Thursday, 17 April 2008 by kinakoJam
Anyone who follows food writer Jeffrey Steingarten's columns in American Vogue will have often remarked on how odd it is to be reading about his cheese fondue experiments in a magazine that is a pillar of an industry that (whether consciously or not) by promulgating certain body types, implies a much less voluptuous version of what and how much we should be eating.
Last year the New Yorker magazine noted on its website "how bizarre it is that the dean of American food writers should be publishing his scientific food forays amid images of Caroline Trentini jumping in Prada and furs", for a piece about burger science and Heston Blumenthal. (see picture above).
The sometimes gothic or even horrific relationship between fashion and food was highlighted again this week when France's lower house of parliament adopted a measure that makes it illegal to "incite extreme thinness." The law will apply across all media, including magazines, websites and advertising.
The law was supposedly in part a reaction to the recent death of a Brazilian model of anorexia - and by all accounts is largely aimed at the extremely disturbing trend of 'pro ana mia' websites. Ana and Mia are shorthand for anorexia and bulimia respectively. The French Federation of Couture responded defensively, deriding a law that would allow the goverment to decide 'who is skinny and who is not'.
When it comes to the eating disorder websites, health experts say a crackdown will be hard to enforce as well as not necessarily having much effect on preventing the eating disorders.
So, having read this, I naturally went to one of those websites out of curiosity. Blech.... of course, it was disturbing, to say the least. The hints for distraction, deception and purging, were just too pitiful to be repeated here, involving talk of stomach-acid bursts, pretending to be vegetarian, and mind-controlling mechanisms involving food and repulsive visual stimuli.
In general I think mental illness as a whole deserves more sympathy and understanding from society - but these types of eating disorders are somehow much harder to feel sympathetic towards. At once deeply narcissistic and nihilistic: they are a scary reminder of how twisted the human mind can become...
So Coco Chanel isn't directly responsible for eating disorders that are far more complicated than simply feeling guilty for having eaten one too many strawberry-lavendar muffins or a boxful of chocolate eclairs from Laduree in Paris.
But I guess we all know women who never eat a full meal: who often have nothing to eat all day except for one slice of cake and one piece of toast, and temper their moodswings with anti-depressants, cups of tea and/or shopping on their credit card. Or boys who complained when you ate your whole plate full, because they are used to girls who left half their portion for them to consume? And what of Karl Lagerfeld, who reportedly stays trim by simply chewing things up and spitting them out?
Whether you think predigestive regurgitation is sexy or not. The relationship between fashion and food is pretty fucked up.
Girls, will you please just eat your granola?
Or even turn all those obsessive-compulsive controlling impulses into something useful like creating your own sourdough starters from the natural yeasts that hide on freshly milled flour?
Basically, just behave more like Jeffrey Steingarten. As if he was on a south beach diet.