Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of
gaining weight, often coupled with a distorted self image which may be maintained by various cognitive biases
that alter how the affected individual evaluates and thinks about her
or his body, food and eating. Persons with anorexia nervosa continue to
feel hunger, but deny themselves all but very small quantities of food.
The average caloric intake of a person with anorexia nervosa is 600-800
calories per day, but in extreme cases self-starvation is more extreme. It is a serious mental illness with a high incidence of comorbidity and the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
The term anorexia nervosa was established in 1873 by Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria's personal physicians. The term is of Greek origin: an- (ἀν-, prefix denoting negation) and orexis (ὄρεξις, "appetite"), thus meaning a lack of desire to eat.
Though she died last month, the world is just now learning about the passing of French model Isabelle Caro. The 28-year-old Caro bravely
became the face of eating disorders in 2007 when she appeared in a
shocking billboard campaign warning of the dangers of anorexia during
fashion week in Italy. In the ads, a painfully thin Caro, who weighed
less than 60 pounds at the time, was depicted peering over her shoulder
with the words "No. Anorexia" plastered in large letters across the top
of the nude image.
Caro became one of the leaders of an effort to warn about the dangers of eating disorders, but after the health effects of the
disorder weakened her body, she died on November 17 following a long
sickness, according to her acting coach, E! News reported.
Caro said in interviews that she had suffered from anorexia nervosa since she was 13, telling CBS News in 2007 that she agreed to do
the ad because "I said if I can put my years of suffering to good use
then it will not have been pointless. ... I know it's a shocking photo,
and I want it to shock. It's really a warning that it is a serious
In addition to working as a judge on "France's Next Top Model," Caro was featured in the second episode of Jessica Simpson's VH1 reality series "The Price of Beauty," in which the singer traveled the globe to uncover the lengths to which
women go to attain what society believes is perfection.
Caro's appearance on the show brought Simpson to tears. "What you are
doing right now makes you more beautiful and I hope women all over the
world hear about the story," Simpson told Caro on the show, during which
the model described how even as a teenager who weighed just 89 pounds
she was told she needed to lose weight. "To us, what you're doing right
now makes you one of the most beautiful people that we have ever seen.
And we really just appreciate you sitting in front of us and having such
powerful words. God bless you. ... And I think it's important for women
to know that the skinnier you are doesn't make you more beautiful."
Despite her disturbing image in the 2007 ad, Caro worried that some anorexia sufferers (sometimes known as pro-ana for their support of
anorexia as a lifestyle choice) might misinterpret her message. "I hope
not. To see my tailbone like an open wound, I show myself as I am. I'm
not beautiful, my hair is ruined and I know I will never have long hair
again. I've lost several teeth," she said of her looks on the billboard.
"My skin is dry. My breasts have fallen. No young girl wants to look
like a skeleton. ... You couldn't believe anyone would want to look like
that. I don't think there's any question about it."
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