Last night’s premiere of Gráinne Seoige’s Modern Life concentrated on anorexia nervosa, a debilitating and life-threatening illness. The show brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions. Because I’ve seen and experienced how eating disorders can ruin lives. Because the thought of what it’s doing to innocent young girls kills me.
Size zero is on the lips of every celebrity and fashion guru (about the only thing that passes their lips, I hear you say). In last night’s programme, Gráinne holds up a size zero dress and comments accurately, “This looks like something a child, not a woman, would wear.” She also gives the opinion that models resemble something other than human beings and that they definitely don’t look feminine. She adds, “I would never want to look like them.” And why would you, Ms Seoige? You’re beautiful just as you are. However, if she paid too much attention to internet discussion boards, she could easily feel pressurised to slim down (one clown on Boards.ie suggested that the gorgeous presenter needs to lose a few pounds in order to get work).
Women eye up models’ figures and decide that this is the way they should look too. And why shouldn’t they attempt to be like them? After all, the definition of a model is: “A standard or example for imitation or comparison.”* However, we forget that the reason models are skinny is simply because this body shape best allows designers to showcase their collections. But when models turn into role models and make ridiculous statements such as, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (not even a thick line of the white stuff, Ms Moss?), our younger generation of impressionable young females is doomed to a lifetime of diets and exercise regimes, and constantly striving for, but never attaining, that elusive “perfect” look.
It’s virtually impossible to acquire the perfect body image. Even famous folk can’t do it. Despite paying fitness trainers, nutritionists, and personal chefs to make them look good, and even though they have looming red carpet events in clingy designer dresses to motivate them, they still have fat days. And that is why magazine photographs are airbrushed in order to make celebrities look better (which usually means skinnier). When did it become such a bloody crime to be human?
However dangerous it is to have a teenage girl flick through a glossy magazine, imagine the horrors she can find on the world-wide web? Have you ever heard of a pro-ana website? It’s a site that promotes eating disorders, giving detailed tips on how to beat hunger pangs, purge quietly and hide weight loss from friends and family. It offers support and encouragement to its participants, even motivating them to compete against each other to see who can starve themselves the longest. The images are shocking, upsetting and seriously disturbing. It truly is a scary place. The thought of young girls stumbling across a site like this is terrifying.
“You become so accustomed to that empty feeling in your stomach. You almost start to enjoy it. Because if you know you’re getting very sharp hunger pains and you know how lethargic you’re becoming and you can feel your body kind of deadening under its own weight, you know you’re being successful.” Leanne Waters
But it’s not all about striving for skinniness. One woman in the US, in her quest to achieve a curvier figure, paid a fake doctor to inject her with cement, mineral oil and flat tire sealant. Needless to say, she ended up in hospital, suffering from embarrassment, an empty bank account and a hell of a lot of pain. The grass is always greener on the other size, eh?
I’ll finish off with an amusing anecdote. It’s a perfect example of this constant striving for anything other than what we are. Last week, I was in the changing rooms of a large department store. As I tried on nine dresses (I only bought one, promise!), I overheard a conversation in the next cubicle. A woman was trying on a dress for her Christmas party.
She moaned to the sales assistant, “I’m beat into this dress!”
The shop woman reassured her, “If I had your figure, I’d wear that dress.”
“Well, I have been running five miles a day.”
“Why don’t you wear magic knickers to hold you in? Not that you need it… It’s just that the dress is so clingy,” she quickly added before changing the subject: “Once, a woman had to be cut out of her dress here!”
I snorted. The customer persisted, unperturbed: “Don’t you think this dress flattens my boobs?”
“I don’t know about that… You could buy a pair of padded panties though,” she suggested.
“I don’t need one of them, I have a bum.”
“So do I but it’s in the wrong place,” the sales assistant sighed.
I would have wet my pants but then I would have had to buy the dress (and I didn’t want it because it made my arms look big).
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Images: http://www.healthkicker.com/730791440/pro-ana-borrows-from-healthy-dieting-practices/; http://francesballard.deviantart.com/art/Anti-pro-ana-186511611; http://amazingdata.com/beauty-or-a-beast/; http://the100.ru/en/actors/sofia-loren.html