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since June 19, 2001


Anorexia Nervosa
Changing Ideal of Beauty or insane Obsession?

A chosen lifestyle

On August 27, 2001 the Australian newspaper The Age published an article Web Sites promote crossing of the thin line that stated that hundreds of Web sites exist that give tips to girls who put themselves on a starvation-level diet on how to avoid the detection of their lifestyle.  These Web sites are,

... featuring pictures of stick-thin celebrities as inspiration, a pro-anorexia movement is flourishing on the Internet and inspiring deep concern among medical professionals who worry that it glamorizes a deadly illness.

It is a little difficult to understand how someone who is allegedly starving herself to near-death can escape detection by her parents, but so what.  Teenaged girls allegedly also routinely escape their parents' detection of the circumstance that they are nine months pregnant, forcing them thereby to have their babies in public washrooms and to discard of them in trash cans and dumpsters.  If that is truly possible, then it can without doubt also be that parents easily miss that their daughters are dying from starvation.

The article in The Age stated that physicians and psychologists are appalled by the glamorization of a condition that leads one in ten people diagnosed with it to die, half from suicide and half from other complications related to anorexia nervosa.  Farther into the article it was then stated that,

About five million people in the United States, most of them teenage girls, have anorexia, a psychological condition closely associated with low self-esteem [sic], intense perfectionism, and a pressing need for control. At least 1000 people diagnosed with anorexia die each year.

No other qualification of the statistics were given.  No sources were cited.   Therefore it is difficult to accept the estimate of the numbers of deaths, given that at least one social researcher, Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, came up with a count that is far lower than the figure of 1000 annual deaths quoted, but more about that later.

The article didn't make it clear why a condition that is a chosen lifestyle can or should be diagnosed as an illness, but it did quote Dr. Ted Weltzin, medical director of the eating disorders program at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin as saying: "This is one of the most deadly diseases out there."  

It requires a leap of faith to accept Dr. Weltzin's statement at face value, even if we were to accept thattrue_lovethin.gif (24029 bytes) a "disease" that is a chosen lifestyle kills its aficionados at the rate of 20 per 100,000 per year, a rate that is far below that of many, many other truly fatal diseases that have far higher mortality rates.  Take heart diseases, diabetes, some types of cancer, or even HIV infections, which are ultimately almost always fatal and produce far higher annual mortality rates.  It is not that hard to figure out that, given the nature of his employment, Dr. Weltzin engaged in a little bit of self-serving hyperbole.

Most objectionable of all the information provided in the article that contains Dr. Weltzin's statement is the incongruity between a population of 5 million anorexics of whom 250,000 die of suicide, with another 250,000 meeting their death on account of anorexia-nervosa-related organ failures and other complications while annually that population of of 5 million American anorexics produces no more than 1000 fatalities.
   Certainly, the mortality rate for anorexics is 100 percent, as it it is for all human beings, but to allege that when one in every 20 anorexics will die from anorexia nervosa and one in 20 will die from other complications in consequence of anorexia nervosa the resulting death toll out of a population of 5 million anorexics produces no more than 1000 deaths, is stretching the credibility of the readers of The Age more than just a little.

That anorexia nervosa is a chosen lifestyle is undeniable.  Consider what the article in The Age had to say about that.

At one website, an 18-year-old college freshman celebrated the return of her anorexia, after a period of recovery. "My most happy and successful memories are from when I was a successful anoretic," she wrote. "When I was in my peak anoretic phase, I dropped 60 pounds (27.22 kilograms). In three months! God, I want to be there again ... I want to be empty and clean and free again ... So, thankfully, ana has re-entered my life."....

M, a 15-year-old girl from Ohio, says she visits pro-anorexia sites when she's feeling hungry or depressed. "I sign on and see how everyone is. It helps me to see that everyone is going through the same thing. They are the only people who really understand," she says. "I don't see anorexia like the doctors do. It's just the way I live. I don't see now how I could go back to living any other way," adds M, who said she first became anorexic in 6th grade and who admitted she is hiding the condition from her parents.

pork.gif (30894 bytes)
Cartoon from townhall.com

According to a US-based study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, soy-based food products which include tofu are high in oxalates, as much as 50 times higher than the recommended [maximum] 10 mg dosage per serving.  That means that vegetarians may risk kidney stones if they consume soy-based products and should not consume them if they have a family history of kidney problems. Full story on soy-based food products.

The next page: Turning children into anorexics

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Thoughts are Free

Posted 2003 12  03
2001 08 28 (additional pages and index added)
2004 03 25 (added link to Anorexics Flap over Flappers)