Truth or Dare

Commenter Anne dared me to post about this story so I couldn’t resist. Although I am not sure why this required such a dare, because this story is old news


NEWS FLASH: Stop blaming models, stars, media – blame your genes.

Here’s a brief on what The Times Online article has to say:

Anorexia may be caused by inherited differences in the way a sufferer’s brain operates, leading to obsessive behaviour, according to research. Rather than being triggered by images of super-thin models and celebrities, the eating disorder could be brought on by the in-built way in which the brain responds to pleasure and reward. It has been argued that images of unhealthily thin stars in the media have encouraged anorexic behaviour in impressionable young women. But a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that the brains of anorexia sufferers behave differently to those of the rest of the population and that certain people are born with a susceptibility to develop the condition.

Snore….huh? I’m up here’s a brief on my perspective;

Genes can play a role in anorexia, agreed. I wholeheartedly support any and all efforts to provide these anorexia sufferers with treatment for their disease. This blog is not aimed at that audience. I write to a whole other segment of the population. The young girls and women that tune into “Nip and Tuck” and can’t wait for ANTM (if you don’t know what that stands for, good, you are on the right track).

One can not ignore the overwhelming evidence of cultural and societal influence, a few of the best reports on the other side of this story can be read here;

Dove Global Study: print this thing out and read it. It’s sad as hell. For the record, I am beautiful and not afraid to admit it or say it or be it or think it (psst…Dove is owned by Evil Unilever. My vote? Who cares).

More common than Alzheimer’s:yet insurance stinks. 5-10 Million affected by eating disorders in the US alone. Research funding totals a whopping $1.20 per sufferer (we all need another Gucci bag after all).

You’ve got to live in the US of A to get it, but we are a country obsessed. Forget Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, we Binge, Purge & Lipo 24/7 in this country. There is no way in hell we are going to spend money to actually figure out why we are all eating disordered – it’s a lifestyle babe.

Been there, done that: Fashion Designers control the sizes. The chic sizes are currently 0, and 00. I am waiting for the negative sizes to make their debut (ie. -3, now that would be rad).


1980’s SuperModels


1990 SuperModel…better known now as “lard ass.”


2000 SuperModel…way the hell too fat for runway now.


2006 SuperModel…rexy figure maintained by coke on the rocks.


2006-2007 SuperModels….dead.

Yep, all in the genes.


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30 Responses to Truth or Dare

  1. Josie says:

    Well, to sum up this simply:

    As a result of our beauty/weight-obsessed and obesity-phobic society:
    “On any given day, almost half of the women in the United States are on a diet.” according to statistics. However anorexia effects less than 1% of women.

    So our society isn’t wholly to blame (otherwise we’d all be anorexic) and genetics aren’t completely to blame, because otherwise it wouldn’t be more common in women or in young people.

    Conclusion: Dieting (or other forms of restricted eating) triggers anorexia in those genetically/biologically predisposed to anorexia, and our society discourages anorexics from recovery.

    Our culture is getting more pro-thin for financial and political reasons (keep us women buying makeup and diet pills and whatever, and lets people put us down on appearance alone), and for shock-factor – people must continue to look thinner and more ‘perfect’ to grab our attention in our culture saturated with images.

  2. anne says:

    I think likely eating disorders run along a spectrum as do so many illnesses. That does not mean they are any less serious for doing. I am very confused by your definition of ED’s which seem abritrary to me. Anyone that has difficulty with eating for a length of period that effects his or her mental and physical health as a disorder that is out of control and likely ‘not a choice’–a real illness. Each person with an ED deserves help and full nutrition back to health.

  3. kim says:

    im not sure if i fit your audience after reading this. i have never watched nip and tuck and have never seen ANTM but hear about it more then i wish to here. i dont believe i have inherited the “anorexic gene” either. i do believe crappy things happened in my life and at that time i did not have skills to handle the situation appropriately and chose to cope (however ineffectively) by not eating and became obsessed by this behavior and the desire to disappear.

  4. kim says:

    sorry me again. while i was in treatment they did not give us access to tv or magazines to attempt to free us (at least while attempting to get well) from the pitfalls as they serve no positive purpose or assist in boosting moral or self esteem. that said, im surprised that a site that wants to help us shows so much of it. just my thought, not a judgement just an observation.

