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This Morning on Anorexia - Irresponsible and Plain Stupid - Catherine [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Catherine B

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This Morning on Anorexia - Irresponsible and Plain Stupid [May. 13th, 2010|12:09 pm]
Catherine B
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Never before has television coverage sparked such an immediately, uncontrollable anger from me. I do apologise if this piece of writing seems a little mixed up and messy - it is merely my response to something which sets off all my red lights, and that is indeed a rarity.

Nikki Grahame - ex-Big Brother contestant, Marmite personified although most people I know with any spark of intellegence would be on the 'hate' side. A strong word, but she didn't help herself from the start. This is not supposed to be a rant about her though, the poor girl has obviously had a very hard life and been through some exceedingly traumatic experiences - but is she the right person for the job of speaking out about Anorexia. No offence love, but if you canot get through an interview without being led to answer questions that should not even be asked on television, you should not allow yourself to be put in that position, especially if you totally lack the awareness of what could happen as a consequence of your actions and words.

The particular question that prodded me in all the wrong places was posed by Phillip Schofield on todays' This Morning on ITV. I could sense it coming, as I have experience of journalists gently forcing out the gory details and enjoying their reactions as I cleverly bend their words to answer in a way that I see as helpful, not giving in to their tangled web of explicit curiosity. They want an entertaining story, shocking facts, tales that make you gasp or squirm regardless of the expense at which they are told. I tell the truth.

"You found ways to trick the system to make them think you were getting better?"
"Yes"
"So, how did you do that, what tricks did you use?"
...

Her first response was to say that she had tried every trick in the book. Fine. She went on to give an endless list of the extremes she went to in order to trick her doctors into thinking she was getting better. Far from fine.

They MUST realise that among the millions of viewers, some of them will be suffering from Anorexia and/or Bulimia, may be in treatment and may wish to continue being ill - because that is what Eating Disorders do. To list a wide range of tips on how to get around the system is the most irresponsible and, in my opinion, truly sickening that anybody could do, and on television? I almost felt sorry for Nikki, as the little sod was simply answering whichever questions were asked of her, simple as. But Phillip Schofield, who I actually have a lifelong obsession with - has a chunk less of my respect than I had for him just one hour ago. It's saddening to see someone who is obviously rational enough to know that such a thing could be harmful to his audience, I just had to speak out.

All of this just to promote Nikki's book now available in paperback.

I used to laugh at people who complained about television programmes. Now I'm about to join them.
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 11:26 am (UTC)

I agree

That is a terrible and very unresponsible of them to even air stuff like that, as you say, young people who are suffering could be well watching, hoping to now cheat the system and hold on to their problems. People like that really don't help. He and the tv company should be told. !!! I totally agree with you hun.

Dawn Chapman
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 11:35 am (UTC)

Unbelievable

Totally true lonie; she is just too dizzy to realise what she said. He however, should have known better.

Emma
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 11:39 am (UTC)
It's at times like this that I'm extra grateful that I don't have a TV.

I'm in a partial hospitalisation programme at the moment, and I know that I should be making use of all the resources available to me to help me in my recovery. Places in this programme aren't easy to come by and there are hundreds of people in this area who need this help so badly. Yet whenever one of the other patients (usually a former inpatient) mentions something that she used to do to trick the doctors, I can't resist - I have to try it for myself. The worst aspect of this eating disorder is that it has made me so damned scheming and competitive. Anything anybody says can be used for the competition, even if it's quite innocent. As for explicit descriptions of strategy...it's like showing me a goldmine. And then blocking up the exit so I can't get out.

This is something that disturbs me about popular interest in eating disorders. People want all the details. They have this morbid fascination with anorexia in particular. With some people the interest seems to verge on the pornographic in its intrusiveness. Nothing is private; they want to question you on everything, greedy for the detail. I doubt that the TV presenter wanted to increase knowledge or even to promote the book - he was drawing out the information that he knew would keep people glued to their TV screens. I don't know what to make of this level of interest. Can't be a positive thing. There is awareness-raising, and there's...this, which is altogether different.

