Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How To Be Anorexic

 Last night I walked into the living room of the college house that I share with 9 other Catholic girls and beheld them all gasping and moaning over their respective laptops and smartphones. When I enquired what the heck was going on, one of them showed me the website they were all looking at: a blog by a 16-year-old girl about how to be a successful anorexic. There were pictures of the girl, mostly naked, displaying the hips, stomach, and thighs she detested and condemned as “blubbery.” To make the matter even more interesting, this girl was also pregnant with a baby that had been conceived by rape; she started starving herself while she was pregnant and now continues to do so after her baby has been born and given up for adoption.

Perhaps not surprisingly, her blog is quite successful: there are hundreds of followers and links to other sites where her friends are doing the same thing. There are charts to help you get down to a “goal” of 160 calories a day. There are lists of liquids and foods that are supposed to help you curb your cravings, such as ice water and shots of apple cider vinegar. The girl lives with her grandma, who is supporting her the whole way, though I am unsure if she knows about the blog (being a grandma and all).

I remember briefly considering starving myself back in 7th grade, when raging hormones and fluctuating emotions had severely handicapped my capacity for logical reasoning. I was borderline chubby for most of my childhood and will never forget the day when both of my parents gently suggested that I start “holding my stomach in.” It didn’t (and still doesn’t) help much that my younger sister is a twig and can wear a size 2. The only hindrance to my diet plan was that our family ate three meals a day together, and any skipping meals or taking ridiculously small portions would have been called out on the spot (and throwing up after eating always frightened and revolted me. I’ve only thrown up four times in my entire life).

Now I’m 5’4’’ and weigh 145 pounds (the last time I checked, which was several months ago) and I am fairly satisfied with how I look. I go running 4 times a week (which will certainly change once there’s snow on the ground), I rarely eat dessert, and I can usually fit into a size 8. But as I mentioned in a previous post, not a day passes when I do not look in the mirror and cringe, wondering if any man will ever find me attractive. 

 In my psychology class we are learning about how our minds and bodies are intimately connected. What we think can deeply affect our attitude, actions, speech, and even our posture. (Those of you who have ever struggled with impure thoughts will know what I’m talking about.) Another interesting question we can ask ourselves is also a very simple one: why? Why do we think we have to starve ourselves? Why do you think you need to lose weight? Why do you hate your body? I’m don’t mean so much external things (I have freckles, stretch marks, fat rolls, etc.) as internal things (I suffer from depression, I was abused, I have emotional issues, etc.). Once we take an honest look at the root cause of something, we have a much better shot at fixing it.

Something has changed in our culture and how we were raised that made us fear being overweight. Young people in the 50s and 60s didn’t think about binging and purging or working out excessively. Even the Playboy models were chubby by today’s standards. What changed? What made us so obsessed with thinness that a 16-year-old girl can start a “starvation blog” and actually have followers and supporters?

It’s always difficult to pin down an exact cause as to why something becomes popular in our culture because our culture itself is constantly changing. Bellbottoms are in. Bellbottoms are hideous. Big hair is all the rage. Big hair is ridiculous. Overalls are popular. Only grandmas wear overalls. What really matters are the questions we ask ourselves as individuals. How do we internalize all the beautiful, arousing, and disturbing images that are shoved down our throats every day? What do we find ourselves thinking when someone who is prettier/buffer/thinner than us struts by? What dominates our thoughts during the day? It’s all about taking a step back and looking at the cause. I’m no shrink, but that is what shrinks do: they go inward instead of outward.

Anorexia, porn, masturbation, and other disordered acts are just Band-Aids. Sometimes the only way to heal a wound is to take off the Band-Aid and expose the wound to fresh air and light. What lie is starving yourself, or watching porn, or masturbating, or whatever covering up for you? Are you longing for intimacy? For love? To feel wanted? To be pursued? 

These are good desires. Never lose sight of that fact. Many people think that they have to stifle or kill their sexual appetites and emotions in order to conquer these problems, but that is not true. The real remedy is prayer, fasting, and sacrifice. Ask God to give you new eyes and to help you channel your emotions and desires into healthy things. When I find myself emotionally disturbed, I listen to music, draw, or write, and that always helps. Find what works for you. It may even be something as simple as chewing gum to relieve some of the tension.

And you can play with it! Bonus!
 Another great thing is to have a clear vision of the kind of person you want to be. Ask yourself: is what I am doing now sustainable for my future? How will what I am doing today affect me 10 years from now? When you find yourself tempted or in despair, call back that image of the person you want to be and the future you want to have for yourself.

And then step back and thank God for a beautiful day. 


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