  5. Sass1948 says:

    Great post MamaV

  6. Josie says:

    Kim – very right.
    I’ve never watched the UK equivalents of those shows or anything like it. Don’t follow fashion, don’t search for thinspo, don’t take diet pills. The only times i tend to come across about such things are on here. The only thing which links me into mamaV is her obsession with eating disorders and pro-ana sites, and my anger at her portrayal of them both.
    It’s interesting that MamaVs blog is saturated with this media stuff, but then she tags them all with eating disorder labels, despite there not being a distinct link.

  7. anne says:

    To me, what this research says is that this is an illness, it is no one’s ‘fault’, once set in motion by certain environmental triggers in the genetically susceptible person, it takes on a life of it’s own and is very difficult to control without help. Thin models are NOT the cause. They may not be a help to the already ill person, but neither are they the reason a person becomes ill. The answer, the cure, is full nutrition and caring by those closest to the sufferer–usually (but not always) their family.

  8. sim'One says:

    i wasn’t surprised in the least about the results of the Dove survey. But i thought it was an interesting experiment.
    i thought that the surveys were accurate about the reality of physical appearance; who is considered attractive and who isn’t. i think that people know when others find them attractive and their ego is based on reflections of themselves that they get from other people’s reactions. therefore, if people tell you that you’re ugly your whole life, it is expected that you’re carrying around that idea of yourself. or if you’re receiving mixed evaluations from people, e.g. your brothers might tell you that you’re a booger head and others might tell you that you’re a beauty queen, it would not be a wonder that you might be a tad bit unsure of your attractiveness.
    and about referring to oneself as “beautiful”:
    people, especially women are taught that boasting about how great we are is bad manners, and that is why we aren’t so comfortable referring to ourselves as “beautiful” at any given time. at least, that’s how i feel about it.

    i think the best thing to do is try to get people, namely our children, involved in activities of interest that are independent of these obsessions with physical appearance. because it’s really not that important whether or not we are comfortable calling ourselves beautiful on the phone with some stranger as the importance of enjoying reading X and sharing it with Y or enjoying a game of Charades with random people in the train.

  9. sim'One says:

    and as a matter of opinion..

    i think that the contemporary models do make the clothing look good, but i think that they are less attractive than the 80s models. the 80s models may look funny in the clothing they’re modeling, but they look better naked!

    why do people want to look like models anyway? ever think about that? why? all they do is try stuff on & get their photos taken. sounds like a boring gig to me.
    let’s evolve.

  10. withlovebyli says:

    I just found out my 13 year old cousin who lives in Nicaragua has anorexia. This is a developing country in which half the population lives in poverty. Her family does not have electricity or running water, nor do they own a telephone, a television or a computer.

    If societal & media influence were not contributing factors in her situation, is the eating disorder then genetic?

    I’m still uncertain whether EDs are genetic—for the record she is my half-cousin (my mother’s half-sister’s daughter)—and I’m more inclined to believe EDs overall are a result of conflicting family dynamics, the inability to handle stress/pressure in a non-self-destructive manner and poor self-image coupled with a history of people being unpleasant/mean to an individual.

  11. anne says:

    You know, we could argue endlessly about cause here–genetics? society? media? poor self esteem? family or peer pressures? some of all of the above?

    It DOES matter because what you believe about what causes ED’s will guide how you respond to those having them–critically and with blame, or as an illness that deserves full support and immediate treatment. Philosophy of cause GUIDES the way you medical treatment–that’s why it’s so important. And, if you believe only that it’s a lifestyle choice and a ‘weakness’, then you are essentially condemning those with an illness to no help at all–telling them to just “get over it and do it themselves”.

    Of as much importance, is the need for the end to silence and shame, the need for treatments that are routinely covered by insurance for a long enough time frame to allow for recover and for the support/education of families to assist (whenever possible–which I predict is more often than families are given credit for).

    As to your Nicaraguan cousin, without knowing her family situation, you can’t really know the personal triggers for her fall into anorexia. The most COMMON reason is starting on a diet. Maybe her family life is good; maybe not. My point is that no matter what is going on for her, anorexia won’t occur without having the predisposition for it. Think of diabetes. One might have the genetic tendency for it in place, but it won’t occur without a certain lifestyle/diet. A person without the genetic tendency could live a very similar lifestyle/diet and never develop the illness.

