Archive for the ‘Culture and Society’ Category

Ignorance and irresponsibility

Monday, January 10th, 2011

This month’s Grazia suggests that the ‘on/off’ diet, otherwise known as ‘Alternate Day Fasting’, is the perfect solution for those who find staying on a diet a mission, and following a “month of mince pies”.

It proposes 400 calories on ‘on’ days, and a modest amount on those in between.

It was my understanding that the brain needs about 500 calories a day to function.

This leaves us 100 calories short.

The article left me cold.

It left me cold because it normalises and endorses eating patterns that verge on starvation; and, in the act of doing so, infers that our appearance is more important than our selves -

Just like the guy on Twitter.

Over the past few days, an irresponsible and deeply unpleasant tweeter has been posting updates about managed anorexia and size zero. It’s created a frenzy of anger and, slightly more positively, a flurry of body positive counter-tweets – but neither have really taken the edge off how disturbing this is.

There is no such thing as managed anorexia. Eating disorders spiral and constrict and smother and, ultimately, kill.

It has been a while since I have written about eating disorders in a more general sense, or in response to news articles. I have, perhaps, been overly aware that I might not be the most objective commentator and a little less courageous about sharing my opinions than I might like. I have also been conscious that controversy attracts attention, and there is a fine line between entering a discussion with a purpose – and playing straight into someone’s game. I hope that this post does not fall into the latter – only the depth of my unease in relation to the article, and the tweet stream, has left me feeling like I don’t have a voice. The conversation is almost not worth engaging in – and yet, the message is so dangerous that the other side must be heard –

Because advocating a 400 calorie diet is utterly irresponsible, and any promotion of anorexia demonstrates an ignorance that negates the experiences of those suffering, whilst causing untold harm to those who are vulnerable enough to take on board the rubbish that is being said.

I am not sure what the solution is. I am almost more scared by the fact that a mainstream magazine shows such little accountability than that one disturbed individual is causing outrage on Twitter. At least in this forum, there are people who are standing up against him –

There is no one challenging Grazia’s message or how it is being interpreted in people’s heads.

Over the Hill?

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I am currently surfing the next wave of social angst. The first one related to size; this time, the culprit is age – with the shadow of the former still remaining.

At 30, I feel over the hill.

I have not achieved what I should have achieved and it feels, horribly, like it’s too late.

I have been trying to pinpoint the source of this impression. It is more illusive than I would have supposed. It would be easy to point an accusatory finger at the media but I think it’s more subtle than that. To be honest, I rarely watch TV, venture less to the cinema, and most of the magazine I read are about empowering all women, rather than just those under 21…

“College Triggers”

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Apparently, there’s a link between going to university and eating disorders.

This is not really surprising.

In an illness that is all about coping mechanisms and self identify issues and peer pressures and social expectations, university is fertile ground for eating disorders; whether you’ve already been grabbed, or are caught unawares -

University is not as easy as you think it will be. It’s just that nobody admits it – until later.

Stressed Super Girls?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

At the impressionable age of 11, when adult insecurities and expectations are starting to kick in, I developed anorexia bulimia.

It has taken me 18 years to get rid of it.

Eating disorders are intimately bound up with social expectations (girl power), psychological characteristics’ (intelligence, perfectionism), cultural trends (24 hours food) and the age old struggle to find your identity –

We’re having a bit of an explosion in the 21st century.

Everything’s coming all at once; and, it’s travelling with the lightening speed of the digital age.


Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I didn’t give much thought to forced starvation when I was really ill.

Anorexia makes you selfish.

The ‘you’d eat it if you lived in Africa’ line just got on my nerve.

I’m not sure that the discussion would be any more helpful to other people struggling with eating disorders; but, after reading a piece in last weekend’s Observer, I am trying to make sense of the fact that there are over a billion people out there going hungry – whilst I have struggled between choosing not to eat – or wasting food like there’s no tomorrow.

There’s something very wrong going on.

A Lifestyle Choice?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

I am a little perplexed as to how anorexia can possible be considered a lifestyle choice.

Lifestyle infers that you’re hoping to stay alive, so we’ve already hit the first snag; and choice infers that you’re in control, which is clearly an illusion as you discover when you try and escape

So the description’s wrong on all accounts…

It’s just a little worrying that we’re even describing a prolonged suicide in these terms.

The Bigger Picture

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Writing was meant to help me sort my head out.

It was a tried and tested part of the recovery process, and the subject was meant to be clear. Me.

Somewhere along the way, my psychological exercise got sidetracked and made a slight digression into the world of sociological and anthropological contemplation.

It got a tad distracted in the tangled web of philosophical and literary exploration.

But it wasn’t a wasted trip.


A 21st century epidemic?

Monday, August 10th, 2009

This is the interesting bit.

History says that the Romans had a strange and socially acceptable form of bulimia.

I haven’t really pursued the subject; but rumour has it that anorexia has been around for years. Apparently, there’s even an anorexic take on Jane Eyre (refusal and food – I stumbled across it during my degree).

Following the literary line further, the emotional context is not that dissimilar from stuff that people were describing years ago. It’s just the manifestation and the response that’s different.

And that’s the crux of the situation. There’s a whole pretext to anorexia and bulimia, a whole lot of similarities to age old emotional baggage– yet they’re very much a modern disease. A regular 20th/21st century phenomenon.


A 21st Century Hypochondriac

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

A doctor writing for The Times on Saturday raised an interesting point: medical awareness campaigns may not be good for the health; they may, in fact, make you more anxious.

It’s a pertinent topic. With the media flurry around swine flu, health awareness has certainly featured high on the public agenda – and the worldwide web hasn’t been immune. Mind you, the internet wasn’t around in the last flu pandemic; or, at least, it wasn’t around in every living room. Thanks to the internet, we’ve got the WHO sitting on our sofa, alongside an overstretched NHS and a whole host of swine flu scaremongers.

As a 21st century hypochondriac, I am a sitting duck.


Instant Gratification and Prolonged Disatisfaction

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I’m familiar with instant gratification.

It’s what binging and bulimia thrive on. Strong desire; fast food; instant gratification.

Food is one form; according to the media, consumerism is another.

I agree. The parallels don’t surprise me. Having spent much of 2003 to 2005 in supermarkets, I’m familiar with the lure.

When you’re in the middle of a great gaping emotional void, shops are quite appealing. They’re a preoccupation and then a full time occupation. When nothing feels particularly great, they’re a haven of soft lighting and soothing music and promises. When you want, they provide – with the drip drip drip of addiction: the gratification may be instant, but the satisfaction doesn’t last much longer.

It wears off pretty quick – and just leaves you wanting more.


Present Danger?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Most people have toughened up a little by their late 20s. They’re a little more world wisely, a little more clued up. They’re a little less black and white and good and bad and all or nothing. Things are taken on the chin.

It’s great to reach this stage – but the journeys not so hot. Times are changing and there’s lots of stuff out there that can distract you along the way.


A Gender Identity?

Monday, June 15th, 2009

As I have only just started considering myself as a woman – rather than a girl – I have never really given the whole ‘what it means to be a woman’ debate, that much attention.

I thought that understanding what it was like to be me would be enough to make sense of my experiences; I didn’t anticipate contemplating the far bigger mystery of what it was like to be a woman. To be honest, it seemed kind of irrelevant…

Until I noticed that it kept coming up – and it appeared to be connected; kind of like this….