Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crystal Renn, The Hunger

i could not wait to read this book. i pre-ordered it on amazon and kept checking for its arrival.

it was a good book, but i was disappointed. Renn does a great job describing her youth and her starving days while modeling. the detail is clear; the story incisive. i felt i lived it with her. What a heart-wrenching, frightening experience. it's a cautionary tale and one that will help

but then she glosses over the part i wanted most -- the years of gaining weight. what was it like? how did she feel looking in the mirror as her face and body expanded. what her thoughts as those jean sizes went up? what did she eat? can it really have been as easy, breezy as she makes it sound? there's so much more there, and i want it.

i want to know how to accept and embrace natural weight gain. i want to know how to face the mirror as a new, larger size. how can i laugh at the scale? how to let go of the people who prefer me, and everyone, a size 6/8?

i wish she'd gone there.

on another, but not really dissimiliar, note, dr stacy of Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder
writes that some parents of pre-schoolers are being offered the opportunity to have their kid's school pictures airbrushed.

this freaks me out. where is our culture headed? are we going to end up in a futuristic society where perfect beauty (of the mainstream variety) is everything and the only thing? i worry it really can happen. now we condone telling pre-schooler they're just not good enough at all, just as they are? it's the saddest thing.

angelica huston sticks in my mind -- what a beautiful woman with the world's character on her face. she has an important nose and kind of lop-sided features, AND i've always loved her beauty.

but in today's world, symmetry's beating character nearly all the time. and now it's starting in pre-school.

my late mother was so proud of my kindergarten picture. i wore a navy jumper and had a big bow around my ponytail. there's one stray pump in the front of my hair, where obviously the comb missed the spot. kind of adorable, actually.

my fiance has that picture on his side of the bed. he named it "little Melissa". even i, who think nothing of my looks, think it's cute. imagine if it had been air-brushed. self-hatred could have started on that very day.

ah, do you think i feel strongly about this?


  1. I can't find your email address, so I'm just going to tell you for all the world to see that your recent comments on my posts are nothing short of amazing. You are an awesome person and you should know how much your support means to me.

  2. Thanks for your comment on my blog. Ya, I want to know how the author of the book went through the gaining process too. I mean...hello!?
    Airbrushed school photos? That's ridiculous. What is the world coming to?!
    And...did I miss something? You said your "fiance."

  3. You are a really good writer. I love reading your blog.

    I always want more info on what people experienced when they gained weight and their body changed - and how they stay committed to health despite a changing body. I don't want the "gory details" of an ED as much as I want the "gory details" of what it's like to get rid of an ED.

  4. I've always been a fan of plus-size models! There's a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:

    They're all gorgeous.

    The site's forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.

  5. For what it's worth, I've gone through the weight gain process. I know the fear of what people will think when you're no longer a size 6/8. Here's what people thought of me; I was MUCH more fun. I laughed easily. I was more alive. I could go out to a restaurant and be flexible about it! I was easier to get along with. My friends and family, I think, definitely preferred me at a happy, healthy weight, even if that was not a 6/8.

    Also, I was more patient with myself. I think because I was happier and healthier, I was able to be more patient with my body than I am now. Was I always happy with it? Of course not. Were there things that were hard to deal with? Absolutely. But, I really think that I was happier overall.

    I'm now where you are, I think. My weight is stable for now; it's technically healthy. My nutritionist will let me maintain here, at least for a while. But, if I really want lasting recovery and if I want to break out of food obsession, I'll probably have to gain. Even for those of us who've been there, it's not an easy prospect!

  6. Yeah im with you about the book. How do i learn to accept these thighs? How do i forgive a 12 year old version of me for growing? I eat lunch even though i feel like the pressure of the empty space around me and the outward pressure of my belly are going to cause a tornado. or an anxiety attack. Does this happen to everyone? What do you do when people notice and comment on the fact that you have gained. Do you smile and say oh yes and i feel sooooo much better now, while the witch screams in your head....
    i also love your blog. and want to thank you for yr comments on mine.

    The airbrushing of children's photos is too sad. yuck. Sheesh, what a message to send to a child.

  7. I am soooo scared of the weight gain! I am going through it for the first time doing it all by myself (outside of the hospital setting). Unlike Crystal, I do not have a model's long torso and everything seems to be settling in my middle. Ugh!

    I feel very strongly about the pressure on even young girls to be beautiful (since I have 2 girls). Even the clothes being made for girls are scandalous, miniature versions of britney spears' wardrobe. it's like childhood doesn't exist anymore!

  8. Going off of Lisalisa's comment, I used to be a teacher. When I taught 3rd grade, at halloween time, it was like all the little girls were dressing as sluts for halloween. seriously. A princess costume looked like a slut. A cat costume - slut. Fairy - slut. IT was terrible! That's what the pre-packaged, store-bought costumes looked like!

