Tracey Gold’s ‘Starving Secrets’

Remember Tracey Gold from Growing Pains? A recovered anorexic, she’s now hosting a new Lifetime channel reality show: ‘Starving Secrets.’

Even this People magazine photograph portrays Gold’s anorexic body as glamorous.

The show, still in its first season, follows women with serious eating disorders, and gives them the opportunity to a enter into a treatment program. Critics of the show point out that it follows in the genre of made-for-TV movies like The Best Little Girl in the World, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, and For the Love of Nancy–which probably fueled more eating disorders than they discouraged.

I remember watching The Best Little Girl in the World in health class in 8th grade. It starred Jennifer Jason Leigh and generally made anorexia seem alluring and glamorous, if a bit frightening. It, and media like it, have been thinspiration–unintentionally functioning as eating-disorder inspiration. For girls and women struggling to find their story–to make meaning of their lives, an eating disorder can provide a macabre but compelling narrative.

On the other hand, some point out, insurance companies in the US provide such wimpy coverage to mental illnesses in general and eating disorders in particular (a 30-day per year inpatient cap, for example) that, for some people, participating in a ‘reality’ show represents a viable shot at obtaining treatment.

What’s your take? Do shows like ‘Starving Secrets’ do more harm than good? Do they really help anyone? Or is it just more sordid television?

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The Victoria’s Secret “Angel” Diet

Recently, supermodel Adriana Lima talked to the UK newspaper, Telegraph, telling the paper what it takes to get ready for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show–including months of intense daily and sometimes twice-daily workouts and a gallon of water a day. The Telegraph reports:

“She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – ‘no solids.’ The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and ‘just drink normally.’ Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely. ‘No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that,’ she says.”

The comments got a lot of attention, and Lima issued a statement urging “teenagers” not to follow her suit. But she also defended her practice as a form of athleticism:

” ‘I know it’s very intense but … I just have an athlete’s mind and I appreciate doing this thing [the Victoria’s Secret Show],’ she said. ‘It’s not that I do crazy diets throughout the year. I just do it for this particular thing. After this show, I become normal again.’ “

I find this whole story really, really distressing for a number of reasons.

First, I think Lima’s insistence that she “becomes normal” is pretty obviously disingenuous. Okay, maybe she is not on a liquid diet every day, but it is almost impossible to believe that disordered eating isn’t her norm. Second, Lima’s awareness that there are “teenagers out there” that are watching and listening to her, and her apparent concern that they don’t go “starving themselves” (like she does) makes it all the more frustrating that she chooses to do the work that she does–promoting a ridiculously thin and and sculpted look that’s a direct result of (professionally managed but nonetheless sick) disorder.

But actually, I think I have to applaud Lima for her honesty in revealing the extreme measures it takes to maintain that kind of look. After all, it’s NOT her fault. It’s the result of a system that values that look and won’t hire ‘real’ women for their “angels.”

Finally, I am distressed that her comments and this show garner so much attention. (Look! I’m even writing about it here!) Even leaving aside the (huge) issue of the objectification of women in fashion, and the (laughably old-fashioned?) question of modesty, I’m dismayed that such distortions of God-given humanness and beauty are still popular and prevalent as ever. From foot-binding to corsets to cosmetic surgery to fashion shows, we are constantly bombarded with messages that equate beauty and worth with a narrow, un-real ideal.

{This is one reason–among others–why Victoria’s Secret never gets any of my money.}

Whose Eating Disorder Is This?

When I say ‘person with eating disorder’ do you imagine someone who looks like this?

Or someone who looks more like this:Anorexia and bulimia aren’t the only eating disorders out there. There’s also binge eating disorder–defined as having at least one episode per month of overeating with “a sense of loss of control.” And while it’s broadly assumed that this is mainly a “women’s problem,” a new study shows that men are almost as likely as women to have binge eating disorder.

Male binge eating goes unrecognized for several reasons:

One, men are less likely than women to seek treatment, largely due to a sense of shame.

Two, (partly because of one), not a lot of research has been done on eating disorders in men which means…

Three, health practitioners are less likely to screen for it in routine health checkups.

Binge eating disorder in men is associated with depression, anxiety, increased work absences and weight gain.

But there is treatment–counseling, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, has been shown to be effective, as have certain antidepressants.

If you or a man you know may be struggling with binge eating disorder, there is help and hope. Talk to your health practitioner about your concerns. And remember, you are not alone: one in TEN men are right there with you.

God made us to eat with joy–not with fear.

{Read this story in the Daily Mail–the second half tells the story of former model Ron Saxon who struggled with–and recovered from!–binge eating disorder.}

Peace and joy to you today~

Rachel

100 Posts!

Yesterday’s post on Plumpy’nut marked 100 posts here on Eat With Joy. I thought of doing some version of the ‘100 things about whatever’ meme, but I think I’m too lazy and/or busy for that.

Besides, I thought it might be more fun to highlight the top 10 posts from Eat With Joy‘s brief Internet life. And so without further ado…

(Click on each title to read the full post; italicized text represents excerpts)

#10 Film Review: “The Help” and the Supper of the Lamb

“Living the gospel acknowledges our shared humanity and need for reconciliation with God and with each other. When we sit to eat together, we acknowledge our physical needs and that shared humanity (we all eat; we all excrete) while tasting just a bit of God’s graciousness. The Help reminds me again just how countercultural that Supper of the Lamb really is…”

#9 Fake Gluten-Free Girl

“Can food preferences–not just gluten-free, not just Paleo–be a way of couching disordered eating in more socially acceptable forms?”

