Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

NEDA: Eating Disorder Lit, Lifetime Movies, the DSM-V, ‘Holy Anorexia’ and Tumblr v. Pro-Ana Blogs (@ Blisstree)

with 2 comments

I didn’t know what image to use for this post, so here is a picture of me and an old friend not having eating disorders, eating free ice cream from Friendly’s on a summer day.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano at ‘the Beheld’ wrote some very nice things about our National Eating Disorder Awareness week coverage at Blisstree, the women’s health & wellness site where I write.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown examines the real fallout from eating disorder literature. I’m thrilled to see someone taking a sharp view on this—my own experience with ED lit mirrors Elizabeth’s, varying between using such books as dirty little guides to tips and tricks, and using them as actual support. In fact, I once pitched a piece about this to a teen mag and it was flatly shot down with, “There is no way in hell we can run a piece like that.” But Blisstree can! Yay Internet! (Actually, Blisstree overall seems to be offering smart content for NEDA week, sharing the real story behind sensationalist recovery tales and featuring an interview with Carrie Arnold, one of the best ED writers around.)

Yay Internet!, indeed. I’ve actually been very happy this week with the way we’ve been covering eating disorders. ED stories so often fall into sensationalism, melodrama or triteness. And I think we’ve done pretty well at avoiding that. In addition to the stories Autumn mentioned, we’ve posted:

• A non-sensationalist defense of pro-ana communities.

• A gallery of the best/most absurd Lifetime movies about eating disorders.

• A guide to proposed eating disorder changes in the DSM-V.

• A history of eating disorders, including “holy anorexia, fasting girls (like Mollie Fancher, the ‘Brooklyn Enigma’) and wasting diseases blamed on wandering uteruses.”

• A long, lovely and honest Q&A with Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows.

• And a piece about how Tumblr plans to start restricting pro-ana and other ‘self harm’ blogs.


Written by ENB

March 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Elizabeth, thank you again for your excellent piece. Blisstree did a fantastic job.

    Also, and I swear I usually try not to be all self-promotional in comments, but i’ll mention this because of the caption on your image–it is SO hard to pick appropriate images for ED pieces! I wrote about that here:


    Joyous eating of ice cream is a good one, though, I say!

  2. Haha, no problem. It is hard! When I was doing a Blisstree slideshow of new DSM-V eating disorders, I ended up using all kind of stylized images of objects—treadmills, forks, a toilet—because all the stock images of people with eating disorders were either cheesy or just seemed inappropriate (like, images of really skinny women, 1/2 naked).

    Great post on this issue, definitely. This might be my favorite part:

    “Google-image other mental illnesses to see what I mean. Did you know that hugging one’s knees in stark lighting is a side effect of depression?”

    Last year on Blisstree (ahem, now who’s being self-promotional? but it’s relevant, too, I swear!), I did a gallery of the way stock images portrayed skinny and fat women, and my editor Meghan did one of pregnant women smoking:



    I’m about to do one on stock images of fertility. Some are truly frightening.

    But I think this gets at a larger issue with images and blogging and yada yada yada. A lot of people don’t seem to recognized that images are also editorial. I’m sure I’ve been lazy or sloppy too, at times, but I’m sensitive to the images I pick for posts about eating disorders, obesity, dieting, abortion (the inevitable pregobelly!), birth control, etc.


    March 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

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