Thursday, April 21, 2011


Should I be posting about the very real dangers of anorexia and bulimia? Should I devote most of my blog to exploring the physical and psychological dangers of these two frightening eating disorders? Neither anorexia nor bulimia have ever been part of my personal experience, despite the fact that my first "diet" (when I was around 16) involved a liquid fast once a week and utter food vigilance on the other six days of the week--a behaviour that went on for several months and which could conceivably have led to anorexia, though it didn't.

Here's why I'm asking the question:

Once in awhile, I'm drawn to reading blogs and articles on anorexia and have watched a number of documentaries on youtube dealing with this disorder.

A few months ago, I came across the blog of an anorexic woman who is passionately concerned about the dangers of obesity. She intends to start a new blog with the word "obesity" in the title. The "theoretical" posts in her current blog all deal with fighting obesity though she does also talk about her own struggles with anorexia (although she refuses to term herself an anorexic, preferring to describe the problem using the more amorphous term, "eating disorder"). She writes for a weight loss audience.

She's clearly a bright woman, and definitely has her heart in the right place, but I have to say that her anti-obesity crusade disturbs me, especially given the havoc anorexia has wreaked on her own health.

I have refrained from even gently questioning her motivations, but it is my right to express an opinion here, which I'm doing as diplomatically as possible. I guess it's time for me to stop reading her blog. It's way too sad and strikes me as fundamentally wrong on so many levels.

And in answer to my own question: why not? It's a free world. However, I think if I were to do so, it would be more of an exercise in "there but for the grace of God go I" than anything else. I prefer to talk about what I know from the inside and leave anorexia to the professionals who treat it and those who suffer from it.


  1. Very interesting post... I think that weight obsession is definitely a continuum-- and an eating disorder is diagnosable (so to speak) through criteria that have been worked through by psychiatrists over many years. It is hardly an exact science.
    In any case: it is probably important to remember that anorexia nervosa/ bulimia nervosa are mental illnesses in which the relationship with food becomes disturbed, usually as a function of avoiding difficult emotions, rather than as a way of SIMPLY avoiding or dealing with obesity.
    I suppose it can also develop in a backwards fashion: obesity first, followed by food obsessions / disturbed eating, resulting in the person thinking that controlling food is a good way of coping.
    Very thought provoking...

  2. Dinnerland--Thank you for your insightful comments.

  3. I understand what you are saying and I, too, have been concerned.

  4. Twix, I just went to the blog in question and saw the exchange between you and our friend. She is seriously ill, but I am not going to intervene. I'm much too direct, which drives her around the bend and is ultimately unhelpful.

    As for her "hero", A., I think this person is monstrous, but self-preservation is a good thing, so I do not discuss him.

  5. To be honest, I have spent a significant amount of time reading blogs of women/men who openly aspire to anorexia (or claim a pro-ana stance), in the sense that they realize it may be disordered but at least it is not making them fat...sigh...or they defend it as a lifestyle choice, or as something to be proud of, like fat pride. Some also say they "hate" anorexia but have found no way out, even after repeated attempts at treatment. (Treatment options are quite limited, far too often.)

    Then there are bloggers who write about their ongoing process of recovering from anorexia, and those too provide much enlightenment about the human condition. Some follow food plans and some believe that food plans are restrictive, and thus potentially triggering. Some have made numerous attempts to recover before finally finding a healthier way to live, and some rely greatly on psychiatric assistance (talk therapy and meds), while others somehow get through with other kinds of help (spirituality-based groups, for instance.)

    There is hope for the woman you write about here. Probably help from a fellow sufferer/survivor/recovering person would be more likely to be heard. Theoretically.

    Bloggers seldom advocate very strongly in favor of bulimia, though, even when they suffer from the disorder and write about their experiences with the disorder. They often long for the ability to restrict or to eat "normally." They frequently seem to feel great ambivalence.

    (Basing the above generalizations on my blogger research, and some clinical experience, not personal history.)

    My grandmother struggled with anorexia--although, during her lifetime, none of us realized that was a serious problem for her. (Or, rather, most of us including me.) I discovered many sad things after she died, through a complicated route of evidence I won't go into here.

    Anyway. Actually, I can relate to all the above ways of suffering, for it seems that suffering is the one thing we all have in common, at some points in our lives, whether it is the pain of stigma and discrimination or the pain of feeling utterly alone with our confusion and problems.

    One more thing: the difference between so-called pro-ana blogs, and weight loss blogs, is alarmingly minute, at times. The similarities are at times shocking to me, too.

  6. Rebecca,

    Thanks for your comments (in fact, thanks to all). I actually pointed out the eerie similarities between pro-ana blogs and weight loss blogs a few months ago (maybe last year).

  7. Yes, NewMe, I seem to recall more than one of your posts on that topic! If anything, some of the pro-ana blogs seem much less militant in comparison to a few WLBs that shall remain unnamed!

  8. I'm glad that I don't know this blog of which you speak. I'm about done with all that insanity, I'm still insane even without reading stuff like that, no need to fuel that fire. Each to their own, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I don't need to know about it, though don't mind reading about it here.