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Women's Bodies

National Eating Disorders Week, February 26-March 3, 2007

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This week is National Eating Disorders Week, and events are scheduled throughout the country to raise public awareness as to eating disorders and to provide support for those who have suffered because of them. My 22-year-old daughter is heading up the events sponsored by the women’s center at her college. Tonight they will be holding a candlelight vigil for all who have suffered or died because of eating disorders. Tomorrow participants will be taking their bathroom scales apart and replacing the numbers on the scale with messages of encouragement and hope. Wednesday a guest speaker will be speaking, and there are panel discussions and other events scheduled throughout the week.

I am proud of my daughter, who has struggled mightily with eating disorders, for the amazing and courageous work she has undertaken for her own sake and for the sake of all women. I have struggled with eating disorders myself, and I still do from time to time. It’s lethal. Patriarchy’s obsession with thinness and with regulating the bodies of girls and women is killing us, killing our girls, killing women; it has to end.

Heart

Discussion

10 thoughts on “National Eating Disorders Week, February 26-March 3, 2007

  1. I’m so proud of your daughter and everybody else who is dealing with this issue in a respectful but serious way. I love the idea of the bathroom scale and wish i had the nerve to surreptitiously do that to dd’s. She and I both are dealing with this and try to be supportive of each other, but so often I find myself unable to confront her and having to look the other way when i find something truly alarming, because who am I to criticize her? How could I have been so blind that I didn’t even realize she was playing liposuction with her beanie babies as a preteen? Besides the damage to our health and self-esteem, EDs are such a waste of our energy. even after 30 years, I can still recite the exact number of calories in many common foods and exactly how many minutes of a common exercise (walking, jogging in place, bicycling, etc.) you would have to do to “burn off” eating the item, and yet I’m so shaky on basic mathematics. Go figure.

    Posted by anonymom | February 28, 2007, 1:09 am
  2. I just wrote a similar post actually, on female-fuelled image expectations for women, etc – although I must say, I took a rather lighter angle on it.

    Posted by morgan | February 28, 2007, 4:30 am
  3. Yeah, Morgan, I am pretty intense, huh. My whole extended family as far back as I can remember was obsessed with the weight of girl members. 😦 When I was coming up, my older girl cousins, who I adored, would greet each other not with, “hi,” but “Have you lost?” 😦 One of those cousins ultimately had a daughter, who almost died of anorexia. I have struggled with eating disorders as have some of my daughters. It’s so frustrating and enraging and sad and humiliating at the same time!

    Where is your post? I’d love to read it.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | February 28, 2007, 5:22 am
  4. I know this maybe be insensitive of me and perhaps shows my ignorance but I think eating disorders is an act of privilege. I grew up hungry. I never thought of depriving myself of food when I had a chance to have food. I found control and power in other forms. I say this because I think we all need to feel a little control and I think EDs are probably a form of control and power, even if it is a power over oneself, destructive or otherwise. In addition, I have never felt the need to be thin or what I would call super thin. Perhaps that is one of the advantages of living and growing up in a black neighborhood and going to a black school. I can honestly say I never recall one single incident of “fat shaming” or anything like that. Sure, all the girls were different sizes and the bigger ones were called “thick” but I don’t recall any pressure for anyone to lose weight. Then again, I was not overweight so it could have not been addressed in my direction. I did not become aware of my weight or size (other than some of my mother’s remarks, however my internal compass convinced me that she had to be wrong because no one outside my family ever called me “fat”) until I went to work as an adult in “white” society. I quickly learned that my then size 7-8 was bordering on too fat. And I gained a good 40 lbs on that size because it was the first time in my life that I had money to buy food. I went crazy on fast food. Yet I did not ever feel pressure to do anything about it because the goal for women in that world seemed to be “to get a man” and I never had a problem in that area. But I do have to say I felt discriminated against when I gained over 80 lbs after a bout of depression six years ago. I told my doctor how I simply could not do anything about my weight. So we decided that I had an eating disorder, but not in the variety of a disorder to get thin but one to get fat. It was after a very traumatizing grievance I file against the military and in a way I think I gained weight so I would morph into a person no one would recognize or notice. So the insurance approved my care to see a psychiatrist about my “eating disorder,” a M.D who specialized in eating disorders and what did she do for me? Not a damn thing. She told me how perhaps I should try going to bed hungry once in awhile, that it is good for the body. It was as if because I was not there because my eating disorder was not on the thin end it was all a joke, all my problem with not having self discipline etc etc. The three visits to her office was an absolute waste of time.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | February 28, 2007, 10:18 am
  5. Hey CM! You know, I have had that thought so often, that the prevalence of eating disorders–and certainly the media focus on them–is really kind of ironic in a world where so many people go to bed hungry. I was just looking up some stats and something like 25% of the kids in my state live in poverty. You almost never read about that in the newspapers. The obsession with dieting that so many of us have been forced into is really, as you say, a marker of the fact that we are fortunate to HAVE a choice about what, when, and if to eat in the first place.