#8 Should Healthy Living be a Spiritual Discipline?

“We DON’T need “spiritual” reasons to pursue a “healthy” diet.

We DO need a new food culture, and there’s plenty of wisdom–in the Bible and elsewhere–that’s ready to help us shape one.”

#7 Breastfeeding and Justice

“Our ability to make choices about parenting styles is a direct result of our relative economic security and privilege. But that doesn’t mean that this ability is trivial or unimportant in light of extreme suffering. In fact, I think that how we choose to live–including how we spend our money and our time (and eating’s a big part of that)–is organically connected to suffering and justice both here and elsewhere. It’s also connected to how we view ourselves in relationship to the Creator and the rest of creation.

#6 I’m 30! (30 things about a 30 year old on the 30th)

“3. Once, when I lived in Brooklyn, our house was broken into and our VCR was stolen, with my Winnie-the-Pooh tape inside. This was extremely distressing.

4. Another time, when I lived in Middle Village, our apartment was broken into and I could hear our German landlord, who lived downstairs, screaming, “I have a knife! I’m going to kill you!” Even more distressing.

#5 Am I too thin to say “accept your body”?

“…all the ads for weight loss products and programs and gym memberships and everything else. They always carry with them the promise (the lie) that YOU YOU YOU can change your body–that it’s raw material for shaping any way you desire–if only you’ll buy this, do that, have enough control, pray enough, or whatever.

#4 Injustice of Biblical Proportions

“Alabama’s new immigration law makes it a crime to appear in public without proof of your immigration status, and requires law enforcement officers to stop anyone who “appears illegal.” If you don’t have proof of legal residency when you go to pay your utility bill, they can cut off the water to your house.

#3 Revolutionary Joy…and Basil

“Finding joy in basil grown from seed returns me to a place of joyful creativity that’s not (I imagine) unlike the Creator’s joy. It reassures me that even black specks of nothing can turn into something beautiful and delicious, something that brings three generations to the table and gives them delight.”

#2 White Collar’s Woman Problem

Gina Dalfonzo’s Guest Post:

“White Collar is showing an unhealthy obsession with the current Hollywood ideal of the skin-and-bones woman. And it’s especially saddening because White Collar is so strong a show in other ways—my friend Kim Moreland writes here about how well it handles themes like justice, order, and goodness —that slick Hollywood trappings, such as anorexic-looking women, stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.”

and the #1 post?

My Audrey Hepburn Problem

“…although I admired Audrey’s humanitarian legacy and reputed grace and kindness, I was most inspired by her thinness. In the days of my Audrey obsession, her brilliant film performances were less important than the visibility of her long, lovely bones in her various stunning Givenchy and Edith Head designs.

Do YOU have a favorite post–or a topic you’d like to see more posts about? Leave a comment!

Speaking Out, Part Two

{I’m away this week. In addition to the delights of being with family & friends, I had the opportunity to speak to a MOPS group in New Jersey. I’m going to share some of the talk with you here. If I get my tech stuff together, I might even go all fancy and post it as a podcast so you can hear my squeaky little voice. Here’s the second of three parts.}

I have to condense the story here, but I want to tell you two things that helped me get to the place I am now, which, admittedly is not perfect, but which is undoubtedly a much, much happier place, a place where I can have the occasional chocolate croissant with a cup of coffee with cream and not feel “dirty” or like I need to go run 6 miles to “get rid of it.”

OK, first thing. First thing, I started reading the Bible with an eye toward what it said about food. Not in the, you know, Ezekiel Bread kind of way, as in, “And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and emmer,  and put them into a single vessel and make your bread from them. During the number of days that you lie on your side, 390 days, you shall eat it.” I love it that you can find, you know, Ezekiel 4:9 bread in the health food store, but the lying on your side for a year plus one month? So weird, and no one is going to build any kind of health practice on that!

But, in seriousness, I began to see how food in the Bible is this powerful symbol of God’s love and care and provision for people.

God sets up the garden of Eden with great food ripe for the picking.

God feeds the Israelites in the desert without their having to work for it.

God’s word, God’s love, is described again and again like sweet, rich food–like milk, like honey

Jesus actually feeds people–think of the five loaves and two fish. Think of the wedding at Cana.

Jesus says He is the Bread of Life.
The end of all things: the vision of God’s renewed, restored, perfect world is a party with great food.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live.”

This was not a God that wanted to punish me for enjoying food. This was a God who wanted me to taste and see that His gifts are good. That enjoying them, and giving thanks for them was NOT unspiritual. That eating and enjoying food might actually be a way of connecting with God. This was something to think about.
The second “thing” that happened, after that, was that my son was born. And in the process of being pregnant with him and nursing him (and realizing that in feeding myself, I was actually feeding HIM) I came to realize that what I ate influenced more people than just me. And somewhere I read some article that really scared me, about how mothers with disordered thoughts and behaviors around food and eating were likely to pass that on to their kids.
(And, by the way, some studies estimate that 3 out of 4 American women are disordered in their eating behaviors.)
I came to realize how much I wanted to protect my son from that sadness and struggle. I wanted him to enjoy his food and love his body in that carefree way that children do. In that carefree way that I once did.
Like I said, I’m not perfect. And there is no one single path to finding peace with food, peace with your body, peace with God. This has been my path. Yours is probably somewhat different. But I will say this: I’m really certain that eating together–as families, as friends, as women–and enjoying food–is powerful, powerful stuff.

The last part of the talk will appear tomorrow.