Et Tube, Brute? My response to the NY Times article "Hunger Games"

5 years ago

You may have read the article "Bridal Hunger Games" in the Fashion section of the April 13th New York Times about dieting trends amongst women who are trying to lose weight for their wedding. 10-20 pounds is the average amount brides-to-be want to shed before donning a gown and saying 'I Do' to the man or woman who, hopefully, loves her as is (but that's besides the point).

What jumped, leapt, screamed off the page for me was one of the methods, which makes the Grapefruit Diet of years past seem like it belongs on a poster for good health recommendations. This one is the insertion of a feeding tube through which 800 calories of nutrition are administered to the client who is then expected to eat nothing else for the rest of the day.

My full reveal is not that I work for a competing diet organization whose interest it is to discourage such drastic measures to slim down in favor of something more modest. I am not engaged nor have I ever been married, so I don't know the kind of pressure one feels getting ready to walk down the aisle in front of a few hundred friends, family and colleagues. My reveal is that while struggling with a very serious, life threatening eating disorder 12 years ago, I was in a treatment facility amongst anorexic and bulimic patients, some of whom were at weights so low they could die from the stress on their bodies (and spirits). I saw girls for whom tubing become mandatory, a last ditch effort to put on weight. Some cried hysterically like lone wolves when Ensure was passed through into their systems. It was a terrifying scene for what you can imagine was a variety of reasons. The concentration of fear in that setting was like an audience at an old, 3D, sci-fi movie. Everybody on edge and waiting for the next reason to jump out of their seats and scream.

So when tubing is trending, I have reasons for concern. In this city, one where being thin is associated beauty and health, I live and work amongst women and men who play an edge with respect to calorie restriction and exercise. Juice cleansing (also mentioned in the Times article, this time for having the effects of a laxative, which is probably debatable) is popular and to a lesser extent, so is Master cleansing (water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and agave). For me, I stay away from methods that eliminate food completely or reduce calories to well beneath what most doctors or nutritionists suggest is healthy for an active adult. If you're drinking 1200 calories and burning 600 calories in a workout, that leaves about 600 calories left to support all your functions -- thinking, moving, digesting, eliminating waste, etc.

What I learned throughout my years spent devoted to recovering from the eating disorder I developed in college, is diets DO trigger more destructive eating. I don't have the studies to back that up right now and I'm not a therapist or doctor, so you can take this all as anecdotal. Once you start taking drastic measures, it can set up something like a binge/restrict cycle, it can seem like the "easy solution" to dropping weight, it can throw your metabolism out of whack so that losing weight actually becomes harder than it needs to be, or it can actually create a high that is addictive, like drugs. You get high on starving, essentially. It also creates this illusion of control, as if controlling food intake to such a degree creates mastery that can be further applied to the rest of your life, including aspects which are not controllable, like life circumstances and other people, for starters.

This does not apply to everybody and I'm certainly not here to judge, but I've seen it in myself and I've seen it in others, which at this point is enough for me to open my mouth and share. I come from a place of concern and deep compassion, having witnessed the hellatious effects of eating disorders and wanting to be part of a collective voice which helps PREVENT and treat them.

Et tu, Brute? Even you, Brutus? Ceasar felt betrayed by his confidante, his friend, his compadre. When I see a diet trend like this, I feel shocked and betrayed by people who SUPPORT this methodology. Didn't someone along the way consider that maybe this is not such a great idea? That maybe there is a deeper cultural concern to be felt if women are feeling so pressured to be thin that they would go to such lengths? Will women go on betraying themselves by forcing conditions which border on the inhumane? Does that lovely looking woman in the Times article photo feel any sense that this was if not dangerous than at the very least, ridiculous?

By the way, the procedure costs about $1500 for 10 days.

I could go on but it's 7:20AM and I am taking a walk outside before I go to work today. All I can say is that I hope this little fashion trend that popped up in the Fashion section falls away, much like I hope and pray women will stop hating on a little body fat and idealizing sizes 0-2 bridal gowns at the expense of their own happiness. What is really more important, being healthy and HAPPY or being thin?

Thank you for reading!


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