Anorexia NEWS

Can You ‘Catch’ Anorexia?


You may recall about a week ago I posted a question here on the site titled Should We Regulate How Much Models Weigh?

There were a range of answers to the question with some of you saying that the fashion industry is responsible for setting healthy examples and that stick thin models are bad for society and promote eating disorders.

And guess what – it appears that some of you may just be right. According to a new study that followed 3,000 women  in Europe and the UK, anorexia is a socially transmitted illness. Researchers at the London School of Economics and City University London argue that some form of regulation of the fashion and advertising industry would lessen social and peer pressure and result in less eating disorders among women. The schools conclude that imposing these regulations would have a public health benefit. But I’m not so sure I agree.

Remember my old Fat Friends post from a while back? That piece was inspired by a Harvard grad student who suggested that obesity was also a socially transmitted illness, and that by being friends with overweight people, you would increase your own chances of packing on the weight. At the time I disagreed, because surely the opposite would also be true – if overweight people had skinny friends, aren’t they more likely to LOSE weight? I don’t think so.

So it seems that it’s the fashion industry that leads us to be too thin, while the friends we keep may make us fat! But where do personal responsibility and accountability factor in all of this?

Here’s another question – if the fashion industry is such a bad influence on us why are we a nation of overweight people! I don’t want to belittle eating disorders which are a major problem – but I would say the biggest problem America is facing at the moment isn’t that we’re too skinny – but that so many of us are just so darn big! (I know the study was conducted in the UK but they also have the same problems as the US when it comes to obesity)

To me it cuts both ways. I have often said that I was inspired by the covers of muscle magazines that were around my house as a kid and it’s obvious that I tried to emulate that look. However there’s one clear difference – the ‘look’ I was after was approached with healthy intentions. I mean I ate well and exercised and as a side benefit I improved my physique. So I guess it’s not a stretch to say that people would also try to model their own body after cover girls and swimsuit models. That said, I wouldn’t ever engage in unhealthy practices to achieve a particular body type. I think it takes a particular type of person to starve themselves and obsess over a ridiculously skinny body type. And I do believe that there are underlying issues associated with any eating disorder.

Personally I don’t see many fashion models in mainstream media who are ridiculously thin – it’s the extremes you see on the catwalks that seem to be the problem. But I’m not sure that greater regulation is really going to solve the issue. I actually think that part of the problem is that so many of us are overweight that even people of normal weight look too skinny. I think that many of us have lost sight of what a healthy weight really is.

Ultimately whether people are too big or too thin it all comes down to an ignorance of what real health and fitness are about. And that’s what I’m trying to do here at Angry Trainer Fitness every day – teach the truth about our bodies, our diets and our well-being.

But what do you think? Do you think anorexia is a social illness? Do you think regulating the fashion industry would help solve the problem? Comment away…

All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer, is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.  No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website.  Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.

10 comments on “Can You ‘Catch’ Anorexia?

  1. Let me tell you this much: catwalk/runway models who are skeletally thin are NOT clinically/psychologically anorexic. An anorexic would NEVER model her scantily-clad body in front of an audience and cameras. Anorexics bundle up in baggy clothes because they are still convinced they are fat and are tremendously fearful of showing their bodies to anyone. Anorexia is a lot more about control than it is about “looks,” when you get to the root of it. Do girls compare themselves to stick-thin models and each other and possibly cut way back on food/exercise excessively in attempts to emulate that? Yes, absolutely. But that does not make them anorexic. Any girl who proudly displays her physique in a swimsuit, summer clothes, tight clothes, etc…is NOT medically anorexic.

  2. Agreed, Norma. Anorexia Nervosa is a lot more than just trying to get super skinny. It is more about control than most anything else. Perhaps their lives are otherwise chaotic and this is the only thing that they have control over. There’s a bigger picture here, than just blaming it on runway models and magazine covers. And yes, someone who is legitimately anorexic does not show off their body. There is usually a sense of shame that goes along with what they are doing and there is often a need to hide their behaviour.

  3. Both true and correct and good points. I agree with both. Especially after battling for YEARS with this illness. It creeps up and one day your trapped in a nightmare. There is an Anorexic girl at my gym now who is exactly where I was and everyday I get compared to her and vice versa, this totally messes with me. But the first step in healing is realizing that you can’t control everything.

  4. Hi,

    You mentioned that “if the fashion industry is such a bad influence on us why are we a nation of overweight people!”

    You can’t cure an eating disorder with another eating disorder. Anorexic behavior won’t cure obesity. They are not compatible.

  5. As a female, I see how dieting can become a competitive sport to see who can become the skinniest. This is especially true amongst the stereotypical populations more prone to anorexia – high achieving, middle to upper class, college educated ladies. You might not catch full blown anorexia, but you can get sucked into social eating disorders. Models/ dancers can have professionally imposed anorexic eating patterns.

