In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of interaction, via social media and email, with people who are struggling with eating disorders.
The time has come for us all to get righteously angry.
Myself, I have moved past anger to that steel-eyed, axe-sharpening, calm place of volcanic rage.I am NOT angry at the girls and boys and women and men who are waging daily battle against the eating disorders which are trying to destroy them. I love those folks. I want to help strengthen them and offer whatever support I can, both to them and to their families.
(Why photos of babies? See the bottom of the post.)
No, my fury is leveled at the industries that make money off of vulnerable people by promoting unhealthy, unrealistic, Photoshopped body images. And I am hereby calling out everyone who thinks that promoting pro-ana (pro-anorexic), pro-mia (pro-bulimic), and thinspiration sites and behaviors is a good thing.
Borrowing a quote from Mamavision’s wonderful site, “Anorexia is a disease, not a fricking lifestyle.” (Learn who ANA and MIA and ED are, if you haven’t heard about them before.)
It is time to speak some hard truth. Are you listening?
ANA wants to kill you.
MIA wants to kill you.
ED wants you to die.
I am not exaggerating. Not even a little bit. More people die from eating disorders than from any psychiatric illness. (Sullivan, P.(1995). American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (7), 1073-1074.) Want to learn more? NEDA has a great collection of statistics.
People struggling with eating disorders (ED) spend a lot of energy convincing themselves and others that ANA and MIA are enchanted phantoms or fairy godsisters who will help them lose weight and then – magically – everything will be better. They will feel beautiful. Accepted. Loved. Worthy. Accomplished. Important. Cherished. Happy. They starve themselves because they are starving for the powerful sense of security and belonging that every human being deserves.
How does this happen?
It often starts when kids stumble into the howling desert wasteland we call adolescence. Her (his) body changes. Hormones start to drive the brain train. Insecurities fester. Pressure and stress boil. Kids look around for guidance. Advertising hammers home the bullshit message that if they just lose some weight, all of their problems will disappear.
It’s a lie. An evil, obscene lie. Advertisers want to make you feel worse, not better, because if you are feeling kind of crappy, it’s easier for them to con you into buying stuff. They hire genetically thin models, pressure them to drug and starve themselves to emaciation, and THEN they Photoshop the images of these models until they resemble aliens.
Starting to understand my wrath?
People suffering from eating disorders are often malnourished. The chemicals in their bodies are all messed up from starvation and/or purging. Their brains don’t have enough fuel to run on, which makes thinking clearly and making smart decisions even harder. This is why they need our loving support, not our criticism or disdain.
I reserve a nuclear fireball of hatred for the tabloid asshats who fetishize the supposed weight losses and gains of celebrities, and thus, help fuel the eating disorders of millions. Burn, you toxic scum. Burn slowly. Burn and then heal a little bit, and then remember all the lives you screwed up and the pain you caused and rip your scabs open so you can burn anew. Until the end of time.
Yeah, I’m pissed.
Getting angry is a good start. Being proactive is the next step. What can you do?
* Share this blog post.
* When you hear people talking about their love for ANA or MIA, don’t judge. Just quietly say (or write) “ANA is lying. MIA is lying. Don’t let them hurt you.”
* Consider the Body Beautiful app.
* Get more information at the National Eating Disorders Association’s website. They are doing the work of the angels there and can provide you with all kinds of resources. Their PARENT TOOLKIT is especially helpful.)
* Read and share “I Am Not My Eating Disorder,” on the To Write Love On Her Arms website.
Please keep speaking up about real beauty and strength, and our responsibility to be caring and compassionate with each other, so that we can help all the wintergirls and winterboys thaw and start truly living again.
Why the photos of cute babies in this post? Because that’s how we started out. That’s how you started out. No one would judge, belittle, or criticize a newborn about her appearance. We all deserve to be loved for who we are, not how we measure up to some imaginary standard. Love yourself and love the people around you.
** All images in this post were purchased and licensed from the photographers via istockphoto.com. Do not use them for commercial purposes, please.
17 Replies to “ANA and MIA and ED want to kill you – an overdue post”
Thank you for speaking loudly!
And thank you for writing “Wintergirls.” I get to hand out 20 copies of that book – free – in April during World Book Night. I pray that those books get into the hands of people who need to hear that they are loved, and that there is a way out of pain that includes life and love and people and joy and them.
Thank you for speaking out and for writing Wintergirls. I have taught girls in the past who have struggled with eating disorders. They have shared with me that you captured what is going on in their heads. Now I have a better understanding of just how hard they fight to stay alive, and I strengthen my prayers for them. This year Wintergirls is one of those books that doesn’t stay on the shelf. It goes from hand to hand, student to student. They read, and they are changed.
