Welcome to all my visitors

Thank you for visiting my thoughts and ideas site. If you want to speak directly or have my thoughts on something that is important to you email me at admin@ncfed.com

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Poorly Pics And B-Eat: The Truth Might Set You Free.

There is a movement to persuade the TV and the poular press to stop using "poorly pictures" of people with anorexia. Even I was gently chided by my colleague Susan Ringwood at B-Eat for appearing on a TV programme with an anorexic male alongside some photos of him when he was at his lowest weight. The pictures are usually quite shocking and show people in a very ill and skeletal state. If they didn't catch the eye, why then print them? Clearly there are some very thin people around who dont have anorexia and no-one says much about them. So what is this fuss all about?

Perhaps such pictures are deemed to add to the stigma of the illness. The public often regards people with eating disorders as vain, self obsessed and attention seeking.  If only they would just get a life and eat something. But, would it be more helpful to regard a person with anorexia as mentally ill or temporarily insane; that is hardly better either.

Then, might such pictures do harm by encouraging some vulnerable people to start losing weight too? I don't think so, nooooo. Perhaps you disagree?

Does this paint the wrong picture (to use a pun) of the typical anorexic?  Many are not very thin but the ones we worry about are very thin indeed. Anorexia is a starving, restricting illness whether we couch the restriction as a quest for health, control or purity or whatever justification comes to mind.

Some severely ill people are so thin that they scare the life out of us, drive parents insane with worry and hide their emaciation as best they can from others. And some are so fiercely proud of their emaciation that no one dares to talk about it. Carers and loved ones stand mute and silent for fear of bringing forth anorexic aggression. This IS what anorexia does to perfect souls.

So why not show it as it is? In all its skinny, wasted and emaciated glory. The truth may set you free.


  1. You ask why we should not "show it as it is? In all its skinny, wasted and emaciated glory".

    Because it gives the appallingly wrong idea that all folk with an eating disorder are skinny, wasted and emaciated. They're not. This is NOT showing it as it is. This perpetuates the myth that unless you've lost a stack of weight then you can't possibly have an eating disorder. This is dangerous in SO many ways.
    Using myself as an example:
    I was fiercely bulimic for many years. It was wrecking my health. But I was of normal weight. It is SO much easier to ignore/overlook/pretend away an eating disorder if someone is not blatently emaciated. And it WAS easier, for me, for my parents, for my GP. Now that I am that emaciated stereotype and have been for many years I look at such images and I am terribly sad.
    For those individuals and families who won't take these illnesses seriously because the sufferer is NOT skinny, wasted and emaciated!! Can't you see how these images give ammunition to fight off any concerned advances by worried parents or friends? "I don't know why you're worried, I'm hardly anorexic"...It just makes it so easy for the eating disorder to take a good hold of a person when there is so much ignorance about what an eating disorder LOOKS like!
    Phew, sorry, but it really gets my goat.
    The media are only interested in the sharp end of eating disorders. They're not interested in the severely unwell person with bulimia who's electrolytes are so up the spout that they could drop dead in any second, well, not if that person LOOKS "normal". If most had the choice of featuring an emaciated anorexic or normal weight bulimic, well, I can guess which one they'd plump for.
    The image you have used for this piece is so obviously photo-shopped. How many folk struggling with an eating disorder will look at that and then at themselves and come to the conclusion that "I can't be that ill then". Or, "I'm not ill enough to warrant treatment"? I know of many.
    Personally, I think it would be far more helpful to view a person with an eating disorder as having a mental illness. Then they can access the help that they so desperately need. Let's not put them off getting this help by subtly implying that they are not ill enough unless they are emaciated.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. 1. Rufty; Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, and my largest anorexic patient was over 16 stones, terrifed of food but had become a dissociated binge eater. Its nice to hear from you again even if you are angry; you should know by now that I dont toe party lines and I am not going to refuse to take part in a programme showing poorly pictures.
      The media is actually a very big word for a lot of different people with different intentions and agendas. Patients and therapists will have to come to terms with the fact that normal eaters find it hard to understand what drives an eating disorder and we should perhaps concentrate on the fact that there are therapists who don't look at weight, they look at everything else that is going on.
      If there are a few people who are going to look at a terrible picture like this and say "oh I'm not that bad then", I would guess that this is part of the mindset of the illness, many people with anorexia tend ANYWAY to look for all kinds of confirmations that they arent bad enough, whether there is a poorly picture or not. I am capable of looking at someone who has gained some weight and I know that their anorexic symptoms are still alive and well. As with a former poorly person who is now running marathons.

