April 1, 2006

"Some students would subsist on little more than lettuce flavored with calorie-free spray butter flavoring."

Ah, the extreme austerity that is needed in preparation for the hedonism of Spring Break!


Dave said...

The article sounds like a breathless, Michelle Malkin piece of reporting.

I'm sure anorexia and bulimia are problems, and I'm sure the rise of the internet has created new communication avenues for sufferers of such diseases but I sincerely doubt that the rise of the internet has seen a concomitant increase in the rate of such diseases.

Take any group, which suffers from a common malady, say, migraines, and, with the advent of the internet, a discussion group for sufferers will pop up. Does it follow that migraines are more prevalent now than they were before the internet was available?


A modicum of common sense should be applied here: yes, anorexia, bulimia, and heroin-chic models are a problem, but the interrnet does not increase their prevalence.

Marghlar said...

Dave: what you are overlooking is the fact that the internet offers these kids a way to support each other in this behavior. The "pro-ana" sites basically act as a guide to killing yourself. It's like an electronic suicide pact.

I know for a fact that these sites played a significant role in complicating and worsening my sister's ED...now, we are two hospitalizations down the road, wishing she would cut this crap out.

This is essentially analogous to telling clinical depressives how to kill themselves...albeit it takes more time.

JohnF said...

That "calorie free" butter substitute is basically 100% oil, and has around 100 calories per tablespoon.

The reason they get to call it calorie free (like PAM, for another example) is that the designated portion size is so small that the actual calories per portion are less than 0.5. Under federal rules, that allows them to say that a portion has no calories--the beauty of rounding down--when the calories in it are 100% fat calories and the spray is the equivalent of a spritz of the oil of your choice.

Wickedpinto said...

In 93, when a friend and I, fresh to the net, and the usenets, and such started to test eachothers capacity for the grotesque, he (a father of two) and I (a single conservative guy who knew he would die single) realized that the net gave validation to things that were taboo.

we often discussed these things between ourselves, while simultaneously downloading newer and more grotesque things with which we could offend eachother. We realized that while we, as curious creatures can capture an image of the horrendous and stand seperate while commenting on it, we realized, that there is no longer anything taboo.

A few years later, another one of our friends, opened himself up as "bisexual" which later became "gay" we realized, that HE would be excluded, the taboos that my friend and I pursued avoided homosexual action, we weren't interested, in fact, we didn't care, it didn't offend us, but we realized. young curious heterosexual males, and in fact young curious heterosexual women, are more willing to OFFEND eachother with pictures of "scat play" than with homosexual "love"

We found ourselves at a loss. I think more people have "SEEN!" heterosexual fetish porn, and a-sexual fetish porn than simple physical love between two men.

I'm all about chicks, but I've been curious, and I've seen scat vids, I've seen rape vids, I've seen a LOT of vids that are a-sexual fetishist, and they disgust me. I have to say to myself, "why am I going to allow myself to watch 'scat play' but not homosexual play?"

There is a SERIOUS denial in our society along the lines of homosexual love, when truly open minded people, cannot tolerate a crank on crank love engagement, but we can be disgusted by the various scat EFF's that float around.

The internet offers a LOT of opportunities, MOST are not good, you have to discipline yourselve to look for the good. It's a shame that parents, and schools think that the internet is an "easy" reasearch tool, it most DEF!!! is not EASY to find truth on the net.

It's a side affect of the information age, _I_ call it the MISINFORMATION age. There is good info that lives on the net, but it is not the analisys of the last SCotUS ruling concerning privacy you will find when you type "gay marriage" or "sodomy" you will likely find 30 or 40 gay sex porn sites, and 5 scat sites, and somewhere near the bottom? you will read about Madame Althouses opinion, and link to the audio of the arguments somewhere near the 30th or 40th page of google search.

A shame.

hygate said...

And when I viewed the article it was accompanied by an advertisement with a picture of a stick thin model, of course. Also, who allows their 15 year old daughter to go on spring break to the beaches of Florida or Mexico? I would think that anyone that did that would be, by definition, an unfit parent.

knox said...



Ann Althouse said...

I'd tried in the past to find these pro-ana sites, which I keep reading about, but since they are censored, I never could. For the first time, with the help of this article, I was able to find them, because the article gave me the idea of a new word to Google: "thinspiration." Frankly, I think lots of women who won't overdo it still want to read a list of extreme diet tips. One that amused me: spin around until you're so dizzy you get nauseated and can't eat. I think ordinary overweight women could benefit!

About the spray: who wants butter on lettuce anyway? That was working as a diet tip for me because it was so disgusting maybe I didn't want to eat anything!

Wickedpinto: When I Google gay marriage, the whole first page contains sites arguing the issue. No porn whatsoever comes up. I guess there's a preference setting somewhere, but I'm just using the default. (I've never looked at one porn site. I've never gone looking or been duped into clicking to one.)

