Diet Horror Stories
"In modeling, people are applauding you for your pain. They're telling you the thinner you are, the more fantastic you look."
As a former model, Nina was dying to be thin. She lived off of her looks: "This was a lifestyle for me. Just like an athlete trains for a goal, it's the same thing with weight. My goal was to be the thinnest African-American model: 5'10" and 100 pounds. I actually got down to that," Nina says. As her weight dropped, she began to book more jobs. "There's a small window of time during which can be successful in modeling, and if you miss it, you've missed it for good." To make the weight drop faster, Nina turned to diet pills to help her shed 15 pounds, which she says resulted in some serious physical side effects: "When I took the pills, it was a euphoric feeling. Your body is in constant motion. There's no slowing down, no desire to eat. It's like being intoxicated and you can really get used to that feeling if you're taking the pills on a daily basis." During this time, Nina subsisted on breath mints, and if she did eat, she says she only ate soft foods and took a laxative right after. "You feel invincible for a while. You think nothing can go wrong with your body."
But the euphoric feeling masked the problems that were going on in Nina's body. When she was 29, Nina had a heart attack, "I just keeled over. It felt like an arm was punching through my chest. I was really concerned as to whether I'd live or die, and I was not going to live like this anymore." But even a heart attack wasn't enough to bring her destructive behavior to a complete halt. "It still took some time for that full wake-up to come," Nina says.
Today, Nina has her life back on track: "I'm very happy," she says. "I'm 5'10" and a very curvy size 16. My success today is no longer measured by how others see me; it's about how I see myself."
"What I don't understand is where images of good health consist of rock solid and tiny bodies. You're not always unhealthy when you can pinch a bit of your stomach. It's a weird delusion we have now. Skinny does not always equal healthy."
Seeing how the media has glamorized stick-thin models led British journalist Dawn Porter to make a documentary called Mischief: Super Slim Me. Inspired by the film Super-Size Me, Dawn's goal was to go from a size eight down to a size 0 in eight weeks. "What really irritates me," Dawn says, "is how very skinny girls are touted as culturally ideal and perfect. Young women are associating success with being skinny." As a journalist, Dawn's objective was to get inside the psyche of how women feel living inside the body of a size zero. "I want to show that away from the moments on the catwalk or dressed up looking glamorous for the camera, these women are living quite a lonely and miserable existence surviving off of next to nothing."
Dawn quickly learned that the weight loss didn't just affect her body, it affected her mental state as well. "I've always been quite a happy person. I had never suffered from depression before this experiment. I just wasn't able to control my moods and my happiness, which frightened me. I didn't know where it came from. I lost my social life. Basically I just lost the will to live for eight weeks."
Dawn subsisted on 500 calories a day (only a quarter of the recommended daily amount for women). "It was basically no food and lots of exercise." Dawn made it down to a size four before ending the project on her doctor's advice. "My skin was sinking into my head. I had big, dark circles under my eyes. My hair was really limp and dull. I was just gaunt. I also had chronic insomnia and survived on only three hours of sleep a night. I had no white blood cells, no antioxidants and my magnesium levels were low. I was on the brink of collapse."
What she came to learn from the experience and from her numerous interviews with models, media personalities and other size zero women is how common the desire to be a "non-size" has become outside of Hollywood and the fashion world. "When I had to stop the project, the whole issue was encapsulated for me: I lost all this weight, but failed at my final goal, and when other women attempt this, they feel like failures if they don't succeed. In reality, a size zero defies nature. Because of this obsession with the way we look, we live in a world of extremes, either it's one or the other. And really we need to look at ourselves and see where our body sits naturally and work on maintaining that instead of constantly striving to defy it."
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