- makingweight
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 11:59 am (UTC)
Not cool at all; shame Schofield!
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 12:01 pm (UTC)
Totally agree. Irresponsible in the extreme. The angriest tv has made me in quite some time.
Rosie X X
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 12:29 pm (UTC)

Her book

Her book is basically a how to guide on how to continue your illness, makes me sick that she is protraying this image of anorexia sufferers as airheaded, attention seeking sadists. Yes the illness can cause the sufferrer to be secretive or "sly" but to portray the illness simply as that is ridiculous.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 01:38 pm (UTC)
Instead of targetting Phillip Schofield and Nikki Grahame how many more than those who were watching This Morning regularly use the pro ana sites which were also referred to cautiously?

Perhaps campaigning for pro ana sites to be closed down would make infinately more sense than being overcome by a few questions asked and answered on This Morning. Nikki Grahame's experiences are at least lifting the veil when it's clear she's still very much struggling with her issues. During the morning when the kids away are in school and Mum's and Dad's would be watching, if parents are always the last ones to know, this interview has a potential for great good.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 05:56 pm (UTC)

blinkered

Having read your piece it appears that you are somewhat blinkered to seeing anything to do with eating disorders from a sufferers viewpoint.

Firstly, can I say that I think your outward distaste for Nikki is completely ill judged and misplaced. To call someone that you don't know a 'sod' and 'Marmite' when you have only experienced them through television interviews and a tv reality show is completely unjustified and is something I would only expect to hear from the right wing press. Perhaps a job as a journalist at the Daily Mail could be on the cards?

I consider myself to have a 'shred of intelligence' and like to think that this is reflected in the fact that I abstain from judgment based purely on the media.

Secondly, you seem completely devoid from reality. A television show like This Morning has a target audience of those who aren't at work, stay at home mum's and students. The number of people who thoroughly understand eating disorders are few and far between and this interview could give people who don't know what anorexia is a greater knowledge. Perhaps even make people identify otherwise unidentifiable symptoms in their family and friends. Are you saying that this is not a good thing and that any press given to anorexia should be targeted at the minority, i.e. the sufferers in the hope of curing them rather than targetting potential sufferers before they are hospitalised/institutionalised??

Nikki Grahame cannot help the fact she is in the public eye, and I find it hard to believe that she is doing this without considering the impact of what she is saying. How can you know how she felt and what she's been through? Philip Schofield is a long-standing professional journalist and presenter. I can't imagine that the professional on the couch and the huge team of researchers available at ITV could be so wrong and an unpublished 'journalist' like yourself can be so right purely because they are on a pedestal over their knowledge of this condition.

Attitudes like yours deserve an audience, but that audience is delusional and angry sufferers who don't see the bigger picture. I'm sure that any sufferers or potential sufferers who saw this know other means of obtaining information on how to hide anorexia and indulge in anorexia without holding out for the faint hope that This Morning might run a short piece once in a blue moon.

'Sorry' but I just felt I had to 'speak out'. "It is merely my response to something which sets off all my red lights, and THAT is indeed a rarity."
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-13 09:01 pm (UTC)
I agree with this article. The points being made about the irresponsibility of the media and especially of This Morning in focusing on Anorexia via Nikki Graham are founded and to be honest it is about time the ex sufferers themselves (not necessarily ones like Graham who are clearly still caught in the grip of an ed) who can testify to the role the programmes play in sensationalising eating disorders. Imagine if you had an average size person on talking about their battle with an eating disorder and without any pictures of them as "skinny" and images that would make you gasp with horror? The fact is that you wouldn't because it doesn't get the viewers. While it may seem unfair to target Nikki - she has sought attention through her skinniness and in face at one point was a member on Beat's (Beating Eating Disorders) Facebook page with a profile picture of herself in a tiny bikini - what is that telling all the fellow sufferers? It's not encouraging them to not obsess about their shape and focus on their self esteem is it? I'm sorry but This Morning could have done something different - there are so many of us ready to stand up and speak out, share our stories and support those suffering - but we are not if interest to the media due to the fact that we are now healthy and won't provide sensationalist pictures of us during our illness and won't explain in sensationalist detail about our symptoms.
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[User Picture]From: ndevon
2010-05-21 01:31 pm (UTC)

Actually ...