  6. That is true, “M” – models and dancers are scrutinized for their weight and being extremely thin is mandatory, so their fanaticism about weight/exercise/food mimics that of anorexics. Again, though, a true anorexic sees her body as hideous and fat (no matter what) and something to be hidden rather than displayed. So while the eating of some people in modeling/ballet may be disordered, insufficient for health, and restrictive in ways that are like that of anorexics, if they’re appearing on a stage in front of a crowd and photographers in leotards or couture fashion, they are not psychologically anorexic. Messed up, yes.

  7. Okay, I hate to rag, but this post really bothers me as someone who is recovering from anorexia. Sorry not sorry, but with this post you make people who suffer with anorexia sound vain, ignorant, and purely media-driven. This is not true, and I feel somewhat insulted by this if this is your opinion of someone with an eating disorder. They are so much more than just an issue with weight. It’s a feeling of utter inadequacy in many factors of life, and it manifests itself in the person’s relationship with food. Self-starvation, self-deprivation…it’s not a lack of knowing what’s healthy and what’s not. People who develop eating disorders more often than not are smart individuals…perfectionists even. It’s a feeling of not being worth it. Sure, some girls may strive to look like runway models…but others don’t. I never did. I starved myself to lose weight and it went way out of control. I wanted to be perfectly skinny – and I was. And I was unhealthy. I could spout off any sort of nutrition fact, or tell someone how to eat healthfully, but I would never do it for myself…until I took my own health seriously. It’s a mental disorder almost more-so than a physical one. Yes, weight needs to be addressed, but just throwing extra weight on someone won’t help. Just as there are underlying reasons for someone to be overweight, there are equally as many reasons a person develops anorexia.

    I think some regulation would help this problem to some extent. It wouldn’t look like society has an imposed standard that being ultra-thin is the “right” way to look. I do agree with your statement that we as a society have lost sight of what “healthy” is. Healthy isn’t a look, it’s a lifestyle (one that I am coming to know more and more). Again, I don’t like to sound like a rag, but this topic touches a nerve with me. I take this kind of stuff really personally.

    • Danni I by no means meant to offend you or anyone with an eating disorder. I too have had major issues with food, and while it’s not what you suffered from,I know how hard it is and that many factors contribute to this problem.In fact I say in the piece that I believe underlying issues (emotional/mental) are heavily involved. I definitley did not intend to make people suffering from Anorexia or any eating disorder sound vain in any way. This post was more about me sharing the findings within two different studies and asking for your opinion and opening a discussion. I’m really glad you came forward and voiced your opinion. Thank you for sharing.

      • Alfonso,
        Thank you for the reply and for clarifying, I truly appreciate it. I must admit, I probably went a little overboard (I do that sometimes lol) 😉 But if you too have experienced eating issues, then I would have to assume that you do indeed understand to some degree…I believe all eating issues have similar underlying issues. I must admit, it is an intriguing comparison between the article in this post and the juxtaposition of the “Fat Friends” post, and it is odd how there can be two extremely opposite size/food issues existing at the same time. I guess it all comes down to the personality type of the person suffering from the disorder. Take myself for example…I had both overweight friends and average sized friends. I didn’t get fat, as was never a social eater, and none of my old friends developed anorexic tendencies by hanging around me. I happened to have a more “obsessive” perfectionist personality then they did. I guess what I’m trying to say (without blathering on…) is that I get what you’re saying now :) Thanks so much for sharing, and I apologize for the over-sensitivity!

  8. I was a ballet dancer and fell into the trap of poor health and bad diet aka starvation. Limiting my food intake to be super thin. I was, as Danni said, a perfectionist. Dancers are highly detailed, competitive and immaculate when it comes to their craft. Some of us don’t care for the instrument as well as we should. So for me It back fired on several levels. Strength to dance is impossible without strong muscles… willpower will only get you so far. Health – I was sick more often than well, and finally emotionally I hated myself on a daily basis.
    I over came that after I was given a reality check by my doctor as I weighed 78 lbs and was headed to the hospital. it was a long road.

    Today I can say I have a fantastic body that is healthy and very strong (I’ve run several Spartan races and finished in the top 15 for my age group). I am in in my forties and am in better shape than I’ve ever been. My trainers like Alfonso teach not only how to workout out but how to feed your body to be healthy and strong through nutrition.

    I think our society does pressure women to be to thin but I don’t think it’s contagious. Regulations on fashion modeling houses might not be a bad Idea. Such as proper BMI scores and teaching these very young women what healthy is. But change starts with the person and their vision of themselves inside and out. They have to be open to the change and the lifestyle of a health life.

    To Danni – good for you finally feeling worthy of being healthy. I wish you well.

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