And yesterday I learned about pro ana.
Apparently, there are websites on which people with anorexia can meet and discuss how to get thinner. I googled it and the whole thing is just so disturbing. Their point is that anorexia is a lifestyle choice. And of course, freedom and the Internet means that it may not be possible/ethical to stop them from these self-destructive discussions. Though apparently, France has moved to do so.
I started reading more about it and came across the story on Crystal Renn. Four years ago she weighed 44kg at 1.75 metres tall, was exercising for eight hours a day and surviving on a diet of lettuce and diet coke. Her periods had stopped and her hair was falling out. In two years she had lost more than 28kg. This was not good enough for her modelling agency who still wanted her to lose more weight.
Something in Renn snapped and told them to fuck off. She now is a size 16 and works as a plus size model.
The disturbing thing is that when I looked at pictures of the 44 kg Crystal, I actually thought she was stunning. Well, I couldn’t see myself thinking that she should be thinner but I thought she was attractive in the same way that I always thought Kate Moss was attractive. I did not find the healthy Crystal attractive.
And this is why the whole issue of anorexia strikes such a chord in me. Most people I knew looked at Kate Moss and found her “too thin”, “skeletal”, “sexless”. I thought she was beautiful.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that around the time Kate Moss was a sensation, I was around her size. People used to constantly tell me I should put on weight but I anyone who knows me, knows I used to eat like a horse. Of course, I was often ill with something or another and when I wasn’t ill, I was training as a long distance runner so I tended to be lean.
Being thin was effortless for me and I never thought about it, never thought I would have to think about it.
But gradually, I began to gain weight. I had stopped running and I had stopped getting sick so often. But I hadn’t stopped eating. I was also getting older and my metabolism was probably slower. People began to tell me I was “just right” and then stopped sounding so convinced. I was never convinced.
Before my wedding, I went on a campaign to lose weight. This involved simply eating more healthy that I ever had in the past, no snacking, avoiding sugar (and so even avoiding tea because it had sugar), drinking green tea and going for a walk every day. I did actually lose a substantial amount of weight. You’ll be surprised what cutting out white rice can do.
The clincher was when I came down with a bad case of food poisoning just a week before my wedding and lost about 3-5 kg in a couple of days. My dress designer went into a panic because my dress hung on me. I looked emaciated according to my friends and family. According to me, I looked more perfect than I had looked in a long time. Another friend of mine who is even thinner and effortlessly so told me that I looked awesome. We were the only two that thought so.
The ironic thing is that I am with a man who likes skinny women. Sometimes I wonder if this is unhealthy. Certainly, in a less stable person it could be (yeah, I know I don’t sound particularly stable but there is only so much I can be pushed around.) I think part of V’s fear is also that close family members are really overweight and maybe he is paranoid that I will land up there too. He does hold himself to the same standards. Though even he did not like my pre-wedding skinny.
I don’t know what the point of this post is except that I am conflicted. Unlike a lot of people who would immediately balk at the way anorexic women look, I actually think some of them are attractive. Not the more drastic cases, mind you.
When I was trying to lose weight, people told me I was anorexic. I can’t deny that my idea of beauty may be defined by a culture that equates thin with beautiful but I was thin way before that, way before it was fashionable to be as thin as I was and I think the models in Vogue helped me come to terms with my body weight and my small breasts more than anything else. Now that I am no longer that size, it’s different. I am like every other women who looks at the cover shot of a magazine and feels slightly inadequate.
I do have a problem with fat although I have close friends who are large and surprisingly I do find some of them attractive. I cannot imagine them thin, nor do I think they would be attractive if they were skinny (though who knows? I think they have stunning features). But I think it’s easier to be good looking if you don’t have stunning features and you’re thin. Certainly, I cannot imagine living with myself that size.
Though sometimes as I slave away on a treadmill and stare annoyed at the tummy flab that refuses to lie down quietly, I wonder if I should. Because I’m certainly not excercising for good health. Good health and endorphins are a marginal side effect. I’ve been unhealthy all my life – when I was thin or not – and I can live with that.
Ok I don’t know where this is going so I’ll just say this. I’m not anorexic because I love to eat too much. Also I hate to vomit. But I think that anorexia goes beyond being thin or wanting to be thin. It’s people who are unhappy with themselves punishing themselves. Some of the girls on that website are clearly not having a good life. Their defiance is touching but it is also horrifying.
I think what is more horrifying is the websites where people are supporting each other and sharing tips on the best way to, for example, get one’s heartbeat up to fool one’s physician. There are apparently websites on which people share tips on how to commit suicide and how to mutilate their bodies. These disorders are no longer something to be ashamed of and hidden, they are flaunted.
Is an art, like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
Again I did flirt with the idea of suicide but not seriously enough for me to claim the dubious honour of being part of that group. So I can sympathise. But sharing tips? It all seems to be going a little too far.