Saturday, July 14, 2007


Yet another star (in this case, Valerie Bertinelli) is writing a memoir about, among other things, her "lifelong battle with weight and self-esteem."

She's talking about overweight, in this case, and it all sounds so damn familiar: Low self-esteem makes people get fat. It's the same rhetoric that floats around anorexia, which is so often said to be linked to issues of self-esteem. Apparently it works both ways, or both weighs.

Inquiring minds know the truth: Starvation causes all kinds of psychological phenomenona, including depression, anxiety, and, yes, low self-esteem. And being fat in America is an invitation to feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, and low self-esteem. All you have to do is walk down the street and it flies right at you. Or go to your mother's funeral. Or try to adopt a child.

For once I wish people would get it right. I wish they'd lay the blame squarely where it belongs. In the case of anorexia, that's on biology. And in the case of fat--that's called prejudice.


Carrie Arnold said...

I think Valerie has it backwards: fat prejudice can cause a drop in self-esteem. And losing weight doesn't increase it.

Anorexia is biology, but it's triggered by environmental cues. I think I've mentioned this before, but the worst lie by the weight loss industry is that losing weight will make you happy. That's one of the things that added to the start of the AN. That, and wanting to eat "healthier." Then it was pretty damn much over with.

Rachel said...

While I agree with the physiological changes wrought by starvation, low self-esteem and anorexia is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma. It takes a certain degree of hatred for a woman to consciously set out to starve her body and whip it into submission. I think low self-esteem is present at the get-go of an ED, and from there, it only decreases exponentially with weight-loss - ironically enough, considering all the weight-loss = happiness rhetoric we are bombarded with daily.

Harriet said...

But women--and teenage girls--don't set out to whip their bodies into submission. More than 95% of all e.d.s start as diets--and more than 85% of all teenage girls and women diet. So we're not talking about an unusual phenomenon of self-loathing here. We're talking about ordinary, garden-variety body dissatisfaction that for a variety of reasons goes too far.

No one sets out to starve themselves into anorexia. It's the unfortunate result of a confluence of biology, genetics, and environment.