  12. withlovebyli says:

    Each individual has unique circumstances. And I DO know what my cousin’s family situation is like so I have a good idea of why she may have resorted to an ED.

    Uh…a diet? My cousin going on a diet?! That’s not possible. I’m assuming you don’t know that half the population in Nicaragua is poor and starving. She’s been on a “diet” her whole life—there’s just not enough food! Many people underestimate thee damaging impact utter poverty can have on a person’s emotional & physical health, and overall happiness.

    A person without the genetic tendency could live a very similar lifestyle/diet and never develop the illness.

    That’s a good point. *nods* It’s kind of like depression or migraines, right? If you’re genetically predisposed to have it, you’ll get it. Man, I don’t know about you, but that depresses me. It’s almost as if you have no control over your health in the future. If you’re fated to have an ED then that’s it, nothing you can do about it.

    Philosophy of cause GUIDES the way you medical treatment–that’s why it’s so important.


    What saddens me is that she’ll never get medical treatment for this. There aren’t any ED treatment programs in the country and she couldn’t possibly afford private treatment. There’s a good probability that she’ll live with anorexia for the rest of her life or die from it.

    Unless I write her & send her a book on treatment. It’s the only thing I can think of doing that might help.

  13. Vanessa says:

    anne said: “Anyone that has difficulty with eating for a length of period that effects his or her mental and physical health as a disorder that is out of control and likely ‘not a choice’–a real illness. Each person with an ED deserves help and full nutrition back to health.”

    just wanted to second that. i hate the way mamaVISION makes these fake distinctions between “real” anorexia and everyone else who is just a victim of the fasion world and/or a selfish person able to change themselves easily.

  14. anne says:

    This is to withlovebyli: I wasn’t trying to imply that, in the specific case of your cousin, she must have chosen to diet. I am simply saying that, for a large number of people who do end up with eating disorders, it is a very common first step and ‘trigger’. In that sense, I would agree that there is an element of initial choice (i.e., a diet), but it very quickly becomes a nonchoice.

    You know, genetics is not destiny. I think knowing your own family ‘medical’ history is very important. Knowing the signs and symptoms of early illness is important. Trying to practice good preventative medicine is important. And getting good, effective help quickly when needed is essential and should be everyone’s right.

  15. anne says:

    Maybe you should write to your cousin and her family. Do they have internet access? Do they speak English? There are some very good online support sites. I can give you links.

  16. Amber/vanity900 says:

    Agreed ^^. lol short i know.

  17. Josie says:

    Anne – you have a great handle on the issues surrounding EDs.
    It makes sense that withlovebyli’s cousin has anorexia in some ways, because being forced into caloric restriction will have the same effect upon the mind and body as a diet would, so with the biological predisposition she’d develop it. It’s likely that anorexia takes different forms depending upon what the trigger was, and maybe anorexia isn’t recognised as often if it’s triggered by food shortages because it’s so different.
    I really hope she gets the help she needs.

  18. anne says:

    I think you could very well be right, Josie.

    The Minnesota Starvation study showed unequivocally exactly what you are talking about. It took place back in the 1940’s. It used mentally and physically healthy young men, had them lose 25% of their body weight (I think it was around this much) and observed the results, both mental and physical. Its a fascinating study. It has a lot of bearing on ED’s today.

  19. anne says:

    Interesting aside on Dove–seems they want it ‘both ways’ which makes me just plain suspicious that $ is the bottom line:

    Dr. Colleen Connolly-Ahern is an assistant professor at The Pennsylvania State University in the advertising/ public relations department of the College of Communications. She received her Ph.D. and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida. Her classroom experience includes teaching courses in advertising campaigns, advertising sales, international advertising and public relations. Before returning to the academic world, her professional background included experience as president of her own marketing communications firm, promotion manager for USA Today and managing editor for Marine Log Magazine. Through an e-mail interview, Dr. Connolly-Ahern provided her insight regarding the Campaign For Real Beauty.
    “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has been a winner for Unilever,” Dr. Connolly-Ahern began. She went on to explain how credit should be given to Unilever for their success, “You have to give the company a lot of credit for being able to sell beauty products with the idea that a woman is already perfect the way she is, without seeming false doing it. Their messaging has been on target for their audience. They’ve tried to create some PR tie-ins with girls and body image. I applaud the effort.”

