Perhaps what pleased me the most about Dr. Stacey M. Rosenfeld‘s new book, Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? is it’s confident discussions on the role of culture in the development of poor body image, obsession with body image and disordered eating. Finally, there is a book about disordered eating and body image that is unafraid to scrutinize the surroundings of these turbulent, crippling obsessions.
As one who has been to the infinite depths of the mirror and back, I have read many helpful books on body dismorphic disorder and eating disorder recovery. Each helped me recognize that my diagnosis was correct (denial comes with these disorders) as well as provide case studies and strategies for recovery. What frustrates me, however, most about these books is the two sentence acknowledgement of cultural impositions that enable these exhausting illnesses. Typically you may read something like, “and seeing skinny models everywhere doesn’t help,” or “with such a variety of dieting products out there, no wonder girls get carried away.” It’s as if the books themselves are just as hypnotized as the person seeking help into thinking that it is the sole responsibility of the person suffering from disordered thinking to mend his/her own dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors. Once again, after reading these, I felt alone, overwhelmed, self-critical, self-punishing and outnumbered (not a good mindset for one in recovery).
Dr. Stacey M. Rosenfeld writes matter-of-factly about the dysfunctional thinking that swims in our mainstream culture. She not only validates how tough it can be to survive in a skinny worshipping world, but also she explains with effective/accurate objective support how this cultural trait itself is disordered.
She asks, “Thin sells, but does it have to?” “Is ‘pretty’ the greatest compliment we can give?” “Is ‘fit’ the new ‘thin?'” She does not answer these questions by herself though; she includes the reader and encourages the reader to contemplate The answers for his/her self.
Although my innate desire, as a fan of the book, is to skirt any criticism. Loyal to the process of the book review, I must offer some form of critique. Rosenfeld does discuss dating in the context of cultural deficiencies (108-109), and she does answer the question as to why the book is aimed at women’s eating/body issues, yet I still hoped to see more discussion on how the defects in women’s body images and eating habits negatively affect men as well, skewing, oppressing and limiting their notions on whom they are attracted to. Men are subject to self-suppression, fear of disapproval. What may feel natural and wonderful, just as eating a meal without any emotional consequences is natural and wonderful, can be curtailed by what men “should” believe is attractive and more socially accepted. Men are at risk and controlled by the same factors that hurt women.
A powerful, daring topic that Dr. Stacey covers is the building and business of disordered eating and body image. The reason I describe this as daring is because Rosenfeld openly “calls out” the industries and communities that benefit from women having appearance obsession. It is a scary thing to note how this devastating, crippling and oppressive illness is in fact a source of profit for a few others. In other words, industries and marketing campaigns aim to make women feel bad or not good enough, without regard for one’s health, in order to make money. Rosenfeld astutely states, “Eating disorders and body image issues don’t get the same compassionate support that other compulsive behaviors do. The support networks we offer for substance abuse, for instance, don’t exist in the same rally-cry for eating problems…” (ix-x).
Finally, more wonderful aspects of the book are the strategies, techniques, exercises and activities that it offers throughout the reading. While Rosenfeld educates and respects her readers by sharing accurate, profound observations and insight, she empowers and enables her readers to take action by offering immediate activities they can complete/perform.
This is a breakthrough book and a riveting must-read.
Tomorrow’s post will feature a Q & A with Dr. Stacey herself.
I’m so pleased to announce that three of my poems, “Slots,” “Scraping” and “Make a Decision” have been published in Barking Sycamores Literary Magazine Issue 13. Barking Sycamores is dedicated to neurodivergent literature and its craft. I’m so honored to be a part of this project. Barking Sycamores Issue 13
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