Vampires: The Next Eating Disorder?

Full disclosure: I do not watch vampire shows or read vampire books. I have a vague notion of who Robert Pattinson is simply because he keeps popping up in US Weekly during my Stepmill sessions. Oh, and yesterday I sat slackjawed as I watched Twilight Saga: New Moon star Kellan Lutz do the most amazing and hypersexual set of push-ups I’ve ever seen on Ellen. But aside from that, my vampire pop culture knowledge is nil. I never even watched Buffy. The closest I’ve come to even caring about a vampire was in kindergarten, when Count von Count taught me my 1, 2, 3s on Sesame Street.

That said, bloodsucking is H-O-T right now. Bella and Edward and Jacob are the IT boys and girls for lady teenagers worldwide and even my mommy friends who somehow juggle working full time and caring for their little kids are finding the time to page through New Moon.

Now, eating disorders aren’t the first thing that spring to mind when I think about vampires--although a diet composed solely of blood does sound a bit excessive (at least they needn’t worry about anemia! Heh heh.) Oh, and if I wanted to be crass, I could make the case that the cover art for Twilight might simultaneously be used to illustrate an extremely disordered “What I Ate This Week” food journal. (Good thing I’m not crass.) But I’ve spotted a few small blogs that have somehow made a link between the two. For example, in this story, the author points out that Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella) is often used as “thinspo” by websites that promote anorexia or bulimia (aka “pro-ana” or “pro-mia” sites.) Here’s a pic of the actress, who told Allure Magazine that she worries about being too skinny, doesn’t exercise, and thinks of herself as “skinny fat.” The examiner.com author also states that while Stewart’s exact weight is not publicly known, “reports are that the ‘requirements’  for her body double were to be 5'5" tall and weigh 105 pounds. If that is indeed her weight, that would mean that she has a Body Mass Index of 17.5. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the lowest healthy BMI is 18.5. For Kristin, that means her lowest healthy weight would be 111 pounds on her 65 inch frame.

For all those eating disorder-prone boys out there, Taylor Lautner (who plays Jacob) reportedly gained over 30 pounds of muscle for his New Moon role. He even told Men’s Health he had to cut down on his cardio because "I was exercising so hard that I began to lose weight."

And in this feministing.com blog post, a self-described anorexic named LadyAnon wrote about the many parallels between vampires and women with eating disorders:

-Both vampires and anorexics feel like outsiders, “disconnected from the mainstream, lonely, cold and isolated.”

-Neither vampires nor anorexics can control what they eat: Like a vampire licking blood off the floor, “I too have been made to feel like a freak for urges I can’t control. I too am shamed by what I eat and how I eat it--the need to pour pints of water into my cereal bowl to water down the milk, to eat freakishly slowly with my hands, tearing sandwiches into tiny mouthfuls piece by piece, sucking rather than chewing. I too am ashamed by the food rules that govern my life, but I do not feel I have a choice over them.”

-Both vampires and anorexics must decide whether to share their secret with new friends or romantic partners, even at the risk of alienating or scaring them away.

Not to take away from LadyAnon’s struggle in any way, but my assessment of this whole alleged vampire-eating disorder connection can be summed up in three words:

Mountain: Meet molehill.

I’m sorry, but this isn’t the Twilight Saga it’s being portrayed as. An eating disorder is a psychiatric disease affecting more than eight million men and women. It leads to physical and emotional agony, hospitalizations and often, death. It’s a health-damaging and soul-crushing way for people to deal with their misery without addressing the actual life issues causing them pain.

Vampires, on the other hand, are not real. They are made-up, fictionalized TV, movie and book characters. Like Mickey Mouse or He-Man. Comparing anorexics to vampires is like comparing people in wheelchairs to Smurfs because they both have to deal with looking different than everyone else (eg disabled; blue). It trivializes the situation at hand. I mean, if it somehow helps a woman struggling with an ED to see links between her and a vampire actress she idolizes, then I suppose there’s no harm. But seriously, if people start attacking vampire movies for inspiring extreme thinness and eating disorders, that’s a bandwagon I just can’t jump on. (Surprisingly, I can actually see it more for the boys than the girls here: 30 pounds of muscle is an insanely unrealistic goal and I acknowledge it could be possible that a shy, lanky boy at home might read that and feel pressure to bulk up himself.)

What do you think? Is this a connection you can sink your teeth into?

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