In the News: Television Eating Disorder How-To's

I've been a busy bee this week, so I thought I'd head to Google News and search "eating disorders" and see what popped up.  It wasn't very hard to find something that caught my eye.

Breaking News - E! Explores Eating Disorders In The New Series "What's Eating You" proclaims E!'s 8/18 press release.  The release promises to be "riveting" television that shows levels of eating disordered behavior "never before seen on television," which is pretty disturbing, when you consider that one of the final scenes on the HBO documentary THIN showed one of the women purging the day she got home.  As in, it showed her bending over the toilet as she vomited.  Intervention had an episode that showed a bulimic vomiting into a sink, in profile.  So I really don't want to know what E! means by "never before seen on television."

On the one hand, productions like this E! miniseries and like THIN do spread the word about eating disorders.  On the other hand, they also function as repositories of tips and tricks.  So do most of the "resources" in this vein.  I've had countless conversations with fellow patients about how we literally learned some of our behaviors from articles about anorexia or bulimia in Seventeen or YM.  The memoir Wasted is also practically an anorexia handbook.  You don't have to be a pro-ana or pro-mia site or blog to teach people how to do it, if they're lookin'.

When I was at the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders in 2003, there was a policy in place that prevented us from discussing or describing symptoms.  Now, while I think the levels they took that policy to were silly (we couldn't use the words "purge," "restrict," "over-exercise," etc., even if we weren't talking about something we had actually done), I have always understood how the policy came about.  It came about for the same reasons this E! show will be lauded as brave television by some, and studied subversively by some others.  Sad.

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Oh yeah.  School's starting again.  So not only is it ten years to the week that I've been living in New York, it's time for parents to start getting themselves in mental gear to screen for their collegiate children developing eating disorder symptoms.  (Of course, by the time a symptom is noticeable even to a parent, the disorder has already been in gear for a while.  But we can always hope.)

And for the love of chubby toddlers, people - don't harp on the supposed "Freshman 15" if your daughter or son comes home for winter break looking a little more callipygian.  If I see one more "news" item about How To Avoid The Freshman Fifteen!!!! I am going to hurl, and I don't mean that in a bulimic way.  I mean that in an "I will hurl a brick through the news organization's front window" way.

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