Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

letter from bulimia sufferer

February 28, 2008


This is an extract from a letter I received this morning, written by a woman suffering from bulimia. I wish to protect her identity so it is anonymous… She describes so clearly how it is to suffer from bulimia – an illness often side-lined or ignored as “taboo” in comparison to anorexia nervosa…




Thankyou for your message Wenna.

I can understand how you must feel about body image. Only with love of ones self, can you really see how beautiful you are.

Anorexia is a hell.

I recently viewed an episode on an intervention talk show that is aired in America, called ‘Dr. Phil’. One of the episodes featured an anorexic girl who had severe problems with binging and purging. You cold obviously tell that her extreme low weight made avoiding binging and purging, extremely difficult. Her body was at a point where the need to eat over-rid her, but she always compensated her binges with purging. Up to 150 times a day.

She is an absolute shock to look at. Extremely emaciated.

I think one of the reasons I developed this binging and purging obsession once I reached a certain low weight is similar to the girl’s reasons. I have tried so hard to spend my day not giving into it.

But I just cant.

The girl also stated that her binges have left her with no food and money and she has regularly shoplifted to fuel her compulsion. I feel very ashamed to admit this, but that is where I am.

I cannot stop this. I promise I have tried so hard. But I cannot escape.

I live alone without any family and friends. My dislike for my body and my huge problem with body dysmorphia makes socialising far too difficult. I live alone in a flat. My day is spent going out food shopping and shoplifting, and binging and purging in the evening. I have never eaten a meal normally for literally years. I cannot eat at all and keep food within me.


Recovering from Anorexia – real life experience

February 18, 2008




Below is an extract from the diary of a recovering anorexic…

“Today I am in battle, and I appear to be losing. The fight against my enemy seems to be a losing one, and I am backing away in retreat. All my bravery is gone, and my tears tell of my shame. what is wrong me? I scream inside but no one responds. Its that voice that ridicules me when I feel my stomach jiggle as I walk. The same voice that reminds me that I can no longer see the bottom of my rib cage. It is still the same voice that begs me to change who I am, but savors the parts I have refused to change. So who is crying these tears? which part of me? the voice or me? and which part is me? Which one is real?

I cant do this. I don’t even know how to love who I am. Where is the line between loving who you are and having the drive to be healthy. When I tell people I struggle with an eating disorder, they smile in disbelief. “Look at her,” I can almost hear them think, “She does not have the body of someone who is anorexic.” But they can’t hear the voice I still carry around. The one that tells me my pants are too tight, and that jacket doesn’t fit the way it used to.

And I have good days and bad ones. One day I actually thought I might wear a bikini this year. Something I have never done. And today I believe I never will.

What started this melt down of emotions, and the retreat of a once winning battle. I did laundry today, and the pants that were always a little loose, I struggled to button. “That’s normal,” some would say. But my voice tells me, even though I think I was winning, that I am losing.

My arms are flabby now. Your stomach has rolls. The cellulite on your legs goes to your knees. Did you know that your hips are wider than your shoulders. Your cheeks are the focus of your face, and when you turn around ppl can see the rolls on your back. Your ugly. Your fat. You have no control.

My God. My Jesus. You died for this. You say I am worth it, and the battle is already won, but how, Lord, do I claim my victory. Would it be better if you made me lose about ten pounds. Or if the cellulite disappeared.

I will learn to love this. No matter how much I weigh. I will continue to eat healthy, and exercise, and I will learn to love this. This body. This stomach. These hips.

I will not retreat, this battle already has a victor. I cannot retreat. But I still cry”.

By “Struggling Victor” Feb ’08

Short film – anorexia nervosa

February 10, 2008

Understanding anorexia

February 3, 2008

A thin excuse…

The author of this insightful essay is an unknown woman who struggled with severe anorexia nervosa for many years. It is one of the most accurate and honest descriptions I have read and is really worth reading if you are trying to gain some understanding of this illness. The article was published in the Independent on Tuesday 18th September 2007.

