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Is Anorexia Model Behavior?

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"Britain's Next Top Model" features an openly anorexic contestant, Jade McSorley. Will her appearance raise awareness or just perpetuate the disorder?


Jade McSorely is skinny. Really skinny. The young model who appears on the new season of "Britain's Next Top Model" weighs in at ninety pounds and stands 5'9" tall. A rail-thin model is no surprise -- but what is a shock is that McSorley has openly admitted she suffers from anorexia.

The Sun reports the 21-year-old has been battling the eating disorder since the age of eight, and last year was even hospitalized because of her condition.

The producers of the popular British program believe that Jade's participation in the show will help McSorley get access to the help she needs. But others criticize the show for featuring a woman who perpetuates a negative body image in young women.

Aspiring models aren't the only ones who battle with body image issues, and anorexia isn't the only by-product of a media determined to promote ultra-skinny women as ideal.

"Today we are seeing a really broad range of eating disordered behavior, including extreme dieting, over-exercise, and skipping meals. While not all teens reach the point of having an anorexia or bulimia diagnosis, millions of them do fall into those gray areas," says Claire Mysko, author of Girls Inc. Presents: You're Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self. "The bottom line is that if your child's thoughts about food and weight are preventing her from feeling good about herself and enjoying her life, that is enough of a sign to seek help from a professional."

We spoke with Dr. David B. Herzog, author of Unlocking the Mysteries of Eating Disorders, momlogic friend Counseling Mom, Roseanne Tobey, L.P.C., and Claire Mysko, who is also founder of Inside Beauty, for important warning signs that parents can look for in teens who may be suffering from bulimia or anorexia.

5 Top Signs of Anorexiaor Bulimia:

1.Extreme food restriction:The teen has a drastic change in her eating habits. For instance, she is only willing to accept really small portions, and then pushes them around the plate instead of eating them.

2.Perceives her body or parts of her body as extremely large when that is not the case:This may result in a change in clothing style. A daughter who has lost a lot of weight and is now wearing baggy clothing.

3.Disappearance of food from refrigerator or pantry:Bingers usually binge in secret, so keep an eye out for pantries or fridges that have been emptied of their contents, as well as large amounts of empty food wrappers either in the garbage or stashed in some out-of-the-way place.

4. Excessive, compulsive exercise: An obsession with exercising -- for instance, several times a day, or to the point of complete exhaustion.

5.Extreme weight loss or marked fluctuations in weight:Dramatic weight loss can be a sign of anorexia, but it is important to remember that not all eating disorders result in weight loss. Many bulimics are normal weight and they can even be overweight. That doesn't make their eating disordered behavior any less dangerous. Watch out for frequent trips to the bathroom after meals and excessive exercise (specifically, increased discussion about needing to burn off calories). If you find any evidence that your child has been abusing laxatives or diet pills, confront her immediately.

The earlier a patient is diagnosed with and treated for an eating disorder, the more likely they will recover completely. However, according to Walden, one of the country's leading hospitals for treating eating disorders, prolonged bouts with bulimia and anorexia that go untreated can result in osteoporosis, retarded growth, kidney problems, ulcers, heart failure, and even death.

For more information about teens and eating disorders, visit the Harris Center for Eating Disordersor Walden Hospital.

Do you think Jade should be allowed on "Britain's Next Top Model," or is this sending the wrong message to girls?

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
paradisejenn April 27, 2009, 5:11 PM

I don’t think it’s appropriate to put anyone suffering from an eating disorder on this type of show - perhaps they can create a ‘new’ show where all the contestants have an eating disorder, and THERE they can get help. Putting this young woman on display with other, healthier women vying to be models, is sending the wrong message.

rugbymom April 27, 2009, 5:19 PM

Wouldn’t it be discrimination to kick someone off the show who is battling the condition? If she has been struggling with the condition and openly admits it, what is wrong with that. I think the producers need to be careful and responsible about airing comments but can use it as a tool to show this is more than just a ‘problem’ this girl has, it is life-threatening.

diet conditions are played out but often girls who see these models looking amazing, don’t know all the consequences of the behavior or pattern. Maybe this could be constructive, if handled with care.

ame i. April 27, 2009, 6:11 PM

It is a shame that the modeling industry has for so long encouraged models to be as thin as clothes hangers so people don’t notice the body wearing the garment, but the garment itself.

ame i. April 27, 2009, 6:24 PM

I’m 5’7” and run between 125 and 135. After depression due to the death of my husband I was as low as 108. 90 pounds at her height is unhealthy.
After the births of my 2 daughters, born 2 days short of 2 years apart (thanks, girls!) I have large breasts. The size doesn’t cause back pain as is the case with some ample-busted women, but it does make it difficult to buy off-the-rack clothing. Many times,I have to buy a size 12 or 14 dress and have a seamstress alter it so I don’t look like a tent.
How about we all stop making women of any size feel badly about themselves?

Kirstie April 27, 2009, 8:01 PM

If she openly admits she’s got a problem, and is seeking help, she might actually serve *well* as a role model. I had an eating disorder from 12-18, and the biggest problem with seeking help was the shame and embarrassment I felt at what I was doing to myself. If there had been someone who was a role model to girls who openly admitted to having a problem, and to needing help, and actively seeking and trying to pursue recovery, I think it would have had a major effect on me.

Not to mention that two years into recovery, I am at a healthy weight, eat regularly and responsibly, and don’t even weigh myself daily anymore (which sounds silly but is something I am extremely proud of, and just finally managed to stop doing following Lent this year), but I still refer to myself as a recovering anorexic. Like alcoholism, it sticks with you, and it’s a slippery slope. You are always working to keep yourself in a healthy place and to not let yourself fall back into that pattern of self-destruction.

I give this girl a LOT of credit for being brave enough to get on national television and admit to what she’s suffering through, and I pray that her honesty gives other girls who are going through the same thing the courage to tell someone that they need help.

Diana April 27, 2009, 9:26 PM

Yah skinny girls look better

jessica April 29, 2009, 2:04 PM

good article! i wonder if it would be better for her to focus her energy on getting better instead of competing on a tv show - she might be bringing positive attention to getting help, but is she oding what’s best for her own recovery??

Nicky May 6, 2009, 3:18 AM


Dr. Dale Archer May 7, 2009, 2:48 PM

I agree with the post that we’re seeing a broad range of eating disordered behavior. I’d like to give kudos to the fashion industry which has taken positive steps to ensure their models maintain a certain percentage of body fat. Sports Illustrated in their swimsuit issues is definitely to be commended for this.

I’m not saying the problem is close to being solved but maybe this will help raise awareness.

Courtney May 9, 2009, 12:40 AM

I don’t think it is fair to NOT let anyone participate in a show who suffers from a non-contagious disease. THAT is discrimination! Isolating people because they have personal struggles only makes them feel worse and can additionally contribute to their problems. People need to not judge and hate so much. We need to live in a world of awareness. Jade admits her disease, that is the first step in the healing direction, and she should be given kudos for that!

Tiffany July 21, 2009, 1:31 PM

I agree with Nicky Diana you are obviously a shallow person to believe skinny is beautiful, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Skinny may not be beautiful to the next person. Most females in magazine and t.v shows are airbrushed by professionals made to make them look skinny, the average American girl is a size 14-16 do your research plz? =/

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