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.
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.