Miss America, Anorexia, Fear: Hiding in Plain Sight?

Support for Carrie's Post Regarding Control Carrie, on ED-Bites wrote an indignant response to what I consider a rather cavalier column about eating disorders in the New York Daily News. Carrie said her own anorexia was based not on controlling weight or the external world but on controlling fear. I agree. Controlling everything a person possibly can control in an attempt to control what is uncontrollable I feel is at the root of most eating disorders. When that point is acknowledged the discussion goes away from food, fashion, weight, appearance, and even beauty and sexuality.

How Fear Relates to Control Issues
The discussion then becomes centered around the questions, Why are growing numbers of women at increasingly younger ages afraid? What are they afraid of? Why do they feel that their fears are justified and that they have no way of protecting themselves except through eating disorders?  Addressing those questions takes courage and honesty. In my experience as a psychotherapist, the attempt at reaching answers to these questions is the beginning of genuine eating disorder recovery. Fitting into what our culture defines as beautiful, even if that definition encompasses an unhealthy and dangerous physical condition, may well be protection women seek from their fears.

Moore and Manville Get It Wrong
The authors of the Daily News column, Dr. David Moore and Bill Manville, end their discussion on a victorious note. They describe proof of Kirsten Haglund’s victory over anorexia in terms of her becoming Miss America. Good grief. The woman found a great hiding place. She is the epitome of what our culture describes as beautiful.

Challenges for Miss America in Early Recovery
I commend Miss Haglund for her industry, her hard work, her outspokenness in terms of eating disorder recovery. I wish her every success possible in living a long and healthy life. I hope she and supportive loving people around her acknowledge that she is 19 years old, only four years away from her past experience of severe anorexia and that achieving a high cultural standard of beauty and acceptance – an anorexic’s dream – does not represent recovery. I hope she is alert to her inner challenges and is prepared to cherish and honor her healthy emotional and psychological developmental needs as her term of Miss America fades and she continues. Thank you, Carrie, for bringing up this issue and for letting your honest sense of indignation come through to all of us. Joanna Poppink, MFT, psychotherapist eating disorder specialist, Los Angeles, CA bulimia, anorexia, compulsive overeating recovery,

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