Fight With Food

Posted: 31.01.07 in Blogging

The last two nights, BBC Three have shown two vastly contrasting documentaries on people’s battles with their diet.

Fat Men Can’t Hunt

On Sunday night the programme began with a group of obese people sent to a small community in remotest Namibia. They were removed far from their comfort zones and were immediately expected not only to eat a primal diet, but also to work for their food, including building their own huts, hunting and preparing their own food. Unfortunately I did not watch this programme for long, and I expect it will be over several parts. But you quickly recognise how every aspect of diet has changed as our society developed. Food is no longer the fuel to see you through the day, and it is no longer a pressure or a physical exertion to produce food for yourself and the family. Instead food is convenient and takes as little time as possible to prepare.

I’m A Child Anorexic

The documentary last night was set in Rhodes Farm: a residential clinic set up to help those suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. On entering this establishment, the children are given a target weight, and are kept in until they reach it. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. They have to show that they can eat as well at home as they would in the clinic. This is evidently harder.

This was a moving documentary: there were a few central cases they concentrated on, including a girl called Naomi. Unfortunately, at the time of filming, there was little progress made. She was the proof that any viewer needed that anorexia is not simply about dieting. She often refused water as she could not be convinced that water does not contain calories. She felt guilty every time she ate, and she would exercise incessantly in order to burn the energy she had taken in to offset her guilt. She would wake at four in the morning to exercise.

At one time she was allowed home on a trial. She had to demonstrate she had overcome anorexia. However, her mother found she was exercising in her bedroom, and had to take her back to the school. I can only imagine how soul-destroying it was for both Naomi and her mother.

Natasha, a 12 year old patient, explained that blaming the problem on skinny models in magazines is not the sole cause of the problem: in fact for many it isn’t the problem at all. The impression I got was that it’s not just an aspiration to be skinny, or to look like anyone in particular, but more a craving for something to control, and to feel the effects of control. It is a deeply ingrained psychological problem. As Natasha said, “It is something that can be only cured by the person, when they are ready.”


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