Unless it isn’t. And that’s the lie we all swallow. Or don’t, as the case may be.
A few hours ago I read a heartbreaking- because it is so familiar- article by a woman who achieved what so many so desperately want to get. It isn’t what she expected.
She’s thin. Oh, what so many of my fellow Medium writers and readers would give to be able to say that. However, she didn’t sign up for what came with it. This is her piece:
Some years ago I developed anorexia/bulimia, back in 1975. For years before that I had EDs that we didn’t have fancy names for. Yet. Decades before there was a National Eating Disorder Association. Decades before there was a clinic on every corner making a profit off our collective misery.
Don’t think so? Read this:
One inpatient eating disorder program in the US charged an average daily cost of $2,295 in 2015; its partial hospitalization program charged $1,567. A residential program charged on average $30,000 per month in 2010. Consider that many patients may require three or more months of treatment.
These people do not make money unless we fail. Just like Weight Watchers and all the rest do not make a profit unless we fail. Just like the so-called “health care system” cannot make a profit unless we are chronically sick.
Don’t get me started. Just. Don’t.
Eating disorders are deadly. Don’t think so?
Please see this:
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
- A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5–10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18–20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30–40% ever fully recover
- The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15–24 years old.
- 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems
And before we assume it’s a young White woman issue:
- Rates of minorities with eating disorders are similar to those of white women
- 74% of American Indian girls reported dieting and purging with diet pills
- Essence magazine, in 1994, reported that 53.5% of their respondents, African-American females were at risk of an eating disorder
- Eating disorders are one of the most common psychological problems facing young women in Japan.
Of the 20 million of us who have or have had EDs, ten million are men. That’s just America. Last year while I was in Mongolia’s capital, I learned that capitalism has delivered EDs to their door as well.
Today there are more and more and more versions of body dysmorphia: orthorexia nervosa, bigorexia; here’s the list. There will be more. The more -exias we develop, the more money the Wellness Industrial Complex makes on our misery. I’m not making fun of it. Not at all.
Having an ED is deadly serious.
It nearly got me. I had the heart attack. I almost took my life repeatedly. Yet I am totally recovered. I’m one of the 30% who made it. I consider myself damned fortunate, but I by god did the work.
I let this condition steal four decades of my adult life. Even despite my eating disorders, it’s downright remarkable what I accomplished.
To that point, kindly, imagine, had I not had my face in the toilet, hidden behind closed doors for hours and days and weeks and months and years and decades with my food, I wonder what I might have accomplished.
This study is five years old, but it still carries the same message:
In short, those who suffer ED have higher health costs, more mental health issues, and significantly lower earnings. Frankly, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Because the octopus of self-hate, self -revulsion that causes us to abuse our bodies is sucking the very life out of us. Because the Wellness Industrial Complex benefits from our utter and complete compulsion to be something we are not, hate ourselves for it, and spend massive amounts of our time and treasure struggling to look anything other than what we are.
What what we are, how we look right here, right now, is exactly what we are supposed to be.
That was one hard-earned lesson.
I recovered. Not without massive cost, both to my economic health and my body, and to the arc of my life. Those many many things I might have written, created, done had I not had a ball and chain attached to the local Krispy Kreme shop. I can’t even imagine.
While my body dysmorphia was caused by sexual assault and rape -as it is for billions of us- that’s a whole other article, and too much to go into here. Because that’s a fundamental causal factor, how the patriarchy treats our bodies, especially women’s bodies. Again, another article. But you can see where I’m going.
What concerns me- among other things that touch my life- is how vastly widespread this problem is, how it’s growing, and how many other incredibly high-potential lives it is costing us. Yours, mine, all of us. Our children. Our future. Because we are so misled into believing that being thin, being perfect, are the only purposes in life. We believe that if we ARE thin and perfect, then life will heap gifts on us.
Nope. If anything if you are young, lovely, handsome, pretty, you garner more hate, jealousy and envy. See how stupid this is?
