Saturday, October 06, 2007

Anorexia Advertisement: Trigger Alert

The Italian fashion label "No-l-ita", which features the slogan "No to Anorexia" as a backdrop, has stirred debate by featuring a naked, anorexic model on billboards across Italy's countryside in an effort to raise awareness of anorexia during Fashion Week.

Isabelle Caro, age 27, has suffered with anorexia for 15 years and weighed just 31 kilograms (approximately 71 pounds) at the time of the photo. The actress from France told Italian Vanity Fair that she began starving herself as a child to please her mother, who disapproved of her escalating weight. Now in recovery, she wants to bring this issue to the masses.

Most people think depression has the highest death rate among mental illnesses. But in truth, anorexia has the highest mortality rate. If this graphic image can help save a life, it's worth all the controversy the media campaign is generating.

I know many will have mixed feelings about this photo. Is it too graphic? Will it set the bar "higher" for those suffering with the disorder?

I feel that it casts a necessary light on the issue beauty, body image and society. But I do hope it does more good than bad.

Click here for a personal view from blogpal, Lynn, on anorexia.


Fallen Angels said...

I think it will increase awareness, however, the picture itself will most likely find it's way to websites etc, as "thinspiration".

Big Brother said...

Why sugar coat the message... that picture is reality.If it helps curb anorexia, more power to them.

tk said...

I really hope it helps, but I agree with fallen angels--it will probably find its way to the pro ana/mia sites.

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I agree with you - its important.

Beth said...

It hurts to see this photo and listen to this girl talk on tv. But I can't imagine how much more it must hurt to be her and feel the feelings she does. This photo is helping get the message out there that ed's are a serious reality.

Jade said...

I definitely agree with you deb. It casts a much needed light on the issue of self love, acceptance, and raises question on the definition of "beauty"
"Healthy is beautiful" I hope that catches on...

Hope said...

I am glad that the fashion industry has started to address this... but they've got a long way to go, most women average weight are a size 8 to 12..... I don't think they'd allow a size 4 on the runway, or on a phot shoot.
What they consider "plus size" models amuses me.
This photo is the picture of a woman who is dying .from the inside out.

Ms.L said...

This photo helped me rethink how I speak about my body in front of my daughter AND reminded me to be watchful for signs of anorexia in my own kids. I was glad to see the image based on how it triggered more of an awareness in my life but,so sad for the woman suffering.

United We Lay said...

How do you change public perception of what is beautiful? Advertisers, large companies, TV and movie producers, etc... all need to be on the same page and stop using actresses and models who are not of a healthy height and weight.

Raine said...

the pro-ana sites will find what they are looking for anyway one way or another. At least this can make everyone else aware.

HP said...

I think it's a double-edged sword. On one hand it raises awareness, on the other how many may take this as inspiration? Maybe it would be just be better if fashion houses/ad agencies simply refused to use truly anorexic models and I stress the 'truly' because some girls are just plain thin but not anorexic

TK said...

The extreme example helps the conversation, certainly, in our minds and with our daughters. But it's the rest of the consumer world I really struggle with--the one with size 2 and 4 models who are not anorexic, but who clearly don't represent the woman my daughter will become. (We are not petite people in my genetic line--whatever weight we are.)

My daughter queries me often: will my feet be as big as yours? Will I be as tall as you? How do I resemble you? And though she doesn't say it--wouldn't say it--it's clear she does not want to resemble me. And over time, I think I have taken the easy way out and reassured her that she doesn't resemble me. Which is, well, not a little heart breaking.

It's the perennial toughie, for sure.

Casdok said...

Im all for increasing awareness, and in this day and age, this is an important message.

Lynn said...

I have an old photo of myself that looks similar to that one, though not quite as bad. It is shocking when I look at it today. One of the most important things that could have helped me sooner would have been having a safe place/person so I could understand the cause. So many people think women starve themselves because they are concerned about being 'fat'. This is not the case for many women. I knew I was not fat, I was simply repulsed by most foods because I desperately needed a way to have some control over what happened to my body and starving was the only way to get it. I needed to feel like I had a right to reject food and to control what went in my mouth. Any parents who are reading this -- please do not abuse or force-feed your little children. There is no telling what they might feel the need to do later to establish that most basic control that they were originally denied. Let the little ones control some things. Kids are people, too.

The Lone Beader said...

This issue definitely needs to be addressed.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Fallen,
I agree with a heavy heart that it will find its way there.

Dear BB,
I didn't show the entire picture. The photo shows her from head to toe and it was rather disturbing to see. You are right, it is not a sugar coated message.

Dear TK,
Yeah, I think so too.

Dear Barbara,
If it helps one, it is worth it.

Dear Beth,
I think it is courageous as well.

Dear Jade,
And I with you, my friend.

Dear Hope,
I hope her body isn't overly damaged beyond repair. The fashion industry needs to see what is "real" and what is "unreal" and to know the difference therein.

Dear MS. L,
Good for you. Keeping an eye on the "messages" is a great thing.I am a plus size woman and my daughter got the genetic wiring of my in-laws (Petite and slim). I teach her that beauty comes in different sizes and colors. I had a visceral reaction when I first saw the photo. Like a punch in the gut. Sad, indeed.

