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Starving For Your Wedding: The Dangers of the K-E Diet

Jessica Schnaider, 41, spent eight days connected to a NG feeding tube in March. She wasn’t sick. She doesn’t suffer from anorexia. She isn’t obese.

She merely wanted to lose weight before she got married.

To say I was incredulous would be an understatement.

Dying To Be Thin

I believe anorexia and other eating disorders are complex illnesses with a multitude of causes. At the core, eating disorders are maladaptive coping behaviors that manifest as concerns about weight.

In other words, eating disorders are not about wanting to be thin.

Then why do so many people with eating disorders, particularly anorexia, seem to be frightened of gaining weight and being heavy?

For me, controlling my weight was the only thing I felt I could control in a bewildering and confusing world. For some inexplicable reason, this translated into a deep fear of gaining weight. And yet, I always say that anorexia was my outward manifestation of my inward pain.

I simply did not know how to cope with pain and stress like other people.

I was dying to be thin, and yet on some level, I knew I was too thin and dying, period.

Society’s Aesthetic Idea

What does the K-E diet—called that because it consists of 800 calories of protein and fat, and throws the person into ketosis, causing weight loss—have to do with eating disorders?

On the surface, not a thing.

But dig a little deeper. The jury is still out about societal influences on people and the development of eating disorders. However, almost anyone can related to the pressure of being thin and perfect for her wedding.

Why is that society’s aesthetic idea? Because during much of history, society found voluptuous, curvy women attractive. To be thin meant you were too poor to afford decent meals.

However, the tide shifted near the turn of the last century with the advent of the flapper and the slim, chic woman. There was brief respite from this idea in the forties and fifties, but Twiggy soon took storm and size zero has been worshipped pretty much ever since.

And women often feel force to live up to this idea, even resorting to using a feeding tube to lose weight.

I have news for you—I needed a feeding tube in 2010, and it was painful going in and painful through the whole course of treatment. I can’t imagine anyone willingly putting themselves through that.

The Perfect Bride, The Perfect Wedding

Little girls dream about white gowns and a fairytale wedding, in which Prince Charming kisses Cinderella’s perfectly smooth and fair cheek. Many little girls reenact these scenarios with the also-perfect Barbie dolls, not knowing that Barbie would have to walk on all fours if she were a human of the same proportions.

And Ken was not a great catch, either.

These childhood fantasies remain with us, and are sometimes hard to dismiss.

Enter Jessica Schnaider and those like her.

Schnaider paid $1,500 to have a feeding tube inserted into her nose and stomach. She was fed 800 calories a day, which can kick some people into starvation mode.

At the height of my anorexia, I would consume no more than 800 calories, and I often slashed that to 300-500. The worst days saw me consuming only 200 calories.

I write this not to trigger anyone, but to demonstrate how close Schnaider and others on the K-E diet are to anorexic behavior.

Does this mean they will become anorexic?

Some of them might, because older women such as myself and Schnaider are developing anorexia at an alarming rate.

What will happen when Schnaider attempts to return to normal eating and the pounds inevitably come back? Will something crack within her and drive her to starve herself to maintain the weight, until it no longer is about weight and she has lost control?

It could.

Right now, I am very angry with what society puts us through. Men are expected to have washer board abs and rippling muscles. Women are expected to have diminished bodies and diminished lives.

The dream of a perfect wedding and a perfect bride is just that—a dream. Reality can be much more beautiful if you allow it in.

Find Angela E. Gambrel on Facebook and Google+, and @angelaegambrel on Twitter.

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One Response to Starving For Your Wedding: The Dangers of the K-E Diet

  1. judith says:

    i really do see barbie and ken in a lot of this nonsense. also ads with 12 year old girls trying to look as if they are 30 year old women. there are no old or fat people. really? where do you suppose we went?

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