Anorexia and bulimia ? three superstitions about our bodies

Who is slim and who is already fat? How much should one weigh „to look well“? How has it all started? Feelings of dissatisfaction with one´s look, foremost one´s weight, maybe a remark by classmates or parents on one´s figure, a desire to lose some kilos, to prove everybody that I can control my body… In psychology, there are theories claiming that the main activity of our reason in everyday life is evaluation. We evaluate the world around us, our close environment and also ourselves. According to our evaluation we then anticipate what can be expected from others and ourselves, too. When evaluating, we are biased by our own past ? experience, our mood, fear and also by a reaction of our environment. Sometimes we can agree with it, sometimes not. Most of us tend to achieve an agreement ? at least with someone. Self-evaluation runs by the same rules as evaluation of anything else, it only concerns us more. It involves also our relation to our body ? and it can be said vice versa: we evaluate our body with regard to how we perceive ourselves ?as a whole?. This is quite interesting because it can help us understand those who devote all their attention, will and time to their bodies. Body and soul are two connected vessels and even Western medicine has reconciled with this fact. The relation to one´s body, its evaluation, perception of what is pretty and ugly, all this is a work of soul lead by the spirit of the age or simply said by social norms. Everyone can see with their own eyes that the spirit of the age exists. It is enough to visit a picture gallery or a sculpture exhibition and to watch beauty ideals in the history of world cultures. Apart from getting aesthetic impressions, we can also rise above today´s norms and see their relative validity. The first superstition is that a beauty ideal is an objective reality that is worth devoting a whole life to. I cite from a letter: „I started watching my weight some 4 years ago. I was 13, my breasts and buttocks started growing and I felt sort of plump. I couldn´t integrate among my classmates the way I wanted and I thought it was because of my overweight. I started restricting food, weighing myself and counting calories. Today I am 165 cm tall, my weight varies – now I have 43 kg. I may be sick, everyone says so but I still have the feeling that I have won over the kilos. It is the only thing that I have really mastered in my life ? to lose weight.? This is one of many stories the heroine of which set on the journey of fight against her own body in the effort to improve her self-evaluation (of which she was not aware at the beginning). It is a journey of askesis (sometimes alternating with binges of ?indulging in everything?), constant watching and counting, everything else stops being important. The people she cared for in the beginning, she wanted to be with, slowly disappear and their place is taken by a personal scale and a mirror. Fear of food and fear of weight. Every meal carries a potential danger of higher value on the weight and its taste stops being important for our heroine. The word ?fat? becomes even bigger threat. She considers it to be the utmost unhealthy thing, a surplus in the body that makes it ugly and thus brings about unpleasant feelings. Everything she dislikes in her life, she considers unacceptable and wants to get rid off at any cost, is projected into the body fat. Here I pose a question to a reader: What can we put as a replacement for fat symbolising the blameful things in our life? What is so unacceptable and yet so easy to reach? The second superstition says that fat has nothing to do in our bodies! Yet an adequate amount of fat has vitally important functions ? it helps maintain body temperature, absorbs impacts on joints, protects organs, stores vitamines, and provides the body with energy during a lack of nutrition. An increased level of fat may of course harm our health but we are certainly not in this field when looking at the story of our heroine. Most people think thay they may objectively monitor the level of fat by means of their weight. Our heroine, too, had thought that less kilos meant more beauty and better health. However, the body weight is composed also by other components of body ? bones and muscles. We may have a skeleton of different growth and thus different weight than another person of the same height. Likewise we differ in the amount of musculature. This is why all numbers based on measuring body weight and height are just approximates. The example is a calculation of Body Mass Index (BMI). By means of a simple formula we calculate a figure that compared with normative tables indicates how our weight stands against the norm. This is alright but if we take BMI for a precise value expressing the measure of our fatness or thinness, we are grossly mistaken. The third superstition is that the number on a personal scale precisely indicates our fatness or thinness, that it precisely testifies on the amount of fat in our body. But this cannot be said even about BMI or other calculations. Weight is just an orientation value that often changes. I started with ideals, I will end more prosaically with kilograms. There are many more superstitions. I will add one more ? many people who have limited their world to the care for their bodies and namely their kilograms think that this is the only world they can live in. A man has received a great gift from Nature and that is the ability to change. Our letter heroine also has it. Maybe she could start the adventure of change by distinguishing superstitions from reality. But she must overcome her fear of the new. And I wish her that.