Anorexia: Physically and Spiritually Dying

I wouldn’t sit with daddy when he was alone in the hospital because I needed to go jogging;

I told Derek not to visit me because I couldn’t throw up when he was there;

I almost failed my comprehensive exams because I was so hungry;

I spent my year at Oxford with my head in the toilet bowl;

I wouldn’t eat the dinner my friends cooked me for my 19th birthday because I knew they had used oil in the recipe;

I told my family not to come to my college graduation because I didn’t want to miss a day at the gym or have to eat a restaurant meal.

I would swear I did not miss the world outside. Lost within myself, I almost died.

During her recovery from anorexia, Abra Fortune Chernik filled three and a half Mead marble notebooks – five years’ worth of reflection on how her eating disorder had tangled her life and thwarted her relationships. You can read more on her struggle in “The Body Politic.”

I had always known that anorexia diminished women physically, and too often led to their deaths. But I hadn’t stopped to realize that the disease shrank them socially, emotionally, and mentally, too – leaving their world revolving solely around their bodies and their food – or the lack thereof.

I hadn’t realized that anorexia meant both a physical and spiritual ridding of the self. And yet it surely does.

Abra continued:

As my body shrank, so did my world. I starved away my power and vision, my energy and inclinations. Obsessed with dieting, I allowed relationships, passions, and identity to wither.

The name of her piece, “The Body Politic,” tells us that anorexia is not just about Abra’s own struggle, but the struggle of women who live in a world that seems to applaud their constriction, and perhaps even their disappearance.

A push toward constricting women, or “disappearing them”?

In an earlier piece I talked of political pressures to deny women life-saving vaccines, cancer screenings, tests for H.I.V., emergency abortions to save a woman’s life, and nutrition programs, along with decriminalizing domestic violence. Women’s control over their bodies is being increasingly constricted by attempts to limit access to contraception and the right to choose.

Applauding women who sufficiently shrink their bodies, minds and souls is perfectly consistent.

And perfectly deranged.

A rerun for the holidays.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 30, 2016, in body image and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Being female is not easy. Social media, Hollywood and American culture as a whole, promote an unrealistic standard of beauty. A phsycally attractive body is deemed phsycally accetable by the number on the scale. I have become victim to this pressure. Following a healthy lifestyle while keeping an apropriate weight all the while being happy with one’s physical appearance, is a challenge. Yet as women, this the expectation one must adhere to. These are the expectations we place on ourselves. Television, advertisements, public figures and billboards portray a skewed version of the ideal weight. The need to be too thin is taken to an extreme because of the false realities that are so quickly available. As a result, the pressure to look a certain way is present at a very young age. Body image issues are affecting how we eat, how we view ourselves and others as well. Not only are we our own harshest critics but we allow it to continue by falling victims to these type of sterotypes and standards.

  2. Eating disorders by themselves are a complex and challenging subject considering their variations and the consistent misconceptions about what they are and who they can affect. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, I find many of these points made by Abra Fortune Chernik extremely familiar. The most challenging part about an eating disorder is the struggle to find a balance with the very substance you are “addicted” to. Whether it be anorexia or binge eating disorder or somewhere in between, food is commonly seen as an enemy; a barrier between who someone is and what they want to be. Living in a diet and food obsessed culture, understanding what is right for one’s own body is near impossible considering the variety of people who believe that another person’s body is their own to criticize and lecture about. Instead of morphing nutrition into a generalized subject, it is crucial to recognize our bodies as our own and treat eating as a personal experience and this certainly includes the spiritual experience of food and eating.

  3. When women get engrossed in a diet, I often can see this happened to her. This happening is kind of addiction because once women go well to lose weight, they tend to pursue to be thinner. We might need to change the social view. Why women want to be zero size body because media control us thinness is beautiful.
    But it is not true. I understand that especially her age is difficult to get confidence in own body, but I want her to be aware that each person has its own beauty.

  4. Oh! I’ve seen anorexic girls and, you’ve said it just right- they are dying, physically and spiritually. Fitness and healthy body should be the mantra, rather than a zero size!

  5. I have a friends at whose story is one of being slowly tortured to death by a system that will not let her take her own faster way out of life. Anorexia has become the only tool she has for killing herself.

    My friend is an Aspie. She has been hospitalized for the past ten years and mis-diagnosed until last year when they finally realized she wasn’t being difficult, she was being an aspie. By then it was too late.

    Every method certain to trigger Aspies has been used on her. She lives in conditions that are extremely triggering for Aspies and her responses are extreme. Yet she shares her life with others with the hope that maybe someone out there will find comfort in her words.

    She has gone all the way to our supreme court to be granted a quicker way out. But alas. They even go so far as to revive her when she has managed to find something to harm herself with. Slow torture until revival is no longer possible.

  6. Ooof. This is so tough. I really have to applaud anyone for sharing their struggle. It’s deeply personal and often painful but it does help so many others.

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