“It was two days before Christmas, and for the third time in my 20-year-long existence I found myself having my blood pressure monitored, my blood taken for biochemical analysis and my mental state being assessed for risk of self-harm and suicide. Once again, I’d been admitted to an eating disorder unit, rescued from my own little world of self-destruction. The day before, I had filled my every hour with food (or rather the avoiding of it), exercise, my ongoing obsession with academic work, and fantasies about a future where I wouldn’t be there to spoil everything.

My parents came to visit, my younger sister excited in anticipation of present-opening. It hurt to sit up, and hurt to lie down, yet I refused to believe that this was due to starvation and muscle wastage. My family brought me a stocking, but I couldn’t understand how they would ever think I deserved nice things. I left the presents unopened for over a month.

I’d suffered from anorexia to varying degrees since I was 11, hiding food and concealing my body under layer upon layer of clothing, and once again it had caught up with me”.


As London Fashion Week continues, the controversy surrounding “size zero” models is once again up for discussion. Prompted by the Madrid ban on models with a BMI below 18.5, fashion capitals around the world have undertaken enquiries into the links between eating disorders and the catwalk. Although any measure to protect models at risk of eating disorders is to be applauded, to believe that the fashion industry causes eating disorders is to completely misunderstand this most complex of illnesses.


At 11, I was showing early signs of puberty, and the prospect of an adult life ahead terrified me. I was afraid of responsibility, of a time when I would have to face the world without my parents’ hands to hold. But most of all I was scared of men and sex.

Throughout my illness, even when I was motivated, I was convinced that recovery was impossible. But miracles do happen. I was in the grip of anorexia nervosa for more than eight years, but with a lot of help from family, friends and professionals I was able to turn my life around.

Anorexia has often been perceived as a quest for model-like beauty, as a teenage fad or as a diet gone wrong. It has even been described as a lifestyle choice. Seldom is anorexia acknowledged as the life-threatening medical condition that it is. Many anorexics detest their bodies, refusing even to pose for family holiday snaps. I, like many of the eating disorder patients I have met, never sought beauty; instead, I spent years trying to make myself look as ill as possible in order to avoid male attention.


As far back as I can remember, my self-esteem was low and I lacked confidence. Children can be cruel, and although they weren’t the “cause” of my eating problems, the bullying I endured throughout my schooldays only added to my feelings of self-hatred.

It is often assumed that the distress in anorexia revolves solely around food and weight. However, the vast majority of eating disorder patients have numerous other difficulties, including low self-esteem or confidence, lack of self-care, and social difficulties. Sufferers are often presumed to pour over the pages of glossy magazines and starve themselves in their aspiration to become glamorous, thinner-than-thin sex goddesses. From my own experiences and from those of numerous other eating disorder patients I have met, I can say unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth. Beauty has very little to do with eating disorders, and the desire to be thin is merely one of many symptoms. Rarely can a single “cause” be identified.


On the ward, Christmas had been and gone, and it was beginning to dawn on me that I would not be well enough to return to university. I was convinced that, once again, I had failed. During those weeks, I hit rock bottom. After years of pretending, I finally opened up to staff at the hospital, and began speaking about some of my troubling innermost thoughts.

I had never felt so ill; the pain was excruciating. My memories of this hellish period are sketchy, but I have since been told that my kidneys were failing and that I was at risk of cardiac arrest. I had many meetings with the doctors, and eventually I agreed to be fed via nasal gastric tube. It was horrible when they passed the tube, though deep down I know it probably saved my life.

It was at this point that something flicked inside my head. It was as though I’d “swapped sides”: I stopped fighting everyone who was trying to help me. As the weeks went on, my stomach ached as it was stretched to accommodate food again. It still took me hours to eat a bowl of soup, and I still had a tube up my nose, but nevertheless, things were getting better.

I wasn’t an easy patient. I cried and screamed and threatened to run away. But in spite of everything, staff at the hospital never gave up on me, and I’ll remain eternally grateful for every hug and kind word.


Although my first trip home was challenging, it did open my eyes. At last I began to see how much anorexia was holding me back. I was getting stronger, thinking more logically, and perhaps most importantly my sense of ambition was returning. I started to dream about getting back to university and one day being able to help people with mental illness myself.

I spent seven months as an in-patient and two more as a day patient. I regained a healthy body weight, spent numerous hours discussing my underlying fears and was slowly beginning to develop a sense of self-worth.

