Originally posted at Her Campus Temple, here.
Up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. That’s 24 million people, who face a life-altering and mind-consuming sickness. And that’s 24 million people who are dealing with a disease that has the highest mortality rate of any other single mental illness. So, why exactly are we mocking them?
New York’s Village Voice newspaper stumbled upon beauty and costume store Ricky’s, where they found a skin and bones costume with the extremely offensive title “Anna Rexia.” No, this isn’t some sort of sick joke. Before being pulled from the company website, the costume, which ranged from extra small to plus sizes, included a skin-tight black dress with a glittery skeletal print, a measuring tape and a red nametag labeled “Anna Rexia.”
Now, I must have been naïve to believe Halloween was a time for parties, trick or treating and corny Kesha costumes. I also must have been naïve to believe that people could never be so ignorant to make fun of such an important issue. As a woman who has went through a brutal battle with anorexia, it saddens my heart to know my story is a laughing matter for others.
When I was in high school, I found myself slowly becoming obsessed with my weight. I went from hitting the gym a few times a week to spending hours on the treadmill, keeping a diary with calorie-counts and picking myself apart in front of a mirror. The scale became my enemy as I punished myself if I didn’t meet my daily weight loss goals. I walked through the hallways on the verge of passing out. And the worst part – I was constantly ridiculed for it.
I would hear gossip in the hallways about my recent weight loss. People I thought were my friends told me that I had complete control over the disease, claiming that I simply wanted attention. As if high school wasn’t already hard enough, I would hear students mumble under their breaths “go eat a sandwich” or “go throw up again.” It was hard, and still is hard, for me to understand why others couldn’t grasp that this was a serious mental illness that went way beyond my weight.
Luckily for me, I have an amazingly supportive family, who was able to send me to psychiatrists and nutritionists. I found my way to recovery through discovering the underlying issues of my disease, far beyond calories burned and pounds lost. But I’ll never forget the cruelty I encountered. It motivated me to spread awareness about the disease and ultimately brought me to my own career goals – to accurately and honestly write about health and body image.
So maybe it’s time for a society preoccupied with weight to take a serious look at a costume like “Ana Rexia.” Do we want to turn eating disorders into laughing matters? Or do we want to face issues such as body image head-on and promote a healthy society?
Let’s fight back against this costume and other insulting mockeries. Let’s stand up for the millions of people suffering now and the men and women who lost their lives to eating disorders. I know I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have my family to stand up for me.