Anorexic "Tips" from the Biggest Loser

11/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Here's a diet tip for you: Eat with a bear. I bet you eat less. Just try it and see.
"She is a great example of fulfilling your destiny. She'll order dessert and take one bite and then pour the salt shaker over it. She's about living consciously."

~ Ali Vincent, first female winner of The Biggest Loser, had this to say about working with trainer Jillian Michaels*.

Setting aside for the moment my ambivalent feelings about Ms. Michaels -- I've swung all the way from hater to budding girl crush on the love spectrum -- I take issue with anyone, celebrity or otherwise, talking about "living consciously" and "fulfilling your destiny" by manipulating your food. Your food is not your consciousness nor your destiny. Do you know why? Because your body is not the sum of your consciousness nor your destiny. We are more than what we eat. We are more than what we look like.

The Anorexic's Notebook
Several years ago when the media was all aflutter over "Pro-Ana" and "Pro-Mia" sites -- a small subset of websites that enable girls in pursuing their disordered lifestyles -- many eating disorder "tips" were published in the news. For those of us who already possessed the eating disordered mindset but up until then blissfully unaware of such sites, this was like a gold mine. I'm not proud to admit it but I spent a considerable amount of time on those websites. Mostly they were not what the media claimed them to be -- i.e. fist pumping bastions of alternative lifestyles (die-styles?) -- but rather collections of depressed, withdrawn and highly competitive sick girls. Most of them (us?) didn't want to stay disordered forever. Most of us realized how much our eating disorder took from us. But all of us wanted to be thin. And so the site authors published tips and tricks for getting to that Waif Ideal.

Some tips were bizarre like the fabled and much reported "eat toilet paper because it fills you up and has no calories" one. I personally never knew anyone that did that or even said they did that although apparently it had enough cultural cache to make it on a Law & Order episode. Other tips were painful, like swallowing cups of vinegar to take away your appetite (and your esophogus!) or punching yourself in the stomach to quell pesky hunger pangs. But there were quite a few tips that actually sounded a wee bit sensible, especially to a person desperate to lose weight. My favorite of those is the Food Destroying tip.

Annihilate Your Food
When I was 15 I took an ill-advised job as a waitress for the catering department of the nearby university. Very quickly I discovered that not only was I younger and more naive (as evidenced by the fact that I did not wear a black or red bra peeking out under my white tuxedo shirt) than most of my fellow waitresses but I was also, well, chubbier. At least to my eyes. In a profession that relies heavily on being attractive to make money, the svelte sylphs I worked with soon became my idols. I watched those girls very carefully to see how they maintained their figures.

They destroyed their food.

Sometimes that entailed drowning it in an incompatible or extreme flavor like salad dressing on cheesecake, raw horseradish layered on creme brulee or even, like Jillian, the contents of the salt shaker poured out over 50$/plate prime rib. Other times it meant "accidentally" spilling cleaning fluid on the leftover butterflake rolls or over squirting dish soap into a chafing dish of hollondaise sauce. The entire goal was to make your plate of food as unappealing as possible. We didn't hide it. In fact, it became a game. The mealtime sport was who could eat the least dinner (and drink the most Diet Coke!) at dinner time.

Back to the Present
And so it is with much trepidation that I read this diet tip from the famed trainer-to-the-hoi-polloi. Not only do I take issue with the blatant wastefulness of the gesture -- "Look! I can afford to pay 7.95$ for a decadent piece of gourmet restaurant cake and I am so wealthy that I can afford to take one bite and then render the rest inedible." -- but I am also offended by what this says about our bodies. To me, this displays an inherent distrust of your body. It makes it so that you treat your body as if it were an enemy to be conquered, subdued, or tricked rather than what it is -- your ultimate partner in your health and well-being.

If all Jillian really wants is one bite of cake, then why not instruct her server to only bring her one bite of cake? (Oh, they'll do it! Especially if she's still paying full price for it.) Or why doesn't she split the piece with the whole table? Everyone gets a bite. Instead she perpetuates a method of disordered eating that, frankly, is a very slippery slope. What's next? Eating food out of the garbage can that you threw away in an attempt to make it inedible?

Food is a gift. It is not something to be feared or demonized but rather to be eaten with joy and thanksgiving. Take it from someone who has eaten food out of the garbage.

So what do you all think? Does living in an super-size world call for extreme dieting methods? Or does this sound insane to anyone else?

*Note: Not having any first hand knowledge of Jillian Michael's eating habits and never having seen the show (I'm still not watching TV), I do not know if Ali Vincent's allegation is true.