Last semester I read this book named Brave Girl Eating, a book that chronicled a middle to high school-aged girl fighting anorexia from her mother’s perspective. Parts of the book just made me squirm they were so uncomfortable. Descriptions of how emaciated the girl had become. The personification of the ‘demon’ inside her telling her she was fat for eating carrots. The constant pleading the parents had to do to make their daughter eat. The imagery was graphic in the same way horror movies are graphic, just... the story was real. It was painful to read.
Powerful stuff, but all the same, once I finished the book I forgot about it. Wasn’t exactly relevant to me at the time. But once winter break came, I decided to be healthier as a New Year’s Resolution. Started pinning ‘healthy recipes’ on Pinterest. Started tracking ‘fitness’ as a tag on Tumblr. And that’s when freaky crap started showing up on my Dash. ‘Pro-mia’ posts. ‘Pro-ana’ pictures. For those who that means nothing, there’s a community devoted to helping women lose weight in some of the most unsafe ways possible - through anorexia nervosa and bulimia. These blogs were ones that gave tips on how to ignore your hunger.
There’s a lot of confusion in the weight loss community, really: everyone wants results, but the methods for achieving it are pretty varied, ranging from developing a healthy lifestyle to not eating if you can help it. I was on one end of the spectrum, but with the good comes the bad, and suddenly I was seeing some really, really terrifying bad.
I had a lot of ideas kicking around my head for this poster. The problem was that there is a lot to say on the subject of eating disorders; 10 million females, 1 million males in the United States alone are battling the disease, for example. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Only 6% of people with bulimia receive mental care. “The incidence of bulimia in 10-39 year old women TRIPLED between 1988 and 1993,” says The National Eating Disorders Association. “42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.” What seven year-old worries about that, or should be worrying bout that? But I digress.
I couldn’t say everything that was on my mind, of course. It’d make for a poster that no one would understand. So, I decided to try and illustrate how ugly the ‘Beauty Secret’ of bulemia could be. It’s not meant to shame anyone in any way; it’s merely meant to discourage anyone from thinking that an ED is in any way glamorous. They’re not, not at all. And n the case of bulimia, can be rather unsanitary.
Believe me. I’ve stuck my head in enough toilets to make this poster at this point to know.
This project was really hard to work on, mentally. I spent a lot of time with my head in dirty toilets trying to get the right shot. It was pretty miserable, and I really, honest-to-God hated getting the images needed for the poster to be done. It was also scary, looking at pictures of myself. That’s what I’d look like if that was real. Not glamorous, definitely not. Just Helen, sick. Maybe an alternate-universe-Helen, sick in more ways than one. Helen-who-didn’t-decide-she-would-make-peace-with-herself.
And that’s a scary thought.
My statistics are from the National Eating Disorders Association. The book that started all this was Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown.
tl;dr: This poster isn't meant to shame, but rather to discourage anyone from thinking that an eating disorder is glamorous.