Dear United,
I agree. That is why I love movies like "Real Women Have Curves" and creative works and ad campaigns that embrace real-looking people. It's a good start, for sure.

Dear Raine,
I so agree.

Dear HP,
It is a double edged sword.

Dear TK,
I know what you mean. I think it is so important for us parents to gear messages of uniquenss and beauty to not only our girls but our boys as well. Maybe the next generation will be less distorted in their views.

Dear Casdok,
I'm all for awareness and teachable moments too, but I hope it does more good than bad.

Dear Lynn,
Eating disorders, like Anorexia, are not really about "food", you are right. It holds much more psychological meaning.

Dear Lone,
I second that emotion.



enrico said...

I never thought about setting the "anorexia bar" higher for those with the dz, but quite frankly, there are far more shocking photos to find online in various health-related sources if one has any time and interest. The truly sad thing is that you can take this shockingly thin woman and by throwing a haute-couture dress on her, suddenly she's going to be called "beautiful" by those in the industry.

What I'm afraid of is that the people that this really needs to make a difference to won't see this as being "extreme." Showing a 30kg woman on a ventilator with multiple IV tubes in the ICU with metabolic/renal/cardiac failure might be more appropriate. Nobody can be blamed for glorifying just would never make it as an ad.

United We Lay said...

Have you read The Feminine Mystique?

Guilty Secret said...

I really hope it works too. Great that the fashion industry is trying to do something.

Id it is said...

Terrific post Deb! We criticize cultures because their women wear a veil, and yet we tend to overlook what we do to our women in the developing world in the name of fashion and beauty!

Scott said...

The people who need to be aware of the disease are the anorexics. But that's a big part of the disease because they see themselves as fat even when they drop below 100 and don't understand why anybody who sees their knees bulging out bigger than their legs is horrified.

OHN said...

Until the fashion world stops considering a size 14 has a plus size, there won't be any progress I am afraid. Be honest, most of us are not Heidi Klum yet we are brow-beaten into thinking that we must look like the minority of gorgeous magazine ladies.

jumpinginpuddles said...

ok am i the only one who saw this pic and nearly puked?

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

This malady is the result of modern man's obsession of the beautiful body as they define a skinny person. Taken to the extremes, it result in mental imbalance and the obsessive fear of getting "fat." Kudos for the very informative and enlightening post. Smile. God bless and have a nice and peaceful day.

kath said...

Humanity has lost its collective mind.

First of all, we are knee jerk reactionaries. If someone falls off of a ladder we get crazy and add warnings and talk about it on the news.

There will never be one hundred percent agreement with everything Who says that there has to be?

If you don't like it look away! Change the channel, don't cry out for firings..

Work on diplomacy , do not start wars with everyone who worships differently ..
disgusted is me ..

Godwhacker said...

Shocking? Yes. But sometimes we need to be shocked. Sometimes it is the only way to jar people out of apathy and indifference. A tear starts to well in my eye every time I hear Karen Carpenter. Might she be alive to day if more people were shocked.

Well done Deb.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Enrico,
Showing your idea of a photo would probably make more of an impact. For sure.

Dear United,
Of course. SHould be mandatory reading.

Dear Guilty,
REally, this is a advertisement to bring awareness to the eating disorder, but so much about the eating disorder gets blurred. It is not about being skinning or thin for anorexics, but about control, love, needs and a host of other psychological issues. Alas, it is a good start.

Dear Id,
Indeed, we need to come to understand so much more in life.

Dear Scott,
The body distortion a person with an eating disorder sees is really know what is underlying the disorder in the first place. It's not about being thin or not fat, it holds such deeper meanings that warrant psychological treatment. I am sure you will come across this in your studies and work.

Dear OHN,
YEs, I agree. The fashion industry does its own damage to self esteem and women. And even men!

Dear JIP,
I saw the full length photo and was distressed, so no you are not alone. I decided to crop the photo as I thought it might be too upsetting and graphic and perhaps a trigger setter for some.

Dear MEl,
Two issues are really going on here. One is that we need to help to define a broader sense of beauty. The second is to address the psychological issues that undermine eating disorders. It is really not about food or eating or being thin, it is about psychological needs that are not being met.

Dear Kathy,
I think your statement "Humanity has lost its collective mind" is absolutely true and I am going to borrow it!

Dear GW,
Shock can do alot, it's true. I miss Karen Carpenter and her mellifluous voice too.


Donna said...

Been there, done that. It's not fun at all.

I have mixed feelings about the ad campaign, too. While it's a shocking picture for many people, it gives people with ED something to aim be at least as thin as the woman in the ad, if not thinner.

Lynn said...

Hi, Dr. Deb. I got your comment and question at my place. Sure, you can link.

CrackerLilo said...

Pretty much everything can be twisted and made hurtful, though. I think it's good that they're doing this, maybe to show girls on the brink that they need to rethink their attitudes.

Heidi said...

It's very graphic..And what's needed.

