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Susan Cowden, MS

Celebrities With Eating Disorders: A Slippery Slope?

By September 27, 2012

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The past week I've read about several celebrities who have talked about their struggles with eating disorders including Katie Couric, Stacy London and Lady Gaga.  This got me thinking about whether it's a good thing or a bad thing for celebrities to share their stories with the public.

On one hand, I really appreciate the honesty and vulnerability of all of these people.  It takes courage for someone to even admit to themselves that they are struggling with an eating disorder, but then to reveal it to the entire world is an entirely other level.  I am also so glad that smart successful people who are in recovery are talking about their experiences with eating disorders in the media.

I also understand what would motivate someone to share something personal.  Vulnerability and authenticity allows people to connect with others and decreases shame.  Decreasing shame and secrecy also help people stay in recovery.

However, I also see a slippery slope.  It is also so important not to glamorize eating disorders in any way and I am hopeful that these stories don't do that.  Does seeing a successful celebrity talk about their disorder make having a disorder more interesting? more glamorous? more attractive/acceptable?

What do you think?  Do stories about celebrities with eating disorders help/hurt those who are struggling and/or in recovery?

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October 4, 2012 at 2:16 am
(1) Leslie says:

My own ED clients have benefitted, as of late, from the admissions of media stars with regard to,their eating disorders. Demi Lovato’s work on recovery has helped to motivate several of my young gals who just could not imagine recovery, from anorexia or cutting. While I don’t like the media focus on weight and negative comments about size, I think the struggles of the famous have always helped women to feel less alone. I think back to Betty Ford and the impact she had on women everywhere to seek help,for alcoholism and to speak out about breast cancer. Perhaps it makes it less taboo to talk about it, less shameful to have it, less isolated in believing they are not alone and as brave as a movie star to receive treatment. It may “publicize” it in a way we are uncomfortable with but I have gone from hiding some issues of magazines in my waiting room–ones that seemed to glorify the skinny star–to displaying copies of women who share their recoveries and encourage girls to seek help.

October 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm
(2) Susan Cowden says:

Thank you for your thoughts. I am so glad that your clients are benefiting from the vulnerability of these celebrities!

October 25, 2012 at 4:27 am
(3) S A Hampshire says:

I am a Mum of a daughter suffers with ed, who is trying to recover. Its a long so lenghty process but seeing some light at the end of a very long tunnel. She reads avidly many magazines & it pains me to see how skinny is pushed forward. So it is with relief that various normal size people are employed as modles & I think it is a good thing that celebs come out to the public who have issues with eating & how they cope & manage with recovery & what life is like on the other side of ed. My daughter has been very low ( long story) & does recognise that she doesnt want to go back there, But it is a fight for her every day as many will understand,. But there are many that also don’t understand how hard it is. So ed being in the media may help those on the outside looking in try have some sort of understanding what a nightmare ed is for the people suffering with it. Which could be anyones daughter,son,Mother,Farther, Friend….

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