The Reality of Anorexia is Exclusion From Society

The Oliviero Toscani photos of brave Isabelle Caro, the 31 kg Frenchwoman who’s suffered from anorexia for fifteen years, appeared all over the media today. Why? Well they are being used to sell a clothing brand, Flash&Partners’ line Nolita, and “to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion.”

It’s a great idea, and very brave. People are highly offended by the sight of a skeletal woman. There might be a few people out there who still don’t know about the reality of anorexia, or its causes, but I would say most people do know.

What most people really DO know a lot about is obesity and being overweight. That’s because 46% of UK men and 32% of UK women are obese or overweight. In the 55 plus age group, it’s 75%. That’s a lot of people costing the NHS an estimated £6bn last year. Here are the stats. Scotland is the most obese country after the US, with nearly a quarter of the population obese.

In contrast, the NHS saw 620 cases of anorexia last year. Here is the data: Anorexia Nervosa Statistics. Some of those people were counted twice bumping up the figure.

That’s an awful lot of anorexic people, and yet I have never seen a size zero woman in my part of the UK. That’s probably because people would be offended by the sight of them. Who are these offended people? The 46% of UK men and 32% of UK women who are obese or overweight perhaps.

I do see a lot of women in their twenties at the gym for the first time. They’re often in tears because they can no longer touch their toes. They often talk of being trapped amongst a group of young mothers who share out sweets and biscuits all day together.

Quite often at the gym, I too feel how this group excludes others. They get together for an hour and joke about their weight, and their incapability, and they brag about how much they eat. This happens often at the gym, and anyone thin seems to get left out of the chit-chat. In fact, there seems to be an air of hostility towards anyone thin. The fatties who might have once been laughed at school, are now getting their revenge. Maybe Isabelle Caro will feel some of that hostility too, because the reality of anorexia is actually exclusion from society.

Added 2/10/07: Helen Mirren on Anorexia