Anorexia. What They Really See In The Mirror!

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This image haunts me for few days now. I can’t get it out of my mind but I can’t get it in my heart either!

It keeps on haunting me high and low and even though it’s that weight issue we all pretend to know and talk about, the visual form or Anorexia’s demons is powerful enough to bring sadness in my eyes at any time. Brilliantly photo-put by Mr Ross Brown.

Anorexia Mirror picture Ross Brown

Known for his amazing attention to detail and every aspect of the photographic work, Ross Brown knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was only 13 years old. Born in 1969 in New Zealand, he worked really hard to achieve his dream, bought his first camera and from there on, nothing could stop him!

Ross Brown photographed by Tony Gardner

photographer Ross Brown, 2013. Image by Tony Gardner

Although he’s known and awarded for a wide range of topics (one of his photos hangs on a wall of the Musee du Quai Branly), Ross Brown keeps his focus on design and advertising nowadays. With the same dedication and attention for every aspect of his work – from the actual gesture of taking a picture to the digital retouching of each photo – Ross continues to impress with his style and vision.

digitally manipulated conceptual photography by Ross Brown

conceptual photography by Ross Brown

The image above recalling an anorexic looking back at herself in the mirror, although in Ross Brown’s name and portfolio, was retouched by Geoff Francis, as commissioned by Eating Disorders Services. It even went on to win New Zealand’s yearly photo contest. After years of experience in the field, Geoff Francis can proudly list many causes he has helped make an image or spread a message. Below, his work for the advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi while trying to promote the Women’s Refuge appeal.

womens refuge appeal photo by Geoff Francis

typography design and retouching by Geoff Davis

Our initial image, meant to highlight the distorted self image of a person suffering from an Eating Disorder was taken by Ross Brown for the Eating Disorder Services as commanded by Clemenger BBDO Advertising agency from New Zealand was released in 2004.

official anorexia mirror poster Ross Brown Geoff Francis

The visuals aren’t that uncommon or new as going through some EAD resources over the internet, I came across an illustration (reading ‘Des troubles du comportment alimentaire: L’anorexie et l’obesite) and also an advertorial product by Austin Kelley Advertising agency for Counselling for Eating Disorders by the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders, July 2000. The photographer in question is Atlanta-based Chris Davis.

anorexia mirror illustration

Anorexia psa distorted image ad 2000

psa from 2000 showing the Pinnochio illusion on people suffering from anorexia

Apparently, the distorted image of one’s self was documented in a scientific study called ‘The Illusion of Pinocchio’, proving through brain scans that a certain part of the human brain, the Posterior Parietal Cortex, registered an unusually high activity with the persons suffering from Eating Disorders. They could actually, physically, project an entirely different image of their bodies in the parietal cortex!

Anorexia, just like bulimia and a wide range of unspecified eating disorders represent mental illnesses. Scientific studies weren’t able to completely sustain the theory of fashion models being solely responsible for the emaciated image young women and men try to identify themselves with. A wider specter of causes can trigger an eating disorder (among which genetics or even a psychological or physical trauma) and the biggest percentage of cases occur in young women starting from the pre-teen years (12-14 years) to the larger group of 18 to 30 years. Few cases were registered or documented after that age.

anorexia infographic

Coincidence or not, it’s the peak of their being. Youth and beauty, intelligence and success, they all seem somehow tied together with being thin. On the other side, obesity, which can also be related to an Eating Disorder, appears later in life, older they get, people tend to let go of their living and eating discipline, gaining more and more weight (the documented peak of age for obesity is between 55 and 64 years).

how Anorexia and bulimia affect the person inforaphic

Like any and all other mental illnesses, Eating Disorders can be assisted and alleviated with a lot of love and support from the family or the close friends. Nobody is alone. Or at least nobody has to be alone. Admitting the problem and reaching out would work wonders in the recovery of the true individual crushed under this image/health issue before it becomes life threatening!


#1 Ellington on 02.17.10 at 10:11 am

Yes sadly this is so true what the women, girls and now even boys and men see when they look in the mirror if the suffer from anorexia. They have also found that it is not only a desire to not be fat, but also the desire to remain childlike in their bodies. That way they are not sexual, or sexually appealing. Sometimes the sufferers are incest survivors too which is also very sad and tragic.
This is very informative Kpriss and very moving too.

#2 Adriana on 02.18.10 at 6:54 am

I’ve a girlfriend who has been anorexic. And speaking about the childlike body; she had a boob reduction at 18 years old. Hated it that men always looked “down” and never looked her in the eyes. But still she wasn’t happy with her body until our bewildering. Nobody noticed her problem was far more worse. It took her more than five years to recover after a terrible struggle with her self-image and she also have been hospitalized and done a lot of therapy. And for everyone around her a lot of understanding.

#3 Ellington on 02.18.10 at 7:28 am

Oh Adriana! That is so sad! I do hope that your friend is better with her ailment and has good and loving support. But if she has you in her life I know that she does. :)

#4 s. on 02.18.10 at 10:34 am

It’s really sad. My old cousin (she is ten years older than me) has it since I was a kid ( I grew up hearing my family talking about that and wondering why her mum didn’t want to admit that her daugther has this disease). Thankfully never goes that far and she is going to therapy.

