Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'Anna Rexia': The Minimization of Eating Disorders

Recently my attention has been drawn to eating disorders and the entertainment value that has been placed on them. Specifically, I found the below Halloween costume:

The costume is not only sexualizing an eating disorder, but even more, the name of the costume is "Anna Rexia". Wow!

And recently I found out about an ad that Yoplait yogurt pulled after receiving criticism based on its promotion of eating disorders.

Minimizing such a serious issue is troublesome for me. The constant notion that women should be concerned about their bodies has led many to take extreme measures in order to meet societal norms of thinness. In both of these cases, eating disorders are made unimportant and insignificant. Particularly, with the costume, the matter becomes laughable--which it clearly is not.  And, let's not forget, that as with many halloween costumes for women, the sex appeal remains. So, not only are we minimizing a serious health condition, but we're making it sexy and funny.  What in the world?

I did a quick google search of pro-ana (anorexia) and pro-mia (bulimia) websites. A plethora of things were brought up including the term "thinspiration".  Essentially, these sites reject the idea of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia as eating disorders. And thinspiration signifies a term referring to role models individuals, typically with eating disorders, use to inspire themselves to lose weight.

Eating disorders are not something, in my opinion, to be sexualized or humorized.  If you, or someone you know, is struggling with body image or an eating disorder, there are websites and organizations that you can check out.

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)
Eating Disorder Center of Denver (EDC-D)
Eating Disorder Organization List


  1. It can also be helpful for those who are struggling with disordered eating behavior or full blown eating disorders to have friends who support them. I had two great friends who literally walked me (arm in arm) to a place to get treatment when they noticed I was headed in a scary direction.

    I also made a lot of comments about the yoplait add, as I think it capitalizes on the exact thought process that is indicative of disordered eating, if not full blown disorders. I was SHOCKED at how many people criticized my concern, stating that "everyone knows eating disorders exist" and "this commercial isn't promoting them, that's just the funny way women think about food." Therein lies the problem...a LOT of women think that way. And it's an unhealthy thought pattern. There is nothing healthy about stressing about whether or not you "deserve" to eat food 3x's a day.

    Devon- you might want to look up the Today Show episode (and some corresponding articles) about mamarexia, a new trend among (predominantly white, upperclass) women who are trying not to gain any weight during pregnancy...going to the extremes of starving or purging.

  2. Thanks, Katie! I'll certainly check out mamarexia. Keep your eyes out for a post about it :)

  3. The medicalization of "disorders" can have the potential to undermine the trend amongst women as a social group. I agree that these pieces of our culture are detrimental to those suffering from eating disorders. But the greater threat is the harm they do to all. Internalization of an appropriate feminine body type exists - which affects all women, not just those labeled with a disorder, as well as men who have also internalized those standards.

  4. Jenny, I think you are exactly correct. I also think that is the detriment of the yoplait commercial. To me, the woman choosing what to eat seems to be healthy. It seems the thoughts of "I must run" etc. are those created by society as a means of meeting gender expectations of beauty and specifically weight. The costume I spent particular attention on because I find it absolutely horrendous. Again, I think you are right about the message it sends to everyone, but I find the minimization it signifies as extremely detrimental specifically to those with eating disorders.