I was a wintergirl. I pray to God that I no longer am, that I killed Edie before she killed me.
It’s a vicious battle. Thank you for this post. Thank you for loving wintergirls and winterboys. We–they?–need love.
There are simply not words to adequately express my thanks to you for sharing your talent with the world, over and over again. While Speak saved me in a lot of ways, Wintergirls saved my girlfriend. We read it out loud, tucked into bed, and cried together. It gave words to so many of the emotions she had and gave me a way to understand what she’d been going through since she was a teenager. It is one of the books I recommend over and over again, to those struggling with ED, and those who aren’t, simply because it bridges that gap so easily.
Thank you, Laurie. Thank you a million times.
And does anybody, ever, think a skinny baby is cute? Of course not! They are horrified! And rightly so!
Ami, skinny babies can be skinny for a lot of reasons. As a child who was born two months premature and was a “skinny baby” for quite a long time, and who’s seen quite a lot of other skinny babies who were preemie or sickly, I find it painful to read someone say a skinny baby isn’t cute. EVERY baby is beautiful.
I see both your points (Ami & Kelly). In Ami’s post, I heard concern for babies who not cared for properly. But, Kelly’s point is well-taken–we can’t assume about people’s circumstances, and every baby deserves to be celebrated just for BEING.
Laurie, your post gave me goosebumps and moved me very much. Thank you for your passion and for the work you do!!! Heaven knows people need all the help they can get resisting pop culture’s poisonous messages.
Wintergirls was the book that allowed me to diagnose someone close to me, and go about getting her help.
Thank you for writing–and speaking about–things that matter.
Thank you for writing about this. Sadly, publishers of YA novels are now complicit in this horror story, with their photoshopped “girls in gowns” covers. I have a YA book coming out next year. It is actually ABOUT a girl and her inappropriately pink dress (sort of) but I’m going to try my damnedest to see that the cover model (should there be one) is not anorexic.
I love your attitude! I have a friend who suffers from bulemia — she is pregnant — I don’t know what is going to happen. She is so happy to be pegnant — however, I am really concerned!! She purges consistently. We just have to pray for the baby.
Laurie, I shared this post with a friend who has a teenage daughter. She thanked me so much as her daughter is starting to feel the “pressure to be thin” that is neither healthy or real. I lost of my best friends from grammar school to anorexia & its complications. Not in her teens, twenties, but her late thirties. It is a tough addiction to break. It weakens or damages your body in so many ways, recovery is harder the longer you live with it. Please keep speaking out. I love your determination and I know its helped me. I’ll never fully understand, but Wintergirls was cathartic for me after losing my friend.
Laurie, this post is just one of the many reasons why I adore you. Thank you for giving all the winterchildren a voice and for helping them thaw. The Lias in the world need you.
What a wonderful, neccessary and strong post!
I’m in my late twenties and all through my teenage and early adult years I felt the pressure to be thinner and prettier than I thought I was. I thought people would acknowledge me more, listened to me more, see me more as a part of “their” world. Thankfully my friends reminded me constantly that they love me how I was/am and that I was pretty and loved and worthy. So I had a save haven and felt okay even though I still longed to be “better looking”/thinner. But it wasn’t that constant monster that haunted me. Without friends who didn’t give s**** about society’s abnormal views on beauty I might have fallen into the claws of an eating disorder.
Now at almost 30 I can love who I am inside and out and don’t define myself by a number on a scale because I know I’m much more.But when I think of the fact that it took me almost 25 years to get there and that many girls, boys, men and women still feel like my 16-year-old self sometimes did (frightened,pressured,fat, sad, unworthy)I could cry.
Eating disorders kill, body and soul. Sometimes it may be hard to love yourself, but it is ALWAYS worth it! <3
Thank you, Laurie, for bringing this and other issues that are so devastating to our children to our attention.
i don’t have an eating disorder but i, like a lot of people, stumble upon ED/pro-ED sites&it’s heartbreaking. kudos for being honest, darling.
p.s. i dreamed that you’d written a book called “summergirl” about lia’s recovery. nice dream.
(ok, Laurie, this is a quick personal comment not dealing with ED. I knew you in high school and had a, lik Consumer Economics class with you. And when I saw your name on books, I thought, Oh it can’t be her. But it was, and that rocks big time! I was tall and skinny, and if you remember me, Hi, if not oh well. 😉 And I’m not surprised that you’re a great author either) But this is the biggest reason that I’m writing something here. -ANA and BIA and ED websites are so terribly horrendous that I can’t get over it. So that’s why I’m sharing, I just can’t get over it. It doesn’t make sense. And it makes me REALLY sad. 🙁