Adriana I hope your friend now is fine and happy.

#5 Adriana on 02.19.10 at 7:06 am

My friend is doing fine these days. She’s a mother now and is happy. This was 20 years ago and anorexia was just recognised as a serious disease. Though not everyone took it that serious back then. She got her breast reduction before she was diagnosed as a birthday present from her parents. So it was a huge shock to them at first this wasn’t the cure for her insecurity.
I’ve asked her a few times if she never had regrets about her boobies: no way! She’s happy now but has sometimes as most of us have some minor insecurities about the way she looks. These days we talk about about ageing and being woman in “the forever young culture”. But we all talk about that and the tone is so very different than when she was ill. We share this. :)

To go back to fashion: kudos to Coco Rocha who spoke out she’s less in demand for the catwalk because she refuses too lose weight. And she still is determined. As if that girl is “too curvy”! Such a shame she’s one of the best, nicest and most fun models around.
I know fashion isn’t the reason or the fault someone contract anorexia. But this misogynist attitude of the fashion world isn’t really a big help right?

#6 kpriss on 02.19.10 at 7:21 am

I think fashion belongs to thin models just as thin structures belong on those shiny catwalks. There used to be a time when I felt envy for those girls. When I had my own dreams of walking the fashion shows. Luckily, I gave up those ideas – I wouldn’t have made it in that world! They walk on you like you were some cockroach whenever there’s a new face on the horizon. And there’s always a new face, isn’t there?

What I was trying to get at was my own weight troubled days. Always was thin. And (you know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true) it was because of my lucky DNA. I lost that physical balance due to some unhappy medication and developed a conviction that I was fat. Years after that I was still obsessed with my weight and didn’t eat much. Luckily (again), something happened and I switched back to my old thin self. Ever since I’m staying away from the weight obsession room – I locked it away in my head (though I sometimes open it, I admit, but I guess this obsession never really goes away. It just goes out of focus if you’re leading a good, happy life) .

I can only imagine what your friend was going through, Adriana and the pain she must have felt during those years. I’m happy for her, happy for her family, I wish she’ll always be good with herself and keep in mind that she’s a fine woman and people love her just the way she is and because who she really is beyond the scale and the mirror.

Love is such a wonderful thing! It can really be miraculous!

#7 kpriss on 02.19.10 at 7:24 am

oh, s. ! What I said above about Adriana’s friend goes for your cousin too! People around her matter the most in her keeping it all together! What may look insignificant to us, to her it may be a disaster. What I’m trying to say is keep her confident, happy. Tell her that she’s worth it, that she’s wonderful and she does wonderful things. Encourage her. Insecurities spawn monsters :(

#8 s. on 02.19.10 at 1:50 pm

Thanks kpriss, the truth is that the last time I saw her (she is currently working in the UK) she was happy and enthusiastic about the therapy, and her partner is also the greatest help she could have got.

Adriana I’m very happy for your friend (and for you, of course, it isn’t easy to see someone you love trying to destroy him/herself because doesn’t like the way he or she is).

Well about if fashion has or has not the fault of illness like Anorexia I think both.
It does in some way, Occidental society are constantly exposed to images that try to sell you something making it desirable. Beauty (and be sexually deseable) is one of the most used and you just have to watch what kind of bodies (most of them are IRREAL because they are retouched with PhotoShop) appear on it. There’s nothing wrong about desiring a more attractive body but if the beauty canons are based on something that is not real make people develope illness like this.

Sorry for the extension (I get exited when I talk about this topic, off the record, it was the one I chose for my last paper of Anthropoloy class), grammar mistakes, etc. I’m quite tired but I needed to type it now before it goes out of my mind).

#9 Ellington on 02.19.10 at 2:08 pm

Adriana and s, I am so glad to hear of the happy endings for your friend, Adriana and your cousin, s.
This is truly wonderful and it is great to know that people can come back from anything as long as they have to will to and the love and support of family and friends and the aid of good professionals.

#10 café au lait on 02.20.10 at 5:29 pm

I remember when I was a kid we lived in Africa, and Iwas to thin ,when I turn 13, people were saying that I will never find a houseband because I don’t have curves, so I was complexed and then we came here, the firsts time I thought it was a joke, boys at school were telling me how beautiful I was, I couldn’t believe it, and then I started modeling, “oh,I love it you are so thin”, and then I go in our community and people thouth I was anorexic, it was difficult to live in both world, I remember a rwandan mother asked me that I never grow up that I still stay with the same body as 5 years before, and then I got pregnant and i took (30kilos), I lost 20 kilos, I ‘m sie 8 form 2 , is a big change!! “oh my god , you changed! you3re a woman now” I hear that and I’m proud of having curves. I’m feel more my self some times I want to loose those 10 kilos to model again,I’m not sure if I want that

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