To get toned for New York City’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show on Nov. 9 (it airs Nov. 29), Adriana Lima, 30, told the Daily Telegraph that three weeks before hitting the catwalk, she has “intense” workouts twice a day. Nine days before, she stops eating solids and gets by on protein shakes, and 12 hours before, she stops drinking liquids entirely. No, really, all that deprivation in the name of sexy sleepwear is “a dream come true for me,” says Lima. And after the show, that burger is on us.
Look, I enjoy a trashy magazine from time to time, but the above “story” is just a straight up advertisement for eating disorders. Imagine! If I just stopped eating solids, perhaps I, too, could make sleepwear “sexy,” be world-famous, pull in at least six figures, and achieve my “dream come true.” Not okay, People; not okay. A juice cleanse may be beneficial to one’s health from time to time but that is NOT what’s going on here.
I wrote my very first letter to the editor in response to this Scoop, and I’ve reproduced it here below. Though I never got a response from People, it felt empowering as hell to send. I hope it inspires you to speak your mind when something’s bothering you. Take your cue from the New York City MTA: “If you see something, say something.”
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You don’t know me, but you have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up reading your magazine (my mom was a subscriber) and have enjoyed it to this day. However, I was incredibly disturbed to read the “Scoop” piece entitled “Adriana Lima: My Lingerie Workout!” featured in your November 22, 2011 issue. The blurb, while small, makes it painfully clear that eating disorders are both rewarded by society and promoted by the media as glamorous, enviable, and financially rewarding.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, in the U.S. “up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder).” Among teenagers and college students alone, the prevalence of disordered eating is one in ten, with females accounting for 90 to 95 percent (Berg, 1999). Furthermore, research suggests that the prevalence of eating disorders is a growing threat. “The incidence of eating disorders has doubled since the 1960s and is increasing in younger age groups” (Daw, 2001, p. 1).
If People chooses to celebrate Adriana Lima’s dangerously restrictive diet, it most certainly has the right to do so. But at what point does your publication stop being a celebrity/human-interest publication and start becoming a beauty and fashion manual? Levine and Smolak (1996) found that among young women, the primary motivation for reading magazines was to gain knowledge of fashion, beauty and the like. When it comes to magazines, most young women are active consumers; they look to your publication for information on how to achieve societal standards of beauty (Tiggemann, 2003).
If People can be deemed a manual of sorts – a publication to which we look in part for current beauty, fashion, and attitude trends – then it has a responsibility to send healthy messages to its consumers. If a public reprimand of Lima’s pseudo-anorexic behavior seems too extreme, then I would have appreciated you not publish the piece at all. Your cheeky addition that “after the show, that burger is on us” simply makes light of an unhealthy and dangerous situation. I hope that Time Inc. will take advantage of the opportunity to rescind the lighthearted piece and make a public commitment to actively eradicating the prevalence of eating disorders worldwide.
Thank you for your time,
Berg, F. M. (1999). An unhealthy obsession. In B. Leone (Ed.), Eating disorders: Contemporary issues companion (pp. 24-32). San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.
Daw, J. (2001). Eating disorders on the rise. Monitor on Psychology, 32(9). Retrieved October 6, 2004 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/oct01/eating.html
Levine, M. P. & Smolak, L. (1996). Media as a context for the developmental psychopathology of eating disorders: Implications for research, prevention, and treatment. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved November 13, 2011, from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
Tiggemann, M. (2003). Media exposure, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating: Television and magazines are not the same! European Eating Disorders Review, 11, 418-430.