RIOTS NOT DIETS says:

    @ Dust Good questions…you have a real way with metaphor. From personal experience I’ve been treated like a crazy person for being relatively satisfied with my body. I’m 24 and a size 5/6. Maybe it’s because I’m short enough for a complex about height, not weight, or that I love to cook and eat healthy (but don’t exercise…) Women bond through their complaints about their stomachs or those last ten pounds, how bad diet food tastes, how dessert is naughty, blah blah blah. Women are conditioned to be demure and complimentary, and never say anything interpreted as arrogant so we’re constantly self-depracating but not in a humorous way. Like I said, I’m short, I’m ugly, and like so many men in the public eye it doesn’t stop me from being myself. Sometimes I feel like I’ve given up. That can’t be the right way, but I stopped fighting my body, at least.

    Do you think we need to get closer to food again? Maybe this organic movement/Food Network obsession will lead to positive body image. We can celebrate taste, encouraged by nutrition, and stop fearing food because we’re packed with hormones, antibiotics, steroids, artificial flavors, sweetners, HFCS, hydrogenated oils, etc. Cooking is control too.

  8. Rabid says:

    Psssssss Melissa and Laura . . . lean in really close . . . I’m going to tell you something super important: SHUT UP. Okay, that’s all.

  9. dust says:

    Riots not diets – I’m forced to diet and eat piles of vegetables, I cook every day cos it takes me 20minutes to fix my healthy dinner. I’m type 1 diabetic, but got it in my mid 20’s which means that I had plenty of time and chance to taste the life. I look better now that 10 years ago, but it almost feels like I had to develop disordered eating to be able to survive.
    I can’t help thinking that if any of anorectics or bulimics would be forced to become that way, would they have the same passion?
    But, my daily pile of veggies doesn’t taste like heaven every time, I eat it any way. I guess that’s the point.

    We are not supposed to be happy 24 hours a day, it is our culture that put that impossible goal of happiness in front of us that feed us frustration cos we’ll never reach it.

    My way of fighting it is : I don’t enjoy every single bite I take, mostly I simply feed my body, sometimes both body and soul (ice-cream deserves this special place) and sometimes I just indulge (croissants!). I long to be able to eat fruits more carelessly, but science will fix it in next decade, I hope.

    As long as we are expecting food to please us and not feed us, we’re in trouble.
    How do we get there? By trying and failing and lots of broccoli.

  10. Dr says:

    And much as I think the issue deserves to be thought about, I also agree with Amy: calling people fat is hitting below the belt and it’s pointless too, since there are so many worse things JS is than just “fat” (try: clueless, entitled, completely lacking in talent, idiotic, total famewhore, etc, etc). I called her plump in the comments to that post, which in my head is a different thing from ‘fat’. From what I can make out, ‘fat’ to most people these days suggests really gross overweightness (unless you happen to work in the entertainment/fashion industry and just being a few pounds off a size 6 means you’re ‘fat’. Or of course, if we’re judging ourselves).

  11. dust says:

    Dr – you said it good, we’re judging. Too fast, too cruel, all in order to make US feel good about ourselves. Fatness and skinniness are subjective, healthy is more safe, but looks can deceive.

    I’ve learned a lot from this debate and if I ever manage to normalize my control issues, I’m ready to do it just in spite, just not be product of general mainstream that supports this vicious circle. Fuck you media, fuck you sugar, fuck you fat tighs. I shall have some ice cream after I had Brussels sprouts, non of them can make me really happy anyway. I’m creative enough to find some other, completely original way of being pathetic and satisfied.

  12. I am the person in the pictures. This is my response, equally posted on my blog as of now.

    “I had a very different post in mind. But this cannot wait. A certain blogger, whose name I do not care to mention here, has written a post about me and my looks. This has resulted in angry comments, that I have the right not to publish here, on my site.

    Briefly, those of you who have followed my blog, or know me personally, must have noticed that I have lost quite a bit of weight recently. This has happened due to reasons I choose not to develop here, in a public space. This is my right. I am trying to battle the issue with the help of my loved ones, and any encouragement is welcome. On the contrary, any hurtful comment or angry burst only hurts yet more.

    I am sorry that blogging has led me to this sad place where I am today — actually asking if I should go on… I have been open about my doings and life situation. Always trying to leave friendly and uplifting comments on others’ blogs. I do not wish to promote anorexia. I am just a person whose life is made of brighter and darker passages.

    Today my eyes are filled with tears. Feel free to leave me a note of encouragement if ever your heart tells you so.”

  13. Sofia says:

    I was a gymnast, nothing fancy or olympic standard. It actually wasn’t that big a deal to me, just something I liked to do because I was sort of a little bit of a show off, and I liked the other girls at the gym.

