Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wrong emphasis?

The article I referenced in today's earlier entry (Yet another Terri Schiavo editorial) has been troubling me all day, specifically the following quote:

Terri had been an overweight teenager, at one point weighing 250 pounds. Didn't her loving parents worry when they saw their daughter shrink to 110 pounds? Didn't her husband notice she ate very little and purged after meals? Did her family or her friends question her extreme eating habits?

It is likely Terri was complimented by how terrific she looked and this would have encouraged her to continue to deprive her body of food. It is true the bloated features in her high school class picture had been transformed; the bulimia had allowed her to become a delicate beauty. She resembled the young Elizabeth Taylor. Her weight loss was validated, at a horrible cost.

It seems to me that the first question the author should have asked was, "Didn't her loving parents worry when they saw their daughter balloon to 250 pounds?"

Terri Schiavo was only 5 foot 3 inches tall. At that size, 110 pounds can be a very healthy weight for an active, athletic young woman with good eating habits. In fact, I know several young women at exactly that size and they are healthy and vibrant. No one suggests that they need to gain weight or that there is anything wrong with them.

It is not the weight loss that should have concerned Terri's parents. We have no idea, of course, whether or not they were concerned about her obesity or what steps, if any, they took to help her. However, they should have been concerned about both her obseity and the unhealthy manner in which Terri is said to have lost her weight.

Many people lose weight by healthy means, without any problems. That should be validated and encouraged. But we do need to be alert to the problems of eating disorders of all types, whether they result in obesity or weight loss.

This is one of the lessons that we should be learning, and learning well, in the wake of the tragedy of Terry Schiavo. Obesity can bring about frightening consequences. Eating disorders can bring about frightening consequences. We need to protect our daughters. (And our sons too, of course; however, it is daughters who suffer most from eating disorders.)

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