      On the Programme Supersize/Superskinny their anorexic patient was very thin and their bulimic patient was normal weight. Did that disturb you?
      If weights are higher, medical risk IS lower and psychological functioning is generally better except for bulimia nervosa where as you say someone can drop dead from electrolyte disturbance although this is also very rare, but death rates are much higher in low weight bulimics.
      And we are ignoring the millions more who have serious disorders who are overweight, binge eaters and obese bulimics who are even more likely to drop dead of a heart attack. No one seems to give a toss about them, just accuse them of having no willpower, not assume they are ill.
      Even compulsive eaters can look normal if they diet successfully betweeen bingeing episodes.
      So if you want to tell a story, you have to bring it to life with a picture and, arguably, does it matter really how the public take notice and do we have to waste time trying to persuade the media to do our educating for us?
      People with eating disorders do a great deal to hide their symptoms from people, which is part of the illness so it is no surprise that parents and loved ones and doctors can be duped into thinking that all is well, when it isn't. What matters is that there are therapists with passion for healing and recovery and flourishing including me and others who look beyond weight and don't really care if at times the public sees a poorly picture.
      Of course the pic was photoshopped,my aim is to provoke people to engage in a discussion which I want to learn from so thank you for your input. Writing alone doesn't do it, it seems, which proves a point.

  2. Deanne:
    I've no doubt you have a passion for healing and recovery; you are educated enough re. eating disorders to look beyond appearances. I'm sure sufferers are in capable hands once they have found their way to you.
    I guess I just worry about the percentage of folk suffering who never get treatment or, the RIGHT treatment. As you say: "many people with anorexia tend ANYWAY to look for all kinds of confirmations that they arent bad enough..".
    So, why would we want to throw another obstacle in the way for them? Why would we want to reinforce what I would argue is the predominant view held by the general population; that to be "suffering" from an eating disorder you must be emaciated? Clearly, from our vantage point we can see that this is incorrect. But this is not, imho, the view generally.
    I just don't think there is much/anything to be gained from these "poorly pics". As we both know, eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, so why give out any other message?
    I'm sorry if I'm not being clear on my views or am perhaps misunderstanding where you are coming from; I'm not sure about your reference to supersize/superskinny..
    Maybe it is all too raw for me because I'm still "in it", but my gut feeling is that it DOES matter how the public take notice IF it adds further to the misunderstanding of eating disorders by the public and to the feeling of isolation of the sufferer.
    But then...now I'm questionning whether I'm so stuck in ed land that I can't see the wood for the trees!
    I'm afraid I can come over a little aggressive when I have strong views. Apologies.

    1. Nothing you say upsets me, I always view the sufferers as the experts to teach me. This is about some preentations of anorexia not the other eating disorders. Anyhow this isnt a real picture is it, but I have no objection to a sufferer who wants to tell the media this is how I was and look how ill I was and I kept telling myself I was OK. B-Eat done want these pics to be up but the sufferer does and thats all that matters to me.

  3. Whilst it is true that not everyone with an eating disorder looks skinny,emaciated and wasted,there are people with severe anorexia who do look extremely thin and skinny and for me,showing such photos highlights how serious eating disorders can be and that these are serious illnesses.For that reason i think they should be shown.It can be shocking to see someone who is really anorexic.That is because it is an illness and i think such photos reinforce that.

    1. A belated thanks for your comment... this is not a real image of course, but if people want to highlight how ill they were, they should be permitted to do so.

  4. And also,for all of the people who might look at such a photo and think to the conclusion that "I can't be that ill then". Or, "I'm not ill enough to warrant treatment"?,such photos could make a young and impressionable teenage girl who is tempted to stop eating,realise on seeing such a photo that the person in that photo does not look glamorous or sexy as some girls think anorexia will make them,the person in that photo looks ill,and showing such photos might actually make someone who is tempted to go down the route of anorexia,think twice about it..because looking the way someone with serious anorexia does,is not sexy and glamorous.That is because eating disorders are illnesses and publishing such photos might actually highlight that fact.