Laura Fox, in her hauntingly heartbreaking piece above, speaks eloquently to that terrible lie. Thin, for her, is prison. The party didn’t come to her. Being parted from some of her sanity- and boy can I speak to that personally- did.
Too many of us never come back.
I recall the first time I starved myself down to 125 lbs, a weight which, to me at 22, seemed impossible. That was in 1975. I had a boyfriend at the time who called me LALA, for Lard Ass. He wanted me to be as skinny as Cher.
I wasn’t built like that. I starved myself down anyway. After that it was a swift slide into bulimia. Then after I trashed my throat, I started chewing food up and spitting it out. I won’t go into what I went through: literally hundreds of exceedingly painful dental procedures, 32 root canals, infections, periodontal surgeries. You cannot possibly imagine. You just can’t. Good thing I don’t drink.
That was the least of what I did to myself.
I never joined a group, got counseling or went to a treatment program. First, none were available during those years. Second, this was a solo journey. I began the final journey to rid myself of this disease, which cost me all my natural teeth, when I chose to see what I had done to myself as funny.
You read that right.
That was my tunnel out. Worked for me. That doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else. Not at all. I am just addressing the industry, and how it continues to grow like out-of-control kudzu. Fellow Southerners get my meaning.
The eating disorder universe continues to expand. That simply hands doctors and so-called treatment facilities that much more agency to bleed us of money while our disorder(s) bleeds us of life. Plural, likely, because as I discovered, one lands, it grows like an out-of-control virus, multiplies and takes over, then morphs into new versions of itself.
But wait, there’s more.
The above stats show that there are plenty of folks who probably do not have $30k+ to spend on recovery. Given the fact that so many of us are unemployed, and on top of that communities of color who are indeed affected by these issues and yet are hit far harder by Covid, well. If my ED was any teacher, being in quarantine would exacerbate the symptoms.
That’s like pouring sulfuric acid into an open wound.
Especially now that those EDs are surfacing among those my age and older. For many of us they never went away. We were just really good at hiding them. Folks in nursing homes have ED too, and that starvation makes them even more prime for Covid deaths. They have no strength to fight back.
As my mother approached her nineties, she still obsessed about her weight. My father cruelly harangued her about her weight once she went from a skinny flapper to a middle-aged mom with a belly.
One night I got a desperate call from her facility. In an attempt to drop a few pounds for the new boyfriend, she was existing on saltines for weeks on end. They found my mother, a brilliant and funny woman, wandering in the snow, disoriented, having left a note in her door that read:
help me I’m dying
Because at 88, she wanted to be skinny. She was starving herself to death. Where do you think I got the messaging that the only thing to be was thin, young, pretty? We cascade this shit onto the innocent who deserve better from us. We simply hook successive generations up to the Matrix for life.
Then on the other hand we have this issue, which was very well-expressed here:
To be fat (choose your word of choice, I’m old school, and I have been obese so I fucking own it) is to offend EVERYONE.
Then we get skinny and people bark at us to eat a damned sandwich.
Then if we do get skinny we can’t do anything other than compulsively worry about a fraction of an ounce because, well, FAT.
I’ve spent too many years battling both ends of that spectrum. That ended in 2011.
Our obsession with thinness and the implicit promise (which is a lie) that everything will suddenly change is killing us off. Killing our lives, killing our confidence, killing our potential and productivity, killing our culture. A shitload of parasites is walking off with our money, our time and our common sense.
Like this woman, we spend a small fortune on fake cures like ridiculous “detox teas:”
I’m not criticizing her. Nor am I calling her out. I’ve done this too. For all those years I fought to keep my weight down, I committed every imaginable crime against my body. But here’s my point. It took me less than four seconds to get this:
We allow ourselves to be completely fooled by fools selling dangerous products when they have personal chefs, personal trainers, and plenty of plastic surgery. And yet you and I honestly buy the sales pitch, believe the bullshit, drop the dime and nothing happens. Except we stay full of angst and self-hate and now we’re poorer. And much less healthy.