Hygate: Yeah, I wonder what percent of students really engage in this sort of behavior -- not getting thin, but traveling to beaches for spring break. It's expensive to go to college. Where do people get the money to go on pleasure trips? I think a lot of kids just go back to their hometowns and see their family and friends. And I'll bet lots of them just stay where they are and try to get their papers done. You never read about those kids. You do read about kids that do something altruistic though. A lot of kids went to New Orleans, for example, and did hard labor to try to help people. (You could lose some weight that way.)

Knoxgirl: I think it was implicit that he was responding to Dave and Muglar on the issue of whether the web suckers healthy minds into disease.

bill said...

WickedPinto, not necessarily disagreeing with you - mostly because I have know idea what you're talking about other than I'm pretty sure I never want to see what's on your harddrive - but this sounded testable:
when you type "gay marriage" or "sodomy" you will likely find 30 or 40 gay sex porn sites, and 5 scat sites.

For "gay marriage," there are no porn sites in the top 100 returns (I stopped looking at 100). As there are 54 million returns for that phrase I'm sure you could find 30-40 porn sites, but they're not near the top.

For scat the first thing I think of is either Ella Fitzgerald or the garbageman from "Chico and the Man." However, at #36, we get what you're looking for. Try this nonpornographic quiz, snack or scat.

In conclusion...beats the hell out of me.

bill said...

know s/b no. I blame the time change.

Also forgot to google sodomy. Actually found this surprising as porn turns up much less than I expected it would. Even the link for "Alliance of Sodomy Supporters" is about various U.S. and State laws. You'll get to your 30-40 sites quicker than with "Gay marriage" or "scat" but if you had no idea what sodomy was, you can quickly be informed without burning your eyeballs.

Nathan said...

Ann: Where do students get the money? Credit cards, which arrive in their college mailboxes unsolicited and ready to use at some absurd interest rate.

Dave: do you believe pornography addiction, gambling addiction, and adultery have increased since the advent of the internet? I do.

michael farris said...

I'm confused about anorexia now and the pro-anorexic sites I've seen (haven't seen one if the last few years I don't know what they're like now) have made me think of practitioners in a different way.

Fundamentally, I tend to think of it now as a very extreme and dangerous kind of body modification and not as primarily a mental illness (my previous idea). I'm not so sure when and where the 'lose just a couple more pounds' turns into a dangerous obsession but I think that treating the underlying desire for body modification as a mental illness is maybe not the most productive.

I think the best approach would be to help anorexics find something else (something safer) to be obsessive about that can distract them from starving themselves to death. Yes, that would be just trading one obsessive disorder for another, but it's practical in the short term.

Be said...

In college, Spring Break is considered a rite of passage. If you can't afford it, it's considered a personal defect. Starving one's self to participate in whatever debauchery The Norm decides is de rigeur is totally unsurprising, unshocking. That's how poor people keep up with their peers in this particular realm of conspicuous consumption.

Balfegor said...

The "pro-ana" sites basically act as a guide to killing yourself. It's like an electronic suicide pact.

Electronic suicide pact? That sounds like . . . JAPAN!

On a marginally more serious note, they're not 100% about starving themselves. They also discuss exercise. I think as a matter of youth culture it's got its usual mix of good and bad. American youths are widely excoriated for being excessively fat, and dissemination of the "one hundred crunches a night!" aspect of this subculture wouldn't be an entirely bad thing.

Balfegor said...

Also, who allows their 15 year old daughter to go on spring break to the beaches of Florida or Mexico?

And this sounds like Lydia Bennet. And I think parents probably give in to their daughters for about the same reasons Mr. Bennet does -- peace and quiet, and a failure to appreciate just how wild one's own offspring can be.

Marghlar said...

Michael said: I'm not so sure when and where the 'lose just a couple more pounds' turns into a dangerous obsession but I think that treating the underlying desire for body modification as a mental illness is maybe not the most productive.

It becomes a psychosis. These girls end up weighing 75 pounds, at constant risk of heart failure, but the behavior is so locked in that they can't stop dieting. They see themselves as fat while they look like holocaust survivors.

Balfegor: the exercise stuff is part of it, too. It's clinically discussed as exercise bulimia -- using highly excessive amounts of exercise to purge calories consumed. If you eat 800 calories per day, and work out for three hours, what do you think that does to your body? Psychosis manifests here as well -- even after girls are hospitalized and at risk of death, they will secretly do stomach crunches, so that they don't end up getting fat.

The fundamentally unhealthy aspect of all of this is that the goal becomes "losing weight, no matter what" rather than having an attractive or healthy body and lifestyle. It is just as dangerous to starve oneself as to be a glutton. One can be diseased in either direction.

