By Ayelen Hamity, AnyBody Argentina team member
“Joy Bauer's cleanse: Cut out these 4 food groups for a healthier you” (www.today.com)
“Pizza Doesn't Give You Acne—But What About Sugar?” (www.theatlantic.com)
A 28-year-old woman presents with severe malnutrition, marked hypoproteinemia (abnormally low level of protein in the bloodstream), and vitamin B12 deficiency due to restrictive dieting. When she was 14, she was reportedly told by a nutritionist to eliminate fats from her diet to help control severe acne that didn’t respond to traditional treatments. By age 16, she had restricted her eating to an extreme “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” diet*. By age 24, she no longer ate eggs and milk products. With time, the diet became one of only raw vegetables and had resulted in extreme isolation from her friends and family. Despite severe weight loss, this woman did not have the common behaviours of anorexia nervosa: she did not care about being thin nor did she demonstrate body dysmorphia. Her severe malnutrition was a result of the strict belief that certain types of proteins and nutrients are toxic and should be avoided at all costs.
Look at the above headlines in juxtaposition with the case study: a socially-accepted narrative urging its readers to be healthy through the restriction of certain 'bad' food groups stands in sharp contrast with a case study of a woman who did just that. During my research about Instagram in another post, I came across a lot of literature that explored the dark side of 'fitspiration', as well as a somewhat new (as far as we can tell) obsession with being healthy. Many articles and research, such as Strong is the new skinny, have popped up trying to understand this almost ubiquitous obsession with fitness and health. What exactly are we dealing with? At what point does an obsession with health become unhealthy?
By Daniela Ferreira Araújo Silva, Endangered Bodies Brazil team member
Last week I saw the trailer for To The Bone, a movie just released by Netflix. It is supposed to be a sensitive and deep portrayal of the struggles of a young woman with anorexia and her journey through treatment. However, the almost two-and-a-half minute trailer couldn't be more upsetting: a cliché and somewhat sensationalized depiction of what anorexia supposedly looks like unravels with scene after scene violating almost every single National Eating Disorder Association's guideline for responsible media coverage of eating disorders. It features obsessive calorie counting, graphic depictions of symptomatic behaviors concerning eating and exercising, and images of the main character’s severely emaciated body.
Being an eating disorders researcher and activist since 2001, and a bulimia survivor, I’ve been concerned not only with the lack of substantiated knowledge about eating disorders both among health professionals and the wider public, but also with the media. Media content can be problematic when it promotes an excessively thin beauty standard for women, in addition to the usually sensationalist tone given to the subject of eating disorders.