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The Kate Moss Issue

Posted Dec 02 2009 2:34pm
Most of you know by now that a few weeks ago, Kate Moss said that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." Moss got spanked by many in the press--and rightly so--for this comment. I didn't blog about it initially, because a statement of a person in the fashion industry that advocates weight loss isn't especially newsworthy to me. There's the occasional zinger, but mostly I ignore it.
The fallout over the Kate Moss comment has been considerable, and it was annoying me a little bit. Kind of like the itch directly in the center of your back that you can't reach very well. And all you want to do is scratch. Well, I figured out what was bothering me, and this post is the equivalent of scratching an itch.

That the media reported on a famous person saying something that made them look like a goon really didn't bother me. It was a really stupid statement, she said it in an interview (which Moss would have well known is "on the record"), and she doesn't have the best reputation for promoting healthy body image anyway. I rolled my eyes and sighed when I read the quote (remember, I worked in an office where a similar phrase was posted all over), but I was neither surprised nor particularly outraged. Annoyed and irritated, yes, but I have grown almost to expect it in some arenas.

What irritated me was the coverage that had headlines like "British model Kate Moss accused of encouraging anorexia and bulimia with 'skinny' comment" and "Kate Moss accused of encouraging anorexia among teens." Certainly her comments were vexing and troubling, and do NOT make recovery from an eating disorder any easier. When so many other people have a disordered eating mindset, you have to ask: whose disorder is it anyway? And these comments do nothing to dispel the serious nature of eating disorders. But these comments, while stupid and idiotic and just flat-out WRONG, don't really encourage anorexia.

People have been saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" for centuries. There are celebrities who market their own line of non-toxic cleaners so you don't poison your family by using the "regular" stuff. Um, hello OCD. I have struggled with both compulsive hand-washing and compulsive cleaning, but I was never encouraged to boycott Purell or a line of cleaning products because they promoted unhealthy images of cleanliness. Did navigating our germ-phobic society make challenging my OCD thoughts any easier? Nope. Did it have anything to do with my OCD? Not at all.

Yet we also know that no matter how much a celebrity says that several showers a day makes them feel "good," it's not going to lead to a spike in OCD cases. Or that uncovering the illegal wiretapping from the Bush administration is going to cause a spike in schizophrenia cases because the people paranoid about others' listening in on their thoughts could actually be right. We get that distinction between our messed-up environment and a biologically-based mental illness for many other things, but we don't get it for eating disorders. Instead, we have quotes from Kate Moss' publicist saying "For the record, Kate does not support this as a lifestyle choice."

Lifestyle choice?!? That's almost more harmful than the initial comment.

Part of the problem stems from how our society admires the symptoms of anorexia, namely the weight loss. Considering that anorexia is egosyntonic, many sufferers don't initially recognize that they are suffering from an actual disorder instead of being really good at losing weight. Since sufferers don't usually recognize the ED thoughts as being unwelcome or intrusive (at least at first), it's easy to see how sufferers can use statements like Moss' to justify their actions. It is incredibly sad that it is so easy to justify the behaviors of a mental illness because our culture is just that screwed up.

Because the "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" line is commonly used in the pro-anorexia world, I can see how Moss' comment might be taken to be an endorsement of this. However, most of the "pro-ana" slogans have actually been adopted from generalized dieting mottoes. Our culture gave it to them, not the other way around. If this comment is used to justify ED behaviors, it's not really any different than people hiding behind the latest diet or food trend that's been hyped. Of course we would be better off if we didn't fetishize the anorexic body, and if we were able to get rid of the inaccurate equation that thin = happy. Her comment was neither accurate nor helpful.

And, for the record, I've tasted "skinny" when I was anorexic. It's called ketosis, and if you can imagine the constant taste of rotting and fermenting apples in your mouth, then you'll know what I mean. Skinny feels uncomfortable. You're always cold, you can't sit down because your ass is too bony, and your fingernails are blue. There's plenty of food that tastes better than this.
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