  9. I agree with so much of this post. I cannot beleive that book did not go into the emotional side of the weight gain. My GOD!!! Every single person with a dangerous eating disorder wants to know how a person who "beat it" felt when the weight started to show. Why on earth would that be left out? You should write to her and find out.

    As for the airbrushing pictures, my daughter's pictures had that option too. Naturally I declined it. She's gorgeous, a natural beauty, so I'd never do that to her. She had a pimple, I covered it with a bit of makeup and powder because she was uncomfortable about it. That's as far as I'd ever go, but a sweet little preschooler??? How close to perfection is that already? Apparently not close enough, for those wanting to make a buck off people's insecurities. I'd be interested to know if any of those preschooler's parents actually opted for the airbrushing. what a disgrace, if so.

  10. lisa; thank you. you made my day -- all day. i always read your blog, even if i don't comment. your recent posts have been so meaningful. it's been a great following your journey, watching you study for tests, getting into this amazing (but HARD)program, getting engaged (yippee, yippee!!!!) graduating, going to training, facing frightening cafeteria food, getting a job, starting the job, greeting your ardent little pee-ers. and, of course, dealing with an ED, no matter where we go. when i write on your blog, i just tell like it is.


    Kim: YAY, i'm engaged!!!! i've been trying to figure out how to post the proposal pictures (really, it was the best), but i am too computer illiterate. i've been putting off posting until i could figure it out, but this is getting ridiculous. it's been a month and a day. he proposed on August 23, our 23 month anniversary. he got lottery tickets with 23, our lucky number. and he took Route 23 to Highpoint, a beautiful spot and the highest point in new jersey. it also happens to have been the setting of one of our wonderful early dates.

    even though i am soooo non-traditional and never thought of getting married before in my 45 years, i was pestering him like crazy to get engaged. i believe i even proposed to him a time or two. and then he surprised me, all cute and nervous. he gave me the most beautiful ring ever. who knew how much bohemian 45 year old me wanted a diamond. i'm over the moon. i tell him i still love him more than the ring, but he's gonna have to stay on his best behavior!!!!

    i'm going to get those great pictures on this blog, as soon as i figure it out. i hope it's before i'm receiving Medicare! first, thank you. thank you. i always wanted to be a writer but never thought i was anywhere near good enough and so, frankly, didn't really try enough. i love good writing and gobble up books like athletes drink water.

    yes, yes. i don't need anymore details about having an ED. i SO need to hear how someone gained a fair amount of weight (i suffer frantically with a couple of pounds) and learned to have joy and fun and love, all while becoming wildly successful professionally. bring it on crystal - i'm listening. maybe i should try to email her.

    anonymous; great suggestion. i would love to check out the pictures and forums.

    on a completely different note, wouldn't it be nice if "plus" size were just any old size? when i was 19, i went from a size 6 to a size 18 in a few months (not a great time in my anorexic, bulimic, compulsive eating life). i was too embarrassed to go into a plus-size shop, so i had one thing i wore, a pair of men's overalls, every day. forgetting the whole issue of my being freaked out about being a larger size, life would have been a little easier for my miserable teenaged self, if the Gap or Macys or anywhere sold size 18s in the same racks as the size 4s, 9s and 39s.

    just my little rant. you inspired me to think. thanks.

    sayhealth; ok, i'm rushing off to your blog. what a great, inspiring response. i love that you're happier and easier and more fun. (of course, i'm A LOT better than when i weighed 30 pounds less than i do now. did i seriously weigh 30 pounds less than i weigh now?)

    i know what you mean exactly about being at a decent weight, but not the weight our bodies want us to be. someone else might have no trouble whatsoever maintaining my current weight and bully for them, but i don't have such an easy time. i'm not starving, i'm not binging or purging, my doctor's not worried, BUT how much salad and turkey breast can one girl eat?

  11. shawna, i can still whip up one mighty anxiety attack around food,
    PARTICULARLY lunch. i struggle hard with that meal. sometimes, i work
    out of my boyf..oops again, fiance's shop, and he really doesn't want
    to have one small bag of potato chips and diet coke for lunch, so we
    get real food. i think -- how much did i eat, how much did he eat, what
    would a "normal" woman eat, what would Gisele eat, how much did i eat,
    what did i eat yesterday, what did i weigh yesterday, can i have one
    more bite and still let myself eat dinner...?" all of this goes on in
    my head at the SAME TIME as other voices are trying to calm the racing
    heart, dizziness and anger. so, i'm simulataneously telling myself to
    exhale, to slow down, to feel my feet and my hands, to stay in the
    present, to exhale, to tell myself i'm okay, to allow myself to eat
    healthfully, to allow myself to eat dinner...
    sound familiar?