    Dr. Connolly-Ahern has been exposed to CFRB through the classroom, as her many of her students have chosen to do focus groups regarding CFRB as part of their research for class projects. Students have found that “women seem to love the campaign.”

    While Dr. Connolly-Ahern applauds the effort, for her personally, the campaign “rings pretty hollow.” She cites the fact that Unilever, the company that owns Dove, is also the maker of Axe body spray, whose campaign focuses on beautiful, scantily-clad women flocking to men who wear Axe. “If the company really cared about female body image issues, they wouldn’t try to sell smelly aftershave by objectifying — and sometimes vilifying — women.”

    She finished by saying, “Bottom line — for the average consumer, I think Unilever has done a good job aligning its brand with the cause of celebrating everyday womanhood. But as an active consumer of corporate messaging, I think the corporation shows no real commitment to the issue of enhancing women’s self-perceptions.”

  20. withlovebyli says:

    You know, I recovered from my ED. In your opinion, would you say my cousin has a good chance of recovering too? Then again, I went into treatment here in Canada. Just yesterday, I e-mailed a doctor in Nicaragua and he confirmed my suspicion that there aren’t any ED programs in the country, though he did know some psychiatrists who have experience with eating disordered patients. That, unfortunately, doesn’t matter, because my cousin could never afford private treatment. But she has me and perhaps she can learn from what I went through.

    Oh, yes, don’t worry, I am writing to her. Thank you for offering links but she does not have internet access (or phone access for that matter) and she does not speak English. Luckily, I speak Spanish (finally putting my 3 years of uni as a Spanish major to good use!) and I just bought an ED treatment book in Spanish from Amazon. :) I just hope I’m not too late and something horrible happens before the package can be sent. Forty pounds lost in 2 months—that sounds dangerous, especially for a growing girl.

    She cites the fact that Unilever, the company that owns Dove, is also the maker of Axe body spray, whose campaign focuses on beautiful, scantily-clad women flocking to men who wear Axe.

    Mixed messages from Unilever. I’m not surprised.

    You bring up an interesting theory. However, wouldn’t there then be more cases of anorexia in Nicaragua with half the country starving? And in fact in many other developing countries too whose population suffers from hunger? Hmmm…

  21. Vanessa says:

    in regards to countries where food is scarce:

    this may be completely off the mark, but i’ve often wondered if something somewhat like anorexia manifests itself as generosity. like, one sibling going without food so younger siblings can have more, or a mom going without food for her children. it wouldn’t ever necessarily be detected as an eating disorder but it might come from the same genetic basis driving a person to deprive themselves of nutrition. it might even have had an adaptive function in times of famine, especially in the case of a parent starving while allowing their child to survive.

    not directly helpful to you and your cousin but i’ve often wondered about that and i wondered what you and other people here think of that theory.

  22. echo says:

    I’ve been trying to think a lot lately about exactly what has gone into creating my eating disorder. Because knowing that might help me be more successful in recovery. If it’s not a specifically anorexic gene, my mother’s eating disorder definitely passed on to me. But all the time, they just talk about how an anorexic’s brain is different, so I wonder if that is still supposed to go for all eating disorders or if it really is specific to the particular eating disorder. (Sorry, it’s 4 AM so I’m probably a little hazy). At the very least, my restrictive eating probably came partly as an environmental response to my mother’s overeating and binge eating.

  23. Josie says:

    withlovebyli – EDs in such countries may just be taking a different form, as Vanessa suggests. They may also be less common for biological reasons, like maybe caucasians are more prone to EDs. Anorexia would kill faster in a poorer country too.
    It may not neccessarily be actual calorie restriction that induces the anorexia, but something nutritional that the person doesn’t get enough of, making dieting more likely to induce an ED than starvation.
    Lastly, in the Western world the associations we have like fat=bad are stronger, and prolong EDs.
    There’s lots of explanations.

