Who’s not in the Calendar

I love my body, too, but I won't be getting naked on a horse.

I'm tickled for these bloggers, happy for the National Eating Disorders Association, and flattered to be invited, but I'm just not that kind of blogger.

Listen: I am an infamous prude, so I don't show my birthday suit to the world anyway, but here's the thing. The body dysmorphia and body image distress of eating disorders are not a failure to love one's body enough. Those are brain-based issues that seize upon social values. Eating disorder awareness should not be about the garden variety body image distress of the rest of the world and in fact if we don't start distinguishing them we are likely to really misunderstand the genuine anguish and torture of this brain disorder - that really isn't about appearance. That's like confusing the hurried rush to vacuum before guests arrive with a handwashing OCD. Or painting Happy Faces on the mirrors of suicidal depression patients.

But, really, thank you for asking. You are very caring and very good sports with nothing to hide!


  1. Lol - I don't blog (except I debate all over your blog - which I love, even though I don't always agree with absolutely everything you write...), but if I did blog I would also be turned off my this kind of thing.

    Whether linked to EDs or not, I cringe at all this 'love your body' or 'real women' stuff... It is merely symptomatic of our vacuous, body obsessed, consumerist society.

    Keep blogging meaty debate stuff Laura :)

  2. Can't somebody feel good about his/her body while at the same time consider it private and not for public display? I'm not a fan of semi-nude calendars, even for charity/raising awareness about an important issue.

  3. Any professionals joining in?

  4. but if more positive body image was promoted among young girls and women, would they not be less likely to diet or try to control their weight, and hence less likely to "pull the trigger" on the eating disorder genes, in messing up their weight/food intake, etc?

  5. Rose, that's the assumption, but I really question it. There are two models here: do we prevent some cases of depression by making society happier? Do we prevent some cases of OCD by having fewer soap commercials?

    Neither of the above seem like a great way to address the illnesses concerned. The former seems like a necessary goal in its own right. The second strikes me as meaningless.

    With eating disorders - who knows? Yes, everyone assumes, but who KNOWS?

    I think it is of marginal value and a distraction, myself.

  6. I totally agree with Laura on this one... I would like to see convincing data that attribute cause and effect in the relationship between cultural trends of 'the body beautiful' and eating disorders. Currently there is no firm evidence. The link is hypothetical.

  7. yes i see that the link is hypothetical. You make a good point, Laura. I guess my instinct is to disagree with this though perhaps because feeling supported in having a healthy body image is something that makes me, personally, feel more "down with recovery". But, of course, it could all just be in my head that hte body image stuff is "real". I wish there were ways to figure this out. Perhaps it is telling (on the basis of your theory) that ED treaters always say that "body image is the last piece to go" aka "we have no idea what the hell body image disturbance even IS"

  8. oh my gosh laura i kind of just had this weird epiphany you don't need to post this (you can if you want) but i wanted to share it with you...
    I have this vague recollection of, when i first started therapy, talking about my eating disorder in a very different way. In fact, i didn't even call it an eating disorder. I never really thought that there was a "voice" in my head. I just kind of was weird about food and miserable. No voices. Or rules. just behaviors.
    i don't know how i forgot about this.
    all of a sudden it just occurred to me tht that is how it used to be, before i was in therapy/treatment.
    Now, the way in which i talk about my eating disorder is VEERY different. Ie, rules/voices are all a part of the dialogue. I think of it as my "eating disorder voice" that wants me to restrict/purge blahblahblh, not any longer just somethign that i "do".
    I think that this is a weird phenomenon and might have implications about the body image thing that you are talking about. If we weren't all so obsessed with body image, and eating disorders didn't appear on the outside like "extreme dieting", then perhaps the way in which we think, even intra-personally about eating disorders, might be TOTALLY different. Ha thats kind of what you were trying to say, yes?
    But then what does that mean about body image disturbance? That it's all a mental manifestation of cultural obsession with bodies and that people with eating disorders just kind of think they're supposed to have terrible body image issues, so they make them up (however unconsciously) ?

  9. Rose,

    I think of it as I do OCD. Society puts a value on something, like cleanliness, and some brains are wired to seize on values in society far beyond their original proportion. People wired for OCDs can get caught in a certain value, but that doesn't mean that ALL of that value to the person is irrational. Cleanliness is a normal and helpful value. But sometimes a person's obssessive focus on cleanliness, and compulsive acts to control cleanliness, are a sign of a brain problem.

    Take that and apply it to body image. The value on being thinner, for example.

    Now add to that the fact that we know that undernourishment exacerbates OCD patterns, and that it can also, in many people, cause an actual distortion on proprioceptive sense of one's body - and body dysmorphia.

    Now you've got a human being who is locked in a brain pattern that is validated by the society around them, physically palpable, and excruciating to challenge - and family and friends around them are angry and frustrated for what seems like hypocritical nonsense.

    All this is why I don't hold patients responsible for their thoughts and actions while ill, why I think family and friends need to be lovingly firm in seeking help, and why I worry about confusing eating disorders with the usual societal foolishness about weight loss.

    And why I think in some cases, perhaps yours, the therapy may have played into or even suggested values/patterns that were not there.

  10. makes a lot of sense. thank you for answering.


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