In Western societies, it’s hard for girls and women to avoid weight-related insecurity. Media, magazines, popular culture all idolize body images that are often unhealthy, and tell girls that their worth is linked to their appearance. It’s no wonder then, that many young women develop eating disorders.
In the video below, poet Blythe Baird offers her experience with anorexia and the reactions she received from family, friends, and strangers. Anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is “a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss,” according to the National Eating Disorder Association. It is considered a mental health condition, and has one of the highest fatality rates out of mental health conditions. Over 90% of individuals with anorexia nervosa are female, with anorexia nervosa being “one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women.”
“By the time I was 16 I had already experienced being clinically underweight, overweight, and obese. As a child ‘fat’ was the first word people used to describe me, which didn’t offend me until I found out it was supposed to,” Baird states. Her poem is titled When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny. When Baird first developed anorexia, she was considered obese. As a result, her weight loss was praised rather than recognized as a symptom of a dangerous mental health condition. “If you develop an eating disorder when you are already thin to begin with you go to the hospital,” Baird continues. “If you develop an eating disorder when you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.”
“How could I not fall in love with my illness?” Baird asks. “With becoming the kind of silhouette people are supposed to fall in love with?”
Baird’s story is a message to society. Not only do we need to change the way we view ‘perfect’ body images; we need to change the way we recognize eating disorders, and more effectively offer aid to those with eating disorders or at high risk for developing an eating disorder.
Baird mentions her journey to recovery in her poem as well, saying, “This was the year of eating when I was hungry without punishing myself and I know it sounds ridiculous but that shit is hard.”
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