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Starving for Beauty
Women who diet their health away require medical help
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-27 11:05 (KST)   
The Devil doesn't just wear Prada, she expects everyone else to be stick thin, and the culture is spreading. We live in a world where beer bellied obesity exists side by side, and apparently quite happily beside scrawny creatures with gaunt faces that appear to walk on stilts. The stick insect culture is far more pervasive than we realize. True, in some cases this festival of skinny minimalism is interrupted with injections of botox or saline sacks propping up breasts, but Keira Knightley, Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan and their cohorts can't even stomach the thought of bigger boobs wobbling on their chests. Meanwhile, in your community, in fact, as close as next door, someone is obsessing about their weight.

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For my part, there's a brunette who lives nearby. She is up first thing in the morning, every morning, running, and without fail she's in the gym late at night until it closes. At least, she's been there every time I've gone, and other people tell me she's always training. The most common symptoms are: excessive water drinking, visiting the gym three times a day, and the classic giveaway, the oft repeated confession: "I'm fat."

Like most men, I have some unreasonable demands when it comes to women. If I could conjure up the perfect body for a woman she would be slim, but toned (think Supergirl) with oversized breasts. Nature dictates that a slim body means a concomitant reduction in breast size. If you want natural big boobs, you've probably got to settle for a big bum too. So is unnatural the answer?

The fact is, we are so far into Unnatural Territory (when it comes to cultural definitions of beauty, and the body) that it beggars belief. Recently I joined my girlfriend for dinner and met, for the first time, Brenda*, a new girl friend of hers. Brenda's fairly attractive, and appeared to be flirting with me a little, while chewing mouthfuls of lettuce, tomato and feta. She later invited us to her apartment, and, talking nonstop, handed us photo albums. My girlfriend mentioned her "arm muscles" and when I made a half serious request that she show me, she immediately sprinted upstairs and emerged shortly afterwards, modeling in a tank top. She did have muscular arms, and later, after I'd left, I asked my girlfriend: "Are her breasts real?" She said yes. So, in a sense, she fitted the requirement of the toned skeleton with big breasts to a T.

Then my girlfriend pointed out to me that they had left the dinner table twice. "Yes," I said. "I found that kind've weird that you needed to visit the bathroom twice, in like, 20 minutes. What was that about?" She told me that her friend had vomited up the salad she'd been eating, and was washing her mouth and teeth with water and fingers. When my girlfriend asked why she had thrown up, her friend said: "I think the salad dressing made me feel sick."

Not long after that we'd ordered cheesecake, and shortly after polishing that off they'd rushed to the restroom again, but this time the restroom was full of people and so, my girlfriend says: "She just stood around, preening."

My girlfriend told me that she only eats nuts, and even weighs them. Let's speak plainly: who vomits up a salad?

When I saw her again I noticed that her teeth seemed more worn down than they ought to have been, and her lips seemed wine stained and slightly swollen. The sort of swelling you'd expect from someone who pukes a few times a day. Imagine kissing that mouth and taking that body out for dinner (and knowing after 20 minutes the starter is swimming down the restaurant's basin).

With this perspective, my earlier description of the ideal body clearly becomes flawed. A good body is great, but it means nothing if it's within a context of subterfuge and counterfeit living. Far sexier is a sense of humor, intelligence, and a healthy, practical, witty approach to living. People who overeat suffer from the same disorder as people who starve themselves. Self-hatred. It comes from giving one's personal power over to the attitudes of our society. That's not a good idea today. And what can be sillier than sacrificing health and happiness for the mere impression of fleeting acceptance by anonymous outsiders? Who does that?

No guy would ever go out with someone who hates herself enough to turn herself into a regurgitating skeleton (ostensibly to look pretty). But what if she was model pretty? Would some men turn a blind eye (and the odd olfactory gland?)The point is, a vomiting skull and crossbones is not an attractive image. Any woman who pursues this sort of activity is the victim of genuine mental illness and she should go to a doctor.

The problem is, many people suffering from anorexia or bulemia or the Size Zero Syndrome are not even close to admitting that there is a problem. The few titbits they consume are covered in generous sprinkles of denial.

So the onus is on the people who are their friends or family to love, and accept them, but also to set boundaries on their unacceptable self-defeating and ultimately self-destructive behavior.

Being rejected any number of times eventually drives home the message: I am unlovable. Thus it requires plenty of deprogramming to create an new identity: I'm acceptable and lovable. What makes this process so difficult it that it needs to start with the person who is slowly destroying herself. All anyone else can do is create an environment of love and support.

Some scorn ought to be heaped on the media who foist plenty of images of rake thing, apparently happy women (who are really just grown up looking 16 and 17 year olds). So anyone who endorses the skinnymalinky approach is probably the Devil incarnate. And the sticks on stilts out there, clad in Prada, Louis Vuitton or Dior, ought to know they're not in for a fairy tale ending.
*Not her real name
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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