As one might expect, the topics of female body image and eating disorders is an oft discussed topic here at the Women’s Center. We already have several entries in our blog achieves which deal with these topics. These articles cover a range of more specific issues tied to eating disorders and body image, and if you’re looking for statistics, The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness provides a thorough list at their website. We have heard many of these statistics before, and what’s more, the overwhelming majority of us know someone with an eating disorder. What we don’t often see, however, is the role these disorders play in the day-to-day lives of those who are actually suffering. We may see how the disorder governs actions while in public, but we don’t see what is behind the suffering, nor do we see how such disorders come to dictate nearly every aspect of the lives of those who are afflicted.
For me, this last point was driven home recently when I learned that a close family member, whose eating disorder I’ve known about for many years now, decided to enter into a treatment facility. As she works through the healing process, she has begun to disclose aspects of her life that were completely hidden to even her closest friends and family members. It’s not just that she has suffered for so long, but that she has done so in silence.
Coincidently, when she decided to enter treatment, I was reminded of a documentary I had heard about called Thin, which was made by photographer Lauren Greenfield in 2006. She also published a book of the same name in 2006, which deals with the issue of eating disorders and body image through photos. My wife got the film for us to view a few weeks ago, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do. Even more, I strongly urge you to encourage the men in your lives to watch it as well, especially if they are unfamiliar with eating disorders and the suffering they afflict. It’s one thing to read statistics and medical literature on the subject, but it’s another thing altogether to see the images and hear women talk about how an eating disorder has completely taken over in their lives, leaving them unable to function normally in society.
Another problem that seriously depressed me during the film was that insurance companies often only pay for a limited amount of treatment, meaning that whatever issues you might have which are manifesting themselves as an eating disorder better be curable in six months or less; otherwise, you better have a plan B!!! As for the family member I’ve mentioned, they live in another country which has socialized medicine. If it takes six months, or six years, her insurance will continue to pay for treatments until she is either healthy again, or dead. Yes, this sounds kind of morbid, but I think my point is pretty clear. As this society becomes increasingly image-conscious with every subsequent generation, as a society, we might need to seriously rethink how we will fund treatment, since as a country we seem to be failing miserably in this area. But even once we do properly fund treatment, we will still not have gotten to the root of the problem, which may even be beyond repair.
The video above is Part 1 of the film Thin. It is in 11 parts, but all there. You can also find it from online movie rental vendors as well any good local vendors. Seeing these women, and hearing their stories is far more powerful that any words I could pull together here.