Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Female celebrities and eating disorders

Seem to be all the rage now. The latest I hear is that Lindsey Lohan (huh? apparently she's in some low-quality film) hasn't got bulimia after all. Well there are a few confusing things here:

Firstly she says she was making herself sick to loose weight, but she wasn't bulimic... that's the definition of bulimia! That's like saying she's covered in thick furry hair, but she's not hirsute.

Secondly she says she's "appalled" at the story. Well that implies that she think eating disorders are something to be ashamed of. They're illnesses, and the message that those who suffer should be able to admit to suffering and seek help should be spread around as far as possible.

Thirdly what's with the journalists, and she's not the first one to be "outed" as having an eating disorder. Magazines like Heat do little else. And of course the focus is almost always on female celebrities, reinforcing the idea that we're only valued for our appearances (note how I cunningly passed myself off as a celebrity there!).

Something like 15% of women suffer some sort of eating disorder in their lives. And some men suffer too. A very small number have been open about it and brought the heavily under-reported subject into the media (notable exceptions: Princess Diana, Jane Fonda, Paula Abdul and Joan Rivers). And all of these cited the media glare as one of the contributory factors that caused their condition. So the more critical "accusatory" reporting on the subject, the worse the problem.

I suffered anorexia (nervosa, not bulimia) for about two years when I was 16-18. It's really horrible. I was down to about 7 stone at one point, thin enough to have had no periods for 18 month. Thin enough to take showers rather than baths since the latter resulted in my hips bruising against the ceramic sides of the bath.

Support in this country for those trying to overcome the condition is pitiful. A friend of mine's sister, Roz Dunham, committed suicide a few years ago while on the receiving end of totally unhelpful support for anorexia. There was a radio program made about it, with her Mum and sister interviewed. You can read the transcript here.

I think the issue should be a key component of NHS and government thinking and new policy, not a matter for snide, backstabbing press speculation.


Inkblot said...

Agree wholeheartedly. I think their needs to be a lot more awareness so that poeple close t sufferers can identify the problem before it gets out of hand and know how to deal with it. Its very very hard for the individual after a point to do anything.

alex45 said...

Compulsive exercising is another type of eating disorder. One that struggles with this disorder takes part of vigorous physical activity to the point that it is unhealthy and unsafe. It is often referred to as obligatory exercise or anorexia athletic.


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