  12. lisalisa; yes, yes, exactly -- i'm always mad that i don't have the
    natural foundation of models. the whole time i was reading THE HUNGER,
    i kept thinking it's easy for her to gain weight, she has the most
    gorgeous face. those lips, that hair. and yeah, she's 5'9 and perfectly
    proportioned. i have frizzy hair, saggy boobs, bigger hips and my face
    -- slightly buck teeth, the family nose and goofy freckles. you hit the
    nail right on the head, lisalisa. that reminds me though, i love your
    picture. even before we wrote on each other's blogs, i'd see you on
    others and think you looked cool. i don't have children, and i respect
    parents so, so much, particularly these crazy days.; i'm
    sure my daughters would hate me, but they sure wouldn't be getting out
    of the house as some fairy slut.
    i used to wish our girls could get away from wanting to be helpless
    princesses saved by the big, smart, capable man. we wanted them to know
    that they could aspire to be many more things than "pretty". but while
    we were wearily pulling off that glittery tiara, did we ever think
    manufacturers would want our little "princesses" to look like hookers
    for Halloween. that's it, i'm definitely not sleeping tonight.

  13. Karen; i sure hope that every single parent declined the disgusting airbrushing option. i hope they all complain frequently and furiously to administration that this was EVEN an option.

    you, of course, acted perfectly and appropriately when you assisted your TEENAGER with make-up and powder. your daughter is a teenager and SHE was uncomfortable not YOU.

    and by the way, what is there to airbrush off a three-year-old?

    karen, you're always the voice of reason and sanity when it comes to your childrearing. your daughters are very blessed to have you as a mother, and i get the sense they know it.

  14. Very compelling post.

    Having put on about ten kilos in two years I can tell you it has been hard. It has been hard not to totally loathe myself for allowing it (Am I weak). But hard to refuse my body the right to find it's set point, the place at where it physically feels at ease. I could drop those ten kilos but I would compromise my state of mind and body and restart the ill at ease relationship all over again.

    I think it never goes away, that strange fight within about body size and shape. But I have reached a point in life where I refuse to totally do my head over day in and day out about my body size and shape. Especially when, the truth is, I am perfectly okay as I am (never have I been able to say that and feel okay with it).

    Maybe it just takes a long time to be okay with who you are and where you are at. Life is short and I suppose the need to find a place in it wins in the end. Maybe I am finally there.

    Air brush kids photos - never. Or adults either. Why should we have to hide who we are ALL THE TIME.

  15. Oh my gosh, airbrushed school photos!? Surely there is nothing, *nothing* more beautiful than your own child. That's really quite weird.

  16. yes. sounds tooooo familiar!
    i read several other ED related blogs that are by women who were all naturally small/underweight children, stayed naturally thin, but dieted to get even thinner. I get squeamish when they talk about Eating Disorder criteria bc my pass-out weight was their normal weight. I was a sturdy, strong, tan, physically healthy, hungry child. i was fearful and anxious, but it was not until puberty that I revolted against my (early) developing body. When i went into treatment (17) , I know other people didn't really believe that anything was THAT wrong with me. Why do i still feel guilty for having never been sick enough? My set point is higher than i want it to be. Is that really a reason to ruin my life? im rambling here, this post and these comments were just helpful and really made me think.

  17. linda; how nice to hear you say you're okay with your body. don't hear much of that.

    it's great too, because you look fantastic. i was trying to picture you 10 kilos (22 pounds?) less, and that seemed pretty light. our bodies do take all kinds of dips and leaps.

    i admire that you exercise. i don't, and i just got winded from vacuuming. admittedly, i hate to vacuum, but it shouldn't take me down! i tell my 14 year-old niece to think about being strong, not weak and starving and thin. and yet, eating on the lite side is my own style.

    a strong body, coupled with a strong mind seems so powerful. and so desireable.

    Abi; it worries me that there are parents, seemingly normal parents of little tykes, who think their kids need to be airbrushed. you're right -- aren't ones children the absolutely most perfectly beautiful little people? unless you suffer mental illness, isn't this the way to think? it's frightening to know what's out there.

    Hope you're well, Abi.

    ghostgirl. you don't ramble at all. i'm like you, my set point's kind of high. i'm 5'6. left to its own devices, my body likes to whiz up to 150. i don't like it there.

    i, too, didn't get quite low enough for others to notice. i was WAY to light for me, though. DIZZY and ANGRY.

    two comments up, i wrote about wishing i were strong, because i'm completely out of shape. i bet your body was in terrific, strong shape before this nightmare. i hate eating disorders, in every form.

    thanks for writing. you got me thinking. and it's so nice to have "company". i don't really know anyone, in my every day life, that understands and empathizes.

  18. Nice post - airbrush pictures ..Keep Posting

    airbrush pictures