Ann: I hear what you're saying about some people maybe using this info responsibly, but such people are not the target audience. These are girls in trouble writing to help other girls follow in their footsteps. I think its irresponsible for the girls to host this stuff, but it is part and parcel of the disease. Depending on the severity of the content, I think that in some cases it is appropriate for ISPs to decide to take this stuff down.

It's hard to feel like this isn't a problem when you've watched it nearly kill a family member. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- anorexia nervosa is essentially suicide in slow motion. It carries a higher risk of death than any other psychiatric illness. Even if you recover, you can end up with permanent damage to your heart, your bones, and your internal organs.

Ann, the tone of this comment and your followup seems to suggest that you have a dismissive view of the seriousness of this disease. I hope this isn't the case.

Ann Althouse said...

Muglar: The question is where the disease begins. Dieting itself is not a disease. Is it a mental disease to be overweight? Why not? I think to some extent average people, ie overweight people, are jealous of people who figure out how to diet successfully. They get very intrusive and insulting and censorious. You can find all kind of articles about how to overeat and indulge yourself to the hilt. But try finding strong diet tips. You'd think dieting was a crime! We're only allowed to see the sensible dieting advice. It's very nannyish. I would like to see some amusing, weird diet ideas. Yeah, I know some girls get carried away, but making it into a big taboo isn't necessarily helping! If you know someone who is getting too thin, do something about it, by all means! I've never known anyone who's done this, but most people I know are too fat. We need a lot of help dieting, and this fretting about anorexia is, I think, part of our own denial about our problem of being fat!

Marghlar said...

Ann: There is an ED associated with some overweight people -- it's called Binge Eating Disorder, and it can be a real problem. However, its important to note that the psychiatric diseases here are not about how much the person weighs, but about how disfunctional their behavior is, as it relates to their weight.

So, you can be very thin, but not be anorectic -- and you can be of normal weight and die from the lack of nutrition arising from an eating disorder. People get heart attacks from lack of potassium and such, for real.

As for concerns about people being nanny-ish -- I think there's a decently bright line between good faith diet tips given by competent (and healthy) adults, and the pro-ana sites which teach girls how to keep their parents from finding out what they are doing, and exhort them to seek medically dangerous BMIs.

I remember a time when my sister looked like a skeleton, and still could not be prevailed upon to consume non-diet foods, or to consume more than a miniscule fraction of food.

By the by -- I'd say a lot of our culture's weight problem stems from the fact that we look to our food intake as the way to control our weight. Medical science tends to suggest that altering caloric intake is only marginally related with our weight, between the pretty broad extremes of starving ourselves or gluttonizing ourselves. Rather, it is our metabolic rate that counts, and that is set primarily by our activity level. Most of us would do far better to get a good amount of exercise, and eat when we are hungry, than to jump on the latest weird diet craze.

I do hear what you are saying about not wanting to restrict what people should talk about...and I think parents could play a bigger role in talking with their kids about body image concerns to head this kind of stuff off at the pass. But these sites are just freaking creepy, and having watched someone nearly die while caught in their orbit, it is hard for me to view them as benign.

Aspasia M. said...

So, you can be very thin, but not be anorectic -- and you can be of normal weight and die from the lack of nutrition arising from an eating disorder. People get heart attacks from lack of potassium and such, for real.

Yes - For example, Terri Shivo had a heart attack because of her potassium deficiency.

I think this lack of nutrition is key to understanding the dangers of this disorder. The obsession causes people to not even TRY to consume enough vitamins, antioxidents, protein, or calcium.

One of my college roomates had anorexia and bulimia. We shared a kitchen, but had separate rooms, so I didn't know she had a disorder until the next year. I did wonder, however, why she liked popcorn so much. It turns out that she pretty much ONLY ate popcorn that year. (In addition to that very insufficient diet, she was leaving the dorm to throw up in the student commons.)

Unknown said...

Do we have any evidence that anorexics die earlier? Or is it all speculation?

I thought starvation diets were supposed to double your lifespan.

Marghlar said...

Downtownlad: yes, anorexics really do have an increased mortality rate -- I've seen estimates as high as 25% for untreated cases, and 6% across cases. Pretty much every source I have looked at lists anorexia nervosa as among the most deadly of psychiatric illnesses.

I think you are confusing low calorie, but nutritious diets, with the actual starvation diets that anorectics impose on themselves (eating only pickles, equal packets, sugar-free sodas, etc.). Often, they subsist for long periods at fewer than 500 calories per day -- sometimes even lower. Even worse, they don't take in basic nutrients that the body needs to function. A key killer is lack of potassium, which causes heart attacks (a leading cause of death among anorectics). Other causes of death come from various organ failures, all related to nutrient deficiencies.

As I said above, most anorectics who die of it do not perish from lack of calories, but from malnutrition, which is different. Anorectics often die at weights that might not look dangerous to other people. It is a seriously deadly behavior.