My fall into the dark world of anorexia was never influenced by fashion or waif-like celebrities, though I knew others whose recovery from life-threatening illness was indeed hindered by the Western world’s culture of thinness.

I believe that the British Fashion Council’s guidelines will go some way to protect the models themselves (of whom 40 per cent are said to suffer from eating disorders). However, I see problems both with the approach taken in Madrid of banning models with a BMI under 18.5, and the recent health certification scheme proposed in Britain.

Although BMI can offer a crude measure of physical health, it can never quantify psychological distress. Despite popular belief, low weight is not the only danger of eating disorders. There have been times in my life in which my BMI has been in the healthy range and yet my eating behaviours and mental state were far from healthy. I would starve myself for days on end before my body gave in to the pains of hunger and I would binge, after which I would feel so disgusted with myself that I would make myself vomit and/or cut myself with razor blades.

As for doctors’ certificates, it takes considerable time and skill to assess whether an individual has an eating disorder, not least because sufferers often go to great lengths to hide their illness. I’ve been there, told the lies and tricked the scales.

It is a fact that a higher proportion of models suffer from eating disorders than do the general population. The “grooming” and competitive atmosphere undoubtedly perpetuate eating disorders within the modelling profession, but I am personally of the opinion that young girls with existing eating disorders are selected by modelling agencies because of their tiny figures. But, although the fashion industry may be rife with anorexia, the majority of eating disorder patients have not become ill through catwalk influences. And nor are they models.

eating disorders and self image…

January 23, 2008

What is beautiful?

For a thousand years in China, girls of six years old ritually bound their feet and broke their toes. The ideal female form was teeny-tiny feet (around three inches long). The crippling pain caused by this mutilation meant woman walked in small, unsteady steps termed the “lotus gait”. This way of walking was considered feminine and beautiful… Only working peasants had huge, ugly feet!

X-ray of bound feetThe manufactured concept of a beauty ideal has persisted throughout every age and culture. In the 19th century, European woman squeezed themsem.monroelves into tiny, hour-glass shaped corsets, inhibiting movement and breathing. From lead-based, poisonous make-up to cancer-inducing fake tan; from the size 16 curves of Marilyn Monroe to the heroin chic of Kate Moss; woman have always shaped, shaved and altered them to achieve a particular type of beauty.

The advancement of globalisation and technology means that our visual field is saturated by a glut of digitally enhanced, ‘perfect’ woman. The relentless, elusive demands of a beauty ideal which concentrates on a narrow range of culturally specific characteristics is devastating.

V.B. shoe You may not opt for cosmetic surgery or inject your face with botox, but chances are you have crammed your feet into painful stilettos or endured the agony of leg wax in an attempt to conform to today’s ideal. Even if you are not overweight, you have probably been on a diet.

We abandon “real” beauty…individualised, inclusive, diverse, global beauty which doesn’t depend upon achieving a specific skin tone, hair type or body shape… and for what? So we can all become clones of Posh Spice?

Does it Matter?

Girls have always enjoyed grooming and dressing up. Hair braiding (or straightening, or curling, or styling), are traditional ways for females to bond. But contemporary images of woman have usually been re-shaped, enhanced and cleaned up, creating an unattainable, unreal body image.

Comparing ourselves to this fake ideal can cause feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem and heartbreaking body distress.

In a recent UK survey, 7 out of 10 girls admitted that they refrain from activities they would enjoy because they feel self-conscious or uncomfortable about how they look.

body image female

Only 10 women in every 100 feel ok about their body shape.

Eating Disorders and Body Image

Eating disorders are not caused by super-thin models or size zero jeans… but the development of anorexia or bulimia is almost always precipitated by a period of dieting. Most specialists now believe that dieting is a pre-requisite for the development of an eating disorder… this means that young people who diet are at risk. And because younger and younger girls feel self-conscious and unhappy with their body weight, they diet…

It is nolonger unusual for girls as young as twelve to develop anorexia nervosa.

Check out the fabulous films which explore the concept of beauty at

Dove self Esteem film Gallery:

All comments welcome!

Wenna X