Ps..Thanx for the TGD wishes. :) Hugs~

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,

I've been reading your blog for awhile and find many of your posts very interesting. I was actually wondering if you were going to write a post on this as it sparked such controversy along with the recent imac ad ("You can never be too thin or too powerful") from apple. That's another story though.

I have mixed opinions on this. Although I applaud the fashion industry for doing something bold and saying "no to anorexia," at the same time, I am disappointed in that we need a "shock" value of an emaciated individual. Yes, shock value can work. However, at the same time, it perpetuates a myth that you have to look emaciated in order to have anorexia. There are many people with eating disorders who either feel like they do not have a problem or invalidated by professionals, because they do not look "eating disordered." We already have enough problem with people getting treatment because they do not fit weight requirements, according to insurance companies. So even though we all know eating disorders are not about vanity, unfortunately, the appearance on the outside seems to grab attention more than what's on the inside.

Tai said...

Wow. Glad there's controversy. This absolutely needs to be to get this OUT there.

alan said...

Add me to the list of those who can't hear Karen Carpenter without crying...

So many lost; may this save some of them!


Candace said...

One thing about this disease that I don't understand is how the sufferer doesn't see her body as it really is. Do they actually not see the emaciation, and see "fat" instead? Is that like an hallucination or something? Or, do they see the skeletal outline as it really is, but still believe, somehow, that there's too much fat on the bones?

I think the ad is a good thing IF it is something that anorexics see in the same way healthy people see it.

Ian Lidster said...

Personally, I think graphic works. Honesty about such things pounds the message. Of course, as you and I know, those who want to deny will continue to deny, but those on the fringes of a behavior will often take stock after being presented with a shocking image.

Garth Mintun said...

I believe the picture will help educate people on anorexia. As a psycotherapist, I often see people aspire to be different and to overcome huge social pressures to be who they are. Narrative therapy offers an interesting approach to the concept of anorexia by externalizing the problem to where it belongs-a story by a sub-culture of society that marginalizes people. David Epston a co-founder of narrative therapy has a web site with an on-line group of people with help each other with the externalized problem of anorexia. Epstons web site is
Thank you Dr. Deb for an informative web site with good discussion on issues.

Sornie said...

I think images like this are great. Shock seems to be the only thing that makes people take notice especially with too many people worshipping non-celebrities like Paris Hilton and wanna-be celebs like Lohan and SPears.

Rising Rainbow said...

I think those people who are fighting anorexia will not see the horror in the picture, after all they can look in their own mirrors and see fat. But with the label and what it looks like together may be useful in educating people so that maybe those coming in contact with anorexics will recognize the disorder and be motivated to help or get help.

MYSTI said...

I think it is a topic needed brought to light. Thank you for sharing.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Donna,
I hear ya.

Dear Lynn,
Linked you!

Dear Crackerlilo,
There's always the worry that good things can be twisted or misused, right?

Dear Heidi,
Graphic indeed. Hope you had a good holiday.

Dear Anon,
Thanks for your comment. I concur with what you've said.

Dear Tai,
I hope the campaign can help bring greater vision to all.

Dear Alan,
I remember listening "The Carpenters" on my dad's hifi stereo and holding the album covers in my hands. Such a vivid memory. What a voice she had.

Dear Candace,
The distorion is so intense that they cannot see the realness of their own body. Denial is a powerful defense mechanism.

Dear Ian,
I remember years ago there was an ad campaign from your neck of the woods where a graphic AIDS commerical made waves. When I saw it, I though, wow this is graphic and a very good message.

Dear Sornie,
Shock can turn heads, that's for sure.

Dear RR,
Education is key, I agree :)

Dear Mysti,
A tough topic, but one that needs to be out there. Anorexia kills more than depression.


Dr Vegas said...

Definitely more good than bad

Dr. Deb said...

Hey Dr. Vegas,
I agree.

PS: Nice to see you hear. I'm gonna pop over to visit you now.


SeaSpray said...

Sad, frightening and disturbing!

Thank God there is more public awareness.

Daily Dose said...

It is good in a way with the fact that they are truly showing what an anorexic look like. On the other hand, people's minds are funny...when they see it, they just might WANT to look that way and instead of discouraging them, they are encouraging them.

Cheesemeister said...

I think she's got a lot of guts for allowing herself to be seen this way. She is a beautiful person whatever her body currently looks like and I hope she gets well and is able to learn to control this problem.

Chuck McKay said...

Will other women who suffer from anorexia find her attractive? Will she become a new role model?

I certainly hope not.

Jenn said...

While I think it's horrible the way the media rejects anyone who isn't skinny, I've been put off to the phrase, 'real women have curves'.
I'm naturally underweight.
Am I not a woman? Or am I not 'real'? And often, people who say 'real women have curves' and similar things will put me down for my size, sometimes at the same time, sometimes not, sometimes directly, sometimes it's just implied.
I've been told flat-out that I have no right to complain about anyone judging me because of my weight, because 'the media glorifies my size'.
I am not a stick. I do have curves, but 'curves' has come to mean something else.