It's one of my habits to spend a lot of time on YouTube when I'm an especially bored overeducated housewife. The other day, I started watching a made for TV film called Kate's Secret, which was originally aired back in 1986. I remember that film well. It stars Meredith Baxter, Ed Asner, and Tracy Nelson, three actors who were still kind of well-known in the 1980s. Actually, anyone from my generation would know Meredith Baxter because of the hit sitcom, Family Ties. It's a film about bulimia and came out during a golden age for "movies of the week". Young Summer Phoenix, sister of River, Joaquin, and the rest of the Phoenix clan, is also in Kate's Secret.
Bulimia and other eating disorders were not all that well studied in the 80s. Like a lot of young people, I was fascinated by eating disorders... in my youthful stupidity, I actually hoped to develop one. I flirted with them for years and engaged in some bad habits that could have messed me up for life. But though I did a lot of meal skipping, exercising, and starving back in the day, my mind stayed rooted in reality and now I'm a real fatass who's pushing 40.
Anyway, after I was done watching Kate's Secret in all its bulimic glory, I started looking for other things to watch. I noticed a bunch of YouTube videos entitled "Hannah's Story". I clicked on one and suddenly found myself totally engrossed in a British soap opera called Hollyoaks. I was kind of enchanted by the show, with its very passionate, young, attractive, and barely intelligible British actors (to an American, anyway) from the northern part of England.
The storyline I fell into was about Hannah Ashworth, a pretty blonde girl who starts hanging out with an anorexic model named Melissa. I should mention that Hannah had already started developing her eating disorder before Melissa came along; Melissa just happened to notice that Hannah was engaging in disordered eating and offered to help her be less conspicuous.
I have to admit, I was pretty captivated by the story, although not as much as I would have been when I was a teenager. Back in those days, I really was fascinated by anorexia nervosa. Nowadays, I'm not nearly as interested as I once was, mainly because being a successful anorexic requires an attention to detail and level of discipline that can be incredibly difficult and boring. But I do enjoy watching dramatizations involving anorexia, mainly on shows like Hollyoaks, the story is told in such a caring way... with caring parents, loving siblings, concerned friends, and a medical system that cares. As a teenager, that all looks very appealing... but when you're an adult, you realize that it's never that simple. You can end up with anorexia and no one will give a damn.
People tend to develop eating disorders because something isn't right in their lives. There are all kinds of theories as to why people become eating disordered. Some people think people get anorexia or bulimia because they crave control, yet lack it. Some people believe eating disorders are caused by negative role models or abnormally thin people on television or in the movies. Many people think eating disorders are a game people play to get attention from others. Still others believe people become eating disordered because their parents failed them.
Personally, I think an awful lot of eating disorders get started because of loneliness. What distressed me about watching Hollyoaks, as attractive and appealing is it is, is that there were so many comments left by young girls who admired Hannah and Melissa. So many girls out there wished they had a friend like Melissa, teaching them how to have an eating disorder. And having once been one of those girls, I think they do it because they don't feel cherished by someone. They want someone to care... anyone at all. When you start to develop an eating disorder, concern from another person can be like crack. If someone notices you're not eating, you're losing weight, or you look sick, they show that they care about you in some way. The trouble is, if a true eating disorder takes root, that concern is less of a comfort and more of an annoyance as the mind starts to become preoccupied with the relentless pursuit of being just a little bit thinner.
I haven't even touched on the eating disorders that make people get fat. A person with binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating disorder may also be in serious trouble. But we never see movies of the week about BED or COD because they're not as glamourous. An emaciated waif of a woman with dry, stringy hair and a bitchy personality is a lot more interesting to watch than a large woman who compulsively binges on fast food. Of course, there are probably more binge eaters out there than anorexics.
Anyway... I meant for this post to be kind of fun, but it took a bit of a serious turn. After I was finished watching the Hollyoaks 2007 storyline about anorexia, I ended up watching more of it, mainly because I got a kick out of the actors' accents. And I have to admit, I think a couple of the guys on that show are very cute, even though they're way too young for me. *Sigh* Where has the time gone?
Here's a link to right in the middle of Hannah's Story...