Any press is good press? Not when anorexia’s involved
It’s been a while. Sorry about that. My therapist says that when I’m busy, my mind on work (I started a new job three weeks ago) and focused on a period of change in my life, there is less time and space for my eating disorder to poke it’s disgusting little head in. Probably a good thing, and probably why I haven’t written in a while. One thing’s for sure, it’s certainly not for lack of inspiration or material. In fact, I’ve had to bite my lip… a lot.
Media coverage of eating disorders comes and goes in waves; one minute it’s in fashion and the next, every editor in the world is sick to death of it. If one frustratingly and frighteningly successful news site is anything to go by, though, anorexia, or coverage of it, is really hot right now.
I was recently alarmed, appalled even, by a report on poor Nikki Grahame. You may remember her from Big Brother – demanding, childlike, throwing strops and having tantrums to rival the angriest of two-year-olds. She might not be the most likeable woman in the world, but when you look at her history of anorexia with a history of purging and an endless list of hospitalisations, it would take someone with a colder heart than mine to not feel an ounce of sympathy towards her.
Same paper. Crystal Renn, the former plus size model this week appeared “virtually unrecognizable” on the cover of a German magazine.
Same paper. A news story about a 17 year old head girl who sadly lost her battle to anorexia in November.
Same paper. A “manorexic” who only eats mushed up food.
Same paper. Abbey Crouch’s post-baby diet has gone too far, Anne Hathaway is renamed Anne Wasteaway (clever), Ali Lohan wears a bright coloured T-shirt and even that can’t detract from her “painfully thin” frame, and we’re treated to a day by day update of Miley Cyrus’s midriff. At the same time, “Slender and sleek!” Katherine Jenkins is showered with praise for her recent weight loss. Oh, but Christina Aguilera looked “cumbersome” in a “too tight” corset – the shame.
This is all a bit of a mess. You’re probably thinking, well, don’t read this claptrap. But people do, and they’re subject to seeing this bombardment of contradictory messages every single day.
The problem, I find, is that with issues such as anorexia, other eating disorders or body image as a whole, sometimes it’s a case of being talked about is better than not being talked about, and that any coverage is a positive thing as it demonstrates ongoing interest. Even if they get the odd fact wrong or publish images that could trigger some readers – at least some people might learn something?
Unfortunately, though, this week’s reading/scrolling (it is part of my job, honest) has had me banging my head on the wall and screaming. Radio silence would be better.
It’s not the first time I’ve torn my hair out over media coverage of eating disorders, but this time, rather than the triggering images of celebrities well on their way to emaciation station, my annoyance, verging now on despair, is directed at all of this coverage collectively.
It is the juxtaposition of ideals, the mish-mash of interests and the level of constant bombardment of this type of ‘story’ that really gets my blood boiling. This week’s collection of reports, it feels, has been out to get me – the final insult being an email request from a journalist for this publication to help them with a story which would be ‘sympathetic’ and ‘sensitive’. £200 for my soul. No.
My problem is that I can’t work out what they are trying to achieve, what message they are trying to convey or why they continue to appear to show such an interest in eating disorders and yet continue to ignore guidelines clearly set out by Beat. To me, it’s as bad as simultaneously running several stories on suicide and self harm whilst completely ignoring PCC guidelines on reporting on these issues. The piece on Nikki Grahame’s unfortunate and deeply saddening relapse reads like a how-to guide on anorexia. It details what she eats, how much she exercises, what she tells herself to keep fuelling the spiral of self-destruction, how much she weighs… it is intrusive, and when she is at her most vulnerable. Yes, it portrays the heartache, the sadness and the desperation – but in the most irresponsible way possible.
I could chastise the paparazzi for taking pictures of her in the street post-workout, looking exhausted and miserable in both mind and body (I was even initially annoyed by her for not throwing a hoodie over her tiny frame, as she knows those pictures will be published and knows they’ll likely be snapped up by sodding ‘pro-ana’ sites and used as ‘thinspiration’) – but I am angered more by the fact that they took pictures through the window of a Sushi bar. In the film ‘Girl, Interrupted’, the late Brittany Murphy played Daisy, a character who suffered from bulimia.
Daisy: Which do you like better? Taking a dump alone or with Valerie watching?
Daisy: Everyone likes to be alone when it comes out. I like to be alone when it goes in. To me, the cafeteria is like being with twenty girls all at once taking a dump.
I think anybody who has or has had an eating disorder will know this feeling. It is bad enough – embarrassing, shameful – to know that you are being watched whilst eating, but to have long zoom lenses pointed at you whilst you eat IN PRIVATE, is unimaginable and utterly immoral.
I don’t know, it might not seem like a big deal to you if you’re reading this as somebody for whom eating is just a thing you do to live, to taste (lucky you). That’s why I used the ‘dump’ analogy above.
It is the contrast between this and the congratulatory headlines splashed across some of the other stories that really bewilders me. It’s a tangled web of contradictions and mixed messages – it seems if you’re skinny and smiling, you’re fine, well done! But if you’re skinny and not smiling, you’re suddenly frail and gaunt and need a burger, quick.
We don’t know who to look up to, who to feel sorry for, which body to aspire to and we certainly won’t learn anything about the true facts, the reality behind eating disorders if papers continue with this relentlessly lackadaisical approach.
The best advice is to ignore it completely, but sadly that’s much easier said than done.Tagged in: anorexia, bulimia, daily mail, eating disorders, health, nikki grahame
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