    And I have so had that experience of doctors not taking my concerns seriously because I was fat! I remember telling a doctor once that I was having trouble eating anything but ice cream, and she said, “Well, as long as you’re losing weight, whatever you’re doing is okay.” I mean, would she have approved my dietary habits if they were those of an anorexic teen girl? I certainly hope not, because I was definitely not nourishing myself properly. But it didn’t matter, because I had lost a few pounds since my previous visit.

    I think women’s eating behavior–those of us who have access to enough food–can be disordered so similarly, and yet we can have vastly different body types. It’d be worth trying harder to build bridges, for example to see anorexia as a food-related behavior regardless of whether it results in emaciation, etc., IMHO.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | February 28, 2007, 11:39 am
  6. Heart, my post is here: http://ldny.wordpress.com, called “Bad Girl Revolution”. It’s getting published in London’s largest-circulation free newspaper – hoorah!

    Posted by morgan | February 28, 2007, 7:08 pm
  7. Um, oops – the link above doesn’t work. Just remove the comma: http://ldny.wordpress.com

    Posted by morgan | February 28, 2007, 7:09 pm
  8. Reading CM’s post above has got me thinking about going hungry as a child and how dieting and binging can mimic the effects of that experience.

    My siblings and I grew up hungry. From my earliest memories to about age 10 we had very limited resources and would sometimes have to go a day or two without food while waiting for paycheck Friday. When I was growing up we were never sure if there would be food later so we ate as much as possible (as fast as possible) whenever we could. I can remember eating raw ground beef because I was starved for protein. Every time I went to my grandparent’s house I would eat the pecans from their tree until the rich nuts were too much for my stomach and made me throw up. Every. Single. Time. On holidays with extended family we kids used to eat until we couldn’t move. It wasn’t pleasant (sometimes even painful) but we were trained by this feast or famine lifestyle and the effects are still lingering.

    Now that I have access to abundant food on a daily basis I have gradually overcome the propensity to eat past the point of fullness and no longer feel pressure to eat every scrap on my plate. I am still working on not wolfing my food down. I eat so fast I barely taste my food and I think that is a shame (not something I am ashamed OF, just regrettable since eating should be an enjoyable experience). I am trying to slow down and actually relish my meals at least once a day but it is a hard habit to break.

    I think all our (women’s) issues with food are inter-related in some ways whether we are being forcibly starved by poverty or encouraged to self-starve by the dominant culture.

    Posted by lookingglass | March 6, 2007, 8:50 pm
  9. What an insightful post, lookingglass, and I am so so sorry! 😦 Going without food for a day or two, eating raw hamburger and a million pecans because you are not only hungry but scared of being hungry tomorrow, so sad! It’s easy to see how this pattern could morph into something like bulimia, because a person might binge out of this gut level, visceral fear of not having enough food, or just out of habit, then would regret it and purge in some way. So many things factor in– often girls and young women in poor families get fat, not because they overeat, but because they are undernourished; the food they eat isn’t nutritious, and their body keeps wanting more, more, more because it isn’t getting what it needs, and so they get fat but they might be malnourished. Then adults in the family and community start in about their weight, their gluttony (especially if they are fundies), their lack of self-control, and so this horrible thing can set in where they purge in various ways for shame despite the fact that they ate because they were hungry and their bodies said “more more” because there wasn’t anything good in what they were eating.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 7, 2007, 4:28 am
  10. I’m just curious as to what your thoughts are about Internet sites that provide a forum for young women who suffer from eating disorders. I recently posted on my blog about a social networking site that allows young readers to leave comments and advice on how to become bulimic/anorexic.

    Is it better to allow these girls to give advice in an open forum where others can access potentially harmful material or should these public forums be pushed further underground?

    Posted by globetrotteri | March 18, 2007, 5:14 pm

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