    One day we were going through our conditioning routines of sit ups, squats and all that other painful stuff when the coach said in front of the whole group ‘Sofia you look chubby’. (With hindsight I think this coach had a slightly warped idea of life goals anyway. When we were training she used to tell us to try harder, not because we could do better at gymnastics, but because if we were slim and toned boys would like us more.)

    I was so embarrassed. It was the sort of thing that as a teenage girl you kind of thought about yourself anyway, but then to have it confirmed that other people though it to, and in front of all your friends. I was humiliated.

    I felt like I couldn’t keep hanging around in a leotard with these people so I stopped eating. I was already exercising a few hours a day, 6 days a week, so reducing my calorie intake was really the only thing I could do.

    At first I received praise for my new physique. And I do think that I looked better. But then it started to go to far. I got too skinny, and as a result my gymnastics suffered.

    Perhaps ironically my standards slipped so far that I couldn’t do the skill level required for my team, the coach asked me to leave and questioned if my heart was really in gymnastics.

    Since then I’ve improved a lot. I’m a healthy weight and I eat and exercise in moderation. However, if something goes wrong or I’m going through a period of stress, my initial reaction is always to jump on the scales.

  14. dust says:

    Susu – you are brave, I applaud! Look at those stories above and you’ll see that you are not alone, many others were brave to share their experience. Be sure that non of us judging you, we are merely looking for the same answer.
    Be free to join the discussion and share your thoughts and troubles, we welcome you!

  15. dust says:

    Before I forget (for the third time) a month ago we had a fashion show, it was a group show which means we didn’t choose our models. I was confident to make all outfits in mine and Birdeaters size, well, Birdeater has the fastest metabolism ever, she eats cheese and butter sandwiches on every hour, otherwise she faints, and me, well, you know me from above.
    We come to fitting and guess what, ALL models were bigger than us, healthy, with tits, asses and tighs, we had troubles closing zippers and loose silhouettes weren’t as loose as we thought. In last 6 years I hardly had a model, professional or amateur, that was smaller than size 36, most of them are small 38.

    I have no opinion about this, except making bigger samples.

  16. sarah.p says:

    All this has been so challenging. I’ve not posted because (for reasons I cannot fathom!) I am, as a US 12, not too bothered about my body (indeed I enjoy it, and enjoy the responses it gets), so I have nothing useful or insightful to share.

    However, this has made me wonder why I flinched at the blogger’s thinness, and yet when I read style blogs by those sassy plus-sized gals who rock scarlet one-pieces on their size 16 bodies, I think “Good for you, sister”. It’s a double standard. Neither is healthy, and yet I celebrate the courage of one, and not the other.

    Susu’s response here is very dignified and rather touching.

  17. RIOTS NOT DIETS says:

    @ Susu I found these comments very encouraging (with the exception of known troll and fucktard Mutterhals who hates us all unless she’s desperate for someone to read her lonely blog). At the very least it should be obvious you’re not alone. I’m grateful to hear that you have support in real life. It must be startling to know your body has been discussed in a public internet forum, but there’s no anger, only empathy. Look at how many have been where you are.

    @ Dust It would be different when eating becomes a chore. I like brussel sprouts roasted with lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper, actually. I guess I’m fortunate to have the freedom to experiment with my intake, to replace items I just don’t like and won’t eat, like green beans. You can’t even walk on to my balcony because of the many pots and plants, but the homegrown tomatoes and strawberries are incredible. To my friends I probably sound like a fucking idiot when I talk about food, like getting excited after hearing raw vegans sweeten desserts and smoothies with medjool dates, but this embrace that probably fits in well with the cult of Rachel Ray has kept me from fearing food and consumption. Something will always taste better than a Ding-Dong. Vegetables can taste better than how your parent(s) boiled them beyond recognition at the dinner table. I think it’s overwhelming to look at the processed offerings at the market and bodies in the media and wondering how to reconcile availability.

  18. dust says:

    Riots not diets – vegetables and Sister Wolf keep me sane.
    Good doesn’t equal happy, that’s a good conclusion to start with.

  19. Julie says:

    I agree, and I read the response on her blog. I can tell she’s still very emotional and fragile about what she’s going through/ has went through.

    I really hope a few of the people who comment on her blog pictures know, or have at least picked up on what she’s going through, and are just trying to encourage her with positive complements such as ‘cute’, not to say that her state is attractive or healthy looking, but to maybe just make her feel good.

    While I have never had an eating disorder, I have a few close friends that did, and at times have been the person that shakes them and tells them that they are killing themselves. It’s pretty intense watcing someone go through that.

    And while I agree with the majority here, I wouldn’t want to criticise her or discuss her body, because, while I don’t know her personally, and don’t know the current state of her situation, if I was her, that last thing I would want is people pointing out something Ive obviously battled with and/or still fighting. So it’s nice to see people sharing their stories and encouragement, instead of calling her ‘disgusting’ and ‘horrifying’.

