Lately I’ve been reading quite a lot of blog posts about anorexia/eating disorders. These interest me on many levels. Firstly, my father is a psychologist by profession (but really a philosopher/social worker by trade). He’s the kind of guy who treats most of his patients free of charge – just because he feels it’s his duty to help and because he is so interested in other human beings. His view on eating disorders is simple: you’ll usually find an overbearing or controlling mother behind an anorexic/bulimic daughter. The daughter feels that all aspects of her life are controlled by the mother and in desperation she takes control of the only thing that is left: her voluntary intake of food (which the mother cannot control). This analysis is probably a bit broad as there may be other factors, but it isn’t inconsistent with what I’ve seen from ED girls and women I know.
In the middle to upper-middle class environment I grew up in eating disorders were very commonplace indeed. The fact that anorexia is an inconceivable folly to those who are to poor to count on a daily meal while the wealthy starve themselves is quite ironic. I live in a country where there’s a mix of first and third world cultures. It is striking to see how when the formerly poor enter the middle classes they become fat as pigs – men and women. And it doesn’t seem to bother them in the slightest, in fact, it is a badge of honor and achievement.
I dated a girl who led a perfect life in every way…except one – she was bulimic. My uneducated view is to stereotype most women with eating disorders as falling into this category of overachievers who seem to be perfect in every way. The only blemishes in their otherwise super-efficient lives are their cracked lips/too skinny physiques/ashen skin/brittle hair/obsessions with food and eating. Now I’ve been to many rehabs, and there is always a contingent of ED patients found there. They are the ones who love to work in the kitchens (of the more hardcore institutions) or who always carry a security water bottle (in the more luxurious institutions). The girl I dated was great at everything she did, and guess what profession she chose? A dietitian. What a great cover!
Another view of my father’s is that on a psychological (maybe unconscious) level anorexic females reject their femininity – preferring not to have boobs or hips. It’s here that I think perhaps fathers could also maybe have played a role in creating the disorder. The scariest part of my father’s summation of anorexia is that the prognosis is death! But somehow this illness is less morally reprehensible than drug abuse. Why this is I’ll leave to the reader to ponder.Maybe it’s because they exercise while junkies laze around? Both are clearly self destructive and I have only the deepest empathy for both (author included).