To that, my other favorite celebrity moron, Gwyeth Paltrow, and Goop, skewered here perfectly by my brilliant Medium buddy Gillian Sisley:
Gillian has a way of beautifully calling bullshit on those dangerous influencers who have no fucking business telling anyone else how to live. That’s why I read her.
We have entire generations convinced that not only do they HAVE to be perfect to be acceptable, but they somehow believe that if they buy snake oil then they will look like an airbrushed lie, then if they get the surgeries and buy the stupid supplement they will be rich and popular, too.
I did all that and a whole lot more. My life was a miserable prison, determined by the next lettuce leaf, the next laxative, the next box of donuts.
You and I are born into The Matrix, otherwise known as the Western capitalist society, the Wellness Industrial Complex. Groomed and manipulated by it.
But I recovered.
I climbed out of my pod and I jerked that fucking cord out of the back of my neck.
I am asking you, and your friends, and your loved ones to wake the fuck up. Look at what this bullshit is costing you. Look at what the messaging and ads are taking from you: your life, your time, your self-confidence, your treasure.
This what you want to do to your kids?
That how you wanna live? Really? This is what it’s all about?
Nothing but eight goddamned decades struggling to be something we aren’t (White, young, rich, thin, muscled, perfect, gorgeous, handsome)?
If I may. I’m going to take a Nature walk dog-leg here to make a point. Global warming has caused a march of ticks to explode, particularly in the moose population of the American Northeast. We’ve been asleep at the wheel while our excesses have caused all manner of awfulness. To this, scientists are finding moose with up to 100,000 ticks on them, sucked to death. A calf, dead, with 47,000. Born into parasites.
Just like we are.
People ask me how on earth I “get” to live the live of an adventure traveler.
Easy. I pulled the cord out of the back of my neck and climbed out of the Matrix pod.
I live out loud. Fearlessly.
I do not give a flying fucking shit if I get wrinkles, get old, get injured. And boy, have I.
I do not give a flying fucking shit if my body expands or contracts or if I get cellulite or keep smooth thighs. Right now I’m down. Doesn’t matter. I’ll gain some back. Doesn’t matter. That doesn’t determine the quality of my life.
The Wellness Industrial Complex can go spit.
I DO give a flying fucking shit about all the readers who have struggled as I have and do not know that there is another way to be.
There is. Always was, most especially before social media. If you want to know how so much of this bullshit began, I heartily recommend this superb BBC documentary:
If you see this, and don’t want to whack yourself in the forehead for being a damned gullible fool, then you aren’t paying attention.
Not paying attention is precisely why we are where we are right now.
I’m not Cypher. I’m staying out, and living life out loud, fully, with all its hurts and heartbreaks and losses. The greying hair and age spots and sagging skin and all that shit. And while I do it I will be riding fiery horses, kayaking the ocean, climbing mountains and goddamned well living out fucking loud.
You wanna stay in your pod and be sucked dry, be my guest. However I would be deeply honored and delighted if you’d climb out and come along. There’s a whole world out there waiting for all of us when we choose not to be part of a system designed to suck us dry of our attention, our time, our treasure.
I have done my time. The world deserves my gifts. The world deserves YOUR gifts. You cannot give us your gifts if you have your face in a toilet, under surgery or are beating your insides to a pulp with detox teas.
You and I were born to suck the marrow out of life, not be emptied of our life’s blood by corporate parasites, media moguls and fake influencers. How you choose to life your life is up to you. But if you want to “get” to live a life like mine, or anything remotely like it, time to climb out of the pod.
Please. Let’s play. Let’s teach our kids how to play. Let’s rewrite this terrible narrative.
Perhaps now, for those of you who regularly read my henpecking, you can understand why I keep emphasizing fitness- not thinness, not beauty. You and I are already beautiful. We simply need to know it, grow it and show it.