    I really hope this blogger is okay, and comes through.

  20. Brie says:

    I was accused of being anorexic as a teen (which I wasn’t, I was just naturally thin + tall) but I was never as skinny as the girl in that blog. She has wrinkled skin at her armpits she is so skeletal! I worry for her.

    I really hope she gets the help she needs because there is thin and “eating disorder thin”. She falls into the later.

  21. Sister Kristina says:

    Funny you said that about Dad. Actually after our “meet”, i mentioned to him how most everyone looked alike. I look a little different. He says, you could look like them in 2 months if you wanted to….I said… what? He answered, lose weight!
    No, I said, I meant long dark hair and no freckles….
    sigh….
    Even when he is weak, he can’t resist a comment!

  22. Elena Abaroa says:

    Wow, I have no words with all the brave comments the people left, people arent brave enough to speak about this theme in their blogs and you are, as always…Definitely anorexia is growing up very quickly nowadays (lets remember in the poor countries there is not anorexia, so its not a genetic ilness). I feel like you Sister, I´ve been always thin, and I eat that i want but im not the super skinny model that the society show on the catwalks and ads, and sometines I can feel a bit “fat” if I compare myself with the anorexic models and stuff (if I´m skinny and I feel like this I cant imagine how a normal girl with a bit of weight would feel…). I never had an eating disorder but I cant say i wouldnt have one some day, cause I hate the idea about being fat. I dont care about fat people, actually I have a lot of mates a bit fatty and I love them and i see them very beautiful, but I would get very depressed if some day I get fat. Its a strange thing, but I cant help it… For me this disorder is clearly a reaction to cultural pressure and stereotypes in the developed countries. For instance, when my granny was young, in Spain just few people had anorexia and now with all these fashion issue and ads, a lot of girls are suffering it.

  23. Beth says:

    It is so sad. And sadder still that she doesn’t know how sad it is. And we all play a role in the ever glamorizing of the rail thin female. I’m going to eat a donut now.

  24. Question says:

    RIOTS NOT DIETS,

  25. Shari says:

    Wow, the jealousy and hate radiates from my computer. I may have to call IT and have them make some repairs when I’m finished with this comment.

    Do you even know this woman? Clearly you do not. She is vibrant and full of life. You think you have the right to call her anorexic because she doesn’t have a muffin top? Ever think that maybe she is just very selective about what she eats, perhaps she doesn’t eat preservatives or sugars?

    I for one think she is beautiful inside and out. Not all of us out here want to be fat-asses. Some of us actually care about our bodies and refuse to buy into the processed food culture. Eating organic and healthy produces long, lean bodies, all the while providing excellent nutrition.

    Your post disgusts me. The fact that you trash somone of whom you have no level of knowledge of whatsoever is appalling.

  26. Nausicaa says:

    Shari- are we even reading the same post? No one here is trashing Susu, and there’s only one thing you got right in your comment- she is indeed vibrant and full of life, and she seems to enjoy herself in Paris. Oh, and healthy eating is good from a nutritional perspective. No one has problems with women who lack muffin tops and eat healthily- at least one commenter has spoken about growing her own vegetables, but we aren’t holier-than-thou about it.

  27. Red Paeony – that’s awful. With luck someday your mind will change.
    Ooooh Mutterhals is back! They must be really really confident in themselves if the only constructive thing they can do on a sharing post like this is dump all over it. Well done Mutterhals.

  28. And Shari, what Nausicaa said. Even Sister isn’t bringing the hate on this one. So stop hating us.

  29. She wrote a post in response to this, angry that you were apparently slagging her off. Dear dear.

  30. agnes says:

    Wow man, when are you going to stop bashing people who does not deserve it? Don’t you have symphathy for others? apparently you lack of it. And let me tell you, keeping being a bully in your 40’s, so sad. damage

  31. Dru says:

    agnes, no one here read it as bashing and even Sister didn’t intend it that way- most of the comments apart from crazy mutterwhatever, are sympathetic and many people have shared their own stories of their problems with body image. If you want bullies, you can find them in other places on this blog- if you think Sister’s outspokenness is the same as bullying, I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  32. Jay says:

    @Braindance

    Bravo. I only wish my mother, actually most of the women in my family, were like you. My mother was obsessed with my weight, and I was 10 when it started. She made me go on diets, drink miracle powders, and ridicule me in front of people. It might be a cultural difference and I tell myself she was genuinely worried about me, about all it did was bring more damage than good. Sadly, I still get called on about my appearance every day, but my mother has learned after I had a nervous break down when I was in middle school. It still brings me to tears to think about it. I know when I have daughters or sons, I would NEVER EVER do what my mother use to do to me. And I guess it still hurts because I loved her so much and to have her say those things to me constantly just about killed me.

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