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Anorexia in Thirds | 1/3 Die, 1/3 Relapse, 1/3 Recover

This post on anorexia has moved to our top spot, causing me to read much more about the statistics used in the NYT article. I will review all the sources quoted by the NYT. As of this moment, I see no reason to challenge the very sobering statistics on anorexia cited by NYT writer Abby Ellin.

Original article written April 26, 2011:

A NYTimes article on fighting anorexia reminds us that in fighting anorexia, recovery is elusive.

Dr. Suzanne Dooley-Hash believes that she will never fully recover from the anorexia that has plagued her life since she was 15. Believing that she had conquered her anorexia, Dr Dooley-Hash relapsed in 2005, losing one third of her weight in six months.

Dr. Dooley-Hash is not alone in her confusion. Most medical experts agree that a third of people with the disorder will remain chronically ill, a third will die of their disorder, and a third will recover — with one significant caveat. There is surprisingly little agreement as to what “recovery” means for people with anorexia.

There is significant good advice and insights into the reality of defining ‘recovery’ for patients with anorexia.

“I say to patients, ‘This is your Achilles’ heel,’ ” said Dr. Daniel Le Grange, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago and director of the eating disorders program at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “If you have another crisis, you’re predisposed to resorting to starvation as your way of managing that issue. It would be foolish of us as clinicians not to prepare our patients that they should be on the lookout for a recurrence.”

The medical history of anorexia sufferers in recovery suggests that they may recover nutritionally and suspend the behaviors of starving, binging and purging, but the ‘self-criticism, self-abuse, perfectionism, judgmentalism and restrictive mind-set persist.’

Crystal Renn at Met gala for Alexander McQueen, May 2, 2011Crystal Renn & Anorexia

The article comes as another former plus-size model, Crystal Renn gives advice about conquering anorexia interview is on tour in cyberspace.

We find Renn’s protestations about people’s focus on her weight disconcerting, writing that — while we support Crystal’s right to be any size she wishes — she is not a spokesperson for successful weight management and conquering anorexia.

I am clear that one doesn’t recover on the short-term from this disease. While I am no doctor or expert, I would think that the weight spins that Crystal Renn is experiencing suggest that she is in flux — what and where to, we don’t know.

Crystal is heavily influenced by Karl Lagerfeld, even waxing poetically that she slept in his childhood bed for her Chanel ad. Karl Lagerfeld absolutely believes not an ounce of fat on a woman’s body and that self-denial and significant self-restraint are critical to maintain this body. Karl practices what he preaches and talks about his diet constantly. (See my writing on Fashion Monasticism)

I totally supported Crystal’s weight loss, because I understand how much better I feel, the energy I have when my weight is down. Watching the dramatic changes that Crystal Renn is experiencing, I feel it’s irresponsible of journalists to continue to make as example of her ‘success’, when medical experts share how complicated anorexia really is.

The reality that one-third of anorexia sufferers relapse is confirmed by Dr. David Herzog, an eating disorders specialist at Harvard Medical School, whose study found that one-third of women treated for anorexia or bulimia relapsed within nine years. Other studies have put the number closer to 40 percent for patients treated in an inpatient facility. 

This article confirms our decision to pull away from treating Crystal Renn as an ‘expert ‘on successful weight management, which she is not. Anorexia affects 10 times as many women as men. Anne

Follow-up: this article is gaining much momentum, and I take any information published at AOC very seriously.  For now, I’m using a comment box below posting additional information as I find it. Then I will write a follow-up piece that surveys what I’ve learned from other sources. I will fact check all the people quoted in the NYT article, because one reader believes some experts were taken out of context by NYT.

I have no opinion one way or the other. My only goal is writing the piece is 1) to have all of us stop writing about Crystal Renn conquering anorexia; and 2) I admit that the statistics posted in the NYT article more than got my attention because I am very concerned about the relationship between fashion designers and women’s self-images.


Reader Comments (2)

There is nothing out there saying that a third of those with anorexia will die. NEDA says up to 20% - other sites say 5-20%. I have NEVER seen 33.3%

The article also cut and pasted quotes from at least four people(of the eight) that did not agree with the final product.

there is hope.

April 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Updated: The commenter obviously didn't followup on the experts cited in the NYT story. In my first two investigations, I quote very specific findings that confirm the NYT data. We will continue to verify.

Original response:

I am not the NYTimes who chose to write the statistics in thirds. I've read Kat's post -- and so can you -- and don't find the quotes rendering the NYT article wrong. A person who writes 'I am cured' is accounted for in the 1/3 statistic. I also understand a doctor saying 'I object to not giving people hope.' This was the most startling article on anorexia written to date. I will Google further to read what others have to say about the piece, which didn't allow comments. I fault that practice, but the NYT does it a lot. .

My context for writing about the article is in response to Crystal Renn being a spokesperson on anorexia, when she says she's recovered and just dropped 10 dress sizes again. And she's mad at people for wondering if she's OK, back to being a size 2 when she says she loved herself better as a size 14. Sounds pretty darn complicated psychologically to me.

April 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterAnne

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