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Once upon a time, I knew Ana well. I thought she was my friend. She was my reason to get on the stationary bike every time I watched television. She had me up and moving at every opportunity, even when I really didn’t have the strength. She taught me to make pretty little portions of food and never have snacks. She cheered when the scale dropped lower and my pants got looser; she scolded and demanded when the scale went up. She was all I could think about. At one point, I thought that adding Mia to my team would make things better, but I didn’t have it in me.
It turns out though, that Ana was just a life-sucking bitch that almost destroyed me. She was a demanding whore that left me crying more often than not. It took years to recover from all her damage, and I still fight the battle to this day. Now, I cry for all the girls and women out there living under the tyrannical rule of the Ana/Mia cult.
For those who don’t know, Ana and Mia are the personifications that females have given to the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. These disorders have become a religion for many girls and women all over the country, and even around the world. There are message boards and blogs and websites teaching females how to have these disorders and how great they are. They consider them to be empowering and a way to create beauty. Somehow, these fragile people have been convinced that only by weighing less than 100 pounds can they ever be attractive or worthy of love and admiration.
As someone who struggled with eating problems, I know what it’s like. I was desperate to be thin so that people would think I was pretty. Even back then, in the early 2000s, fat shaming, though it had no name yet, was a thing. The craze to be thin was already bigger than most people could see. I actually got down to 93 pounds at one point, and though that would be a major success in the Ana/Mia community, people were still calling me fat. I could never get thinner, and I was living in a pit of self-loathing and despair. In my misery I put weight back on (I went up to 120 lbs), and I can remember more than one night where I actually, truly considered taking a butcher knife and cutting off all of my “disgusting fat” so that I could “look pretty.”
Now, at 130, I still sometimes have those thoughts, those “You’ve got to lose weight, you cow!” thoughts. I have to battle them back and remember that being healthy and strong is better. I do my yoga every day, I eat responsibly, and I constantly remind myself that it’s not all about the number. 130 pounds of muscle looks a lot better than 130 pounds of fat, even though the number is the same. Under 110 makes me look like a skeleton, muscle or not. And here’s a newsflash for you Ana/Mia ladies: The only way being under 100 pounds is healthy is if you’re under 4′ 10″. Otherwise, you need to weigh more to not be unhealthy.
Another thing that makes no sense in all of this is the fact that only women really care about the weight issue. Look around the internet and you’ll find that most guys don’t like super skinny women, they don’t like (or don’t care about) thigh gaps or bikini bridges. Men draw a direct line between a woman’s weight and her level of bitchiness. (skinnier = more bitchy) Women drive each other to this insanity. Why? To look like the emaciated runway models they see in fashion magazines. They’ve been told that that is beauty, even though it’s not what most men want. Ana/Mia is a female-centric problem created by the fashion industry. There are males affected by the disorder, but men usually face other issues. Only in very recent years have men started really jumping on the bandwagon of wanting stick-figure women, though they’re still conflicted with being told that they should want Jenna Dewan or Kat Dennings.
If you’re an Ana/Mia girl/woman, please stop. You are suffering from a disorder and you need help. Starving and vomiting are not healthy or beautiful or empowering. Being skinny and weak is not a good thing. Being a slave to this does not make you better than anyone. Other women are not cows or losers or weak if they are at a healthy weight. Neither are you. Food and muscle and curves and peace of mind are wonderful. Killing yourself slowly and painfully is insanity. Please stop. I’ll be here for anyone who needs to talk, for anyone who wants to break out of the Ana/Mia cult and be healthy and happy.
We, as a society, need to help stop this epidemic too. We need to stop “fat” shaming, stop making people feel like there’s some dress size or scale number that’s better than any other. Promote health, exercise, and loving the body we’re in. Stop buying magazines with stick-thin models. Write to the magazines and demand models that represent real women. Also, don’t skinny shame. Some women may be naturally thin. It’s not that hard to tell a naturally thin woman from one who’s got an eating disorder. If you think someone has a problem, try to help them. Try to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Don’t make them feel bad about their problem, help them solve it.
This is a much bigger problem than most people are willing to admit, and it’s only through talking about it and working toward change that we can help women now, and in the future. We also have to be sure that women don’t go in the other direction. There is actually a growing movement of women becoming obese and convincing themselves that it’s beautiful, just to give a middle finger to society. That’s not healthy either. We need to understand that the media, and our obsession with it, is destroying women (and men) everywhere. We need to focus on health and love of each other and acceptance, rather than fighting for so-called ideals that only serve to harm us and distance us from one another.