    Anne – very good point about Dove.

  24. anne says:

    Withlovebyli: I am sure there must be quite a bit on ED’s translated into Spanish by now. Again, approaches to treatment vary depending on how one views cause. I have a particular bias for the Maudsley approach. All approaches rely on having a treatment team in place as far as I know (doctor, nutritionist,etc). People have recovered using a variety of approaches so there is no one right path only. I happen to think Maudsley makes a lot of sense and it has the most research to back it up especially for younger people. I don’t know if there is anything on it translated into Spanish, but it should be easy enough to find out. You could call or write the University of Chicago (Dr. LeGrange) or email and ask them. If you don’t get an answer, let me know and I’ll see if I can find out anything for you (if this is a route you want to follow). I am sure other mainstream ED sites must have translations into Spanish. Maudsley really helps support families through the whole process. It does take a supportive family (or committed relatives/friends) to do it however.

  25. anne says:

    The only other thought I have is that, while your thoughts about your cousin are likely right, there are other medical conditions that can cause weight loss and should be ruled out. As I’m sure you know, ED’s aren’t just about weight loss, but a whole set of behaviors and attitudes around food. Is there a doctor there that could see her and determine for sure medically the cause of her loss?

  26. anne says:

    To answer your question, which I never did, some people do manage to recover on their own. I’d never give up hope. Your support and your own experience could mean a lot to her if you are fully recovered. It could be hard for you to do if you are not. My sister supported my daughter through her recovery and it was very helpful because my sister had once been anorexic. Recovery is more likely with support, the sooner the better. You are so far away the most you can do is help provide information and letters/phone calls. That is NOT unimportant however. They really need help closer at hand if at all possible. Maybe some of the psychiatrists that have worked with ED patients in country are the place to start. And maybe they could be helped to help her if given updated information on the latest research. Just my thoughts.

  27. withlovebyli says:


    what has gone into creating my eating disorder. Because knowing that might help me be more successful in recovery.

    *nods* Good thinking! It wasn’t until I learned the causes that I could finally understand why I did what I did, forgive myself and others who triggered to this behaviour and move forward.


    i wondered what you and other people here think of that theory.

    I don’t believe the example of a mother passing food to her children would be a form of anorexia but rather unintentional restriction leading to malnutrition because the mother has chosen to risk dying herself instead of watching her children die. And it’s not because she wants to die but because the alternative is worse. While anorexia to me seems to be a kind of purposeful punishment to deprive yourself of food even when the food is available.


    something nutritional that the person doesn’t get enough of, making dieting more likely to induce an ED than starvation.

    *nods* Makes sense.

    Let me give you some background info. My cousin (her name is Iris) joined dance classes a few months ago and suddenly decided to stop eating because she felt fat around the other girls. Sure sounds like anorexia, no?

    It’s okay, anything in English, I can easily translate into Spanish. The Maudsley approach sounds very good but like it says on the website, parental support is vital as well as medical monitoring and therapy. I don’t have any power over my aunt and uncle, and psychiatric and medical help is not available to them—they are too poor. I’ll do what I can in writing.

    Thank you for comments, everyone! I really appreciate them. :)

    p.s. Sorry MamaV if this gotten really off-topic.

  28. x says:

    “Let me give you some background info. My cousin (her name is Iris) joined dance classes a few months ago and suddenly decided to stop eating because she felt fat around the other girls. Sure sounds like anorexia, no?”

    And…anorexia is NOT a social disease, how?
    Seriously, people.

  29. x says:

    Oh, and to add to your timeline of models, mama, if you’re on livejournal and want to see “V magazine’s top 10 models for Spring 2008” check it out here:
    you have to sign up for the community. I saw it and thought of this post. They’re just getting smaller and smaller. And younger and more miserable looking.

  30. Erika says:

    I think it is sickening, all of this, the thinness, the dieing, it is horror. More frightening than any horror movie. I beleive what disgusts me the most is the fact that we ARE getting into negative sizes. I went into a store at my mall a few weeks ago and asked the clerk what size one of the manikins was because the clothes looked ridiculously small, and so did it. She said “negative two” in the most cavalier sense I wanted to die. I walked out immediately and never went back in.

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