When Karen Carpenter died of anorexia in 1983, it sparked a wave of campaigns designed to bring attention to what had been up until then a little-known eating disorder. Many of these initiatives focused on dispelling myths about anorexia--namely, that anorexics were superficial, rich white girls led astray by a warped fashion industry, or that they were demure ballerinas (also rich, white, and female) oppressed by a sadistic patriarchy. These myths weren't euhemeristic in nature, but grew almost in tandem with efforts to disprove them, which is almost enough to make one wonder if a preemptive cultural defense was being launched on behalf of anorexics everywhere. The truth is that we still know very little about eating disorders, and much of what we say we "know" is actually conventional wisdom adopted as fact by desperate parents, sufferers and uneducated bystanders. The following are not so much myths about eating disorders, but pieces of this conventional wisdom that I examine in my new book "How to Disappear Completely: On Modern Anorexia" [The Overlook Press, $26.95].
6 Myths About Anorexia