What's Behind Wannarexia?

BlogHer Original Post

After writing previously about anorexia, I am hesitant to write about it again. However, I recently became aware of this article on wannarexia, which is, I guess, wishing you had anorexia? Or is it really the beginning stages of anorexia? This was offered as a list of symptoms:

Brotsky provided this list of wannarexia’s potential red flags:

  • Recent weight loss in a short period of time
  • Total elimination of a food group (or groups)
  • Becoming a vegetarian
  • Complaints of food allergies
  • Constant consumption of appetite suppressants: hard candies, chewing gum, coffee or diet soda
  • Fear or unrealistic beliefs about food
  • Foods may be labeled as “good” or “bad”
  • Preoccupation with the appearance of the body
  • Overly concerned with a particular part of the body
  • Inability to break rigid routines (especially food and exercise patterns)
  • Distorted body image (feeling fat when actually thin)
  • Perfectionism
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty asking for help
  • Anxiety – difficulty dealing with stress
  • Easily frustrated
  • All or nothing” thinking
  • Denial of disorder

I don't know where the line between disordered eating/extreme dieting and anorexia is, but those symptoms look like anorexia to me, particularly the inability to break rigid routines, disordered body image, denial of the disorder and preoccupation with a part of the body. I'm no medical doctor, though. I would love to hear a psychologist's take on that.

You may be thinking how ridiculous it is to wish you had an eating disorder, but I've been told there were plenty of high school girls who wished they could be like me when I was sick. When asked, I used to tell people I had tapeworm, because that's what a little shit I was, and I bet there are even people out there who wish they had some sort of parasite, because our society's quest to be thin is sometimes stronger than our desire to avoid physical discomfort.

To me, the difference between extreme dieting and anorexia to me is the part nobody can see -- the part that goes on in your head.

For anyone who wandered over here due to that keyword, here's the difference.

Empty Plate

Imagine I'm your mother. Every ten minutes I interrupt you from whatever you are doing and tell you to clean your room. You clean it. It's clean. It's spotless. You could serve the Queen Mother off your floor. Ten minutes later, I walk back in and tell you to clean it again.

"It's clean!" you say. "I just cleaned it!"

"Clean it again," I say. "You missed a spot."

So you get down on your hands and knees and scrub the floor with your toothbrush, gagging in disgust all the while.

Ten minutes later, I walk back in and tell you to clean it again.

This repeats, over and over, until the room is so clean it's starting to come apart at the seams with the scrubbing, but still I continue to walk in and tell you to clean it. You show me the floorboards coming up. I don't care. You show me your hands, raw and bleeding from the soap. I don't care.

I tell you to clean it again.

After a while, the floorboards do come up, and underneath them, you imagine you see dirt. You know I'm coming back to tell you to clean it again, so with your hands bleeding and the water bucket red and vile, you begin to scrub. You scrub and scrub.

And I tell you to do it again.

You fall asleep in the middle of the floor. First thing in the morning, you wake up and examine every inch of the room. It is spotless.

I walk into your room before you've even gotten out of bed.

And I tell you to clean it again.

If people really understood anorexia, they would never wish it on anyone.

What do you guys think about wannarexia?

Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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