...couldnt agree more! Healthy sized, recovered ex eating disorder sufferers dont get the press they deserve!
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[User Picture]From: screamingsleep
2010-05-14 02:26 am (UTC)
i think you are dead on girl! I got many tips in the early stages of my eating disorder (and subsequent "hiding" techniques) from books, movies, media, of some kind, etc from people in recovery (or not) that just want to share their story. It is very easy to lead someone into that type of revealing conversation without realizing they are assisting someone else in hiding it better or getting more deceptive at it
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[User Picture]From: screamingsleep
2010-05-14 02:29 am (UTC)
and also just to add (unfortunately) now I am curious to read her book to find out if what she says are things I have never tried before.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-14 12:27 pm (UTC)

re: blinkered

Regarding the comment entitled blinkered:

The fact is broadcasters do have a duty of responsibility in what appears before us. I agree, it is a minority who would be affected by the comments, however it would be a minority who would be affected by someone talking in detail about how they used to manufacture harmful substances, or explosives, or details on how they tried to kill themselves - that would not be broadcast because it would be considered harmful and inappropriate. I see no difference in the case of eating disorders. And, that information is available on websites as well, like the pro-anorexia websites.

In all honesty, even letting friends and family know what those with eating disorders may be doing to hide it from them is not going to help. Doctors often don't notice these things even when trained to do so, so it is doubtful family and friends would. Also, to point out, parents can be the eating disorder sufferer as well, it is not always a teenage girl (or boy, as was the initial part of the feature). Eating disorders in adulthood are increasing.

Basically, although features on eating disorders can be beneficial in raising awareness, this one was - for want of a better word - rubbish. Of course, shock value increases interest and ratings, but to give inappropriate information to a nation is not useful in any sense. The feature did not shed any light on what it is really like to suffer from an eating disorder, the reality is it isn't a game of hiding food, keeping secrets, and being sly. Its an all consuming, horrific leech on your brain, sucking all drive, motivation and enthusiasm for life out of you, and leaving it with nothing but the eating disorder. I wish people could see the reality more often, but it is incredibly difficult to depict, especially on short tv features. I don't hold any blame on Phillip himself, as he probably doesn't have much knowledge on the topic, and like a number of people is instead morbidly fascinated by details like he asked for, however I do think if there is going to be a feature covering something so serious and dangerous, it needs to be carefully planned, thought out, and screened appropriately.

I also understand that perhaps the writer of the comment I refer to does not fully understand eating disorders or the blog article writer's point of view, however it is attitudes like this that need to be challenged in order to prevent further harmful media reports.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-14 02:28 pm (UTC)
As someone with an Eating Disorder, I have to say, most anyone figures out these "tricks" without "learning" them from others. Sure, some might be picked up, but even if someone had never seen or heard of anyone with an eating disorder, they would still figure out ways to "hide". That is the nature of the illness.

I find the notion that "we wouldn't be doing this unless we learned it from somewhere" insulting to the intelligence, as well as being factually incorrect.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-14 07:36 pm (UTC)

not "plain stupid"

I don't think Phillip Schofield did anything wrong in his approach to the interview and I don't agree that what he did was "harmful to his audience". I think approaching the topic of eating disorders is beginning to take a different shape within the media today with a greater focus on informing the families, friends and loved ones of people who have suspected or full blown cases of anorexia or other such disorders. Phillip Schoffield like many others out there does have a limited knowledge of eating disorders but that is exactly why he asked the questions he did. The media asks such questions so that cases of suspected eating disorders can be identified and loved ones can encourage sufferers to get the help they need. The more the public in general know regarding identifying habits of sufferers etc the better as then we avoid fatal cases that go unnoticed.

I myself am a recovered anorexic. I spent 8 years of my childhood living in secret with it and gaining a wide range of tips and tricks where ever I could BUT my case could have been dealt with a lot sooner and in a much easier way if my parents and school teachers etc had more knowledge and understanding. I commend people like Phillip for their approach, it may appear blunt and irresponsible to sufferers but you are bound to feel that way. A lot of these comments seem to be so negative and seem to be missing the point of the interview. The whole point of such interviews is to make people understand the lengths anorexia will make people go to and understand the severity of the condition. Surely that can't be a negative thing!
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[User Picture]From: ndevon
2010-05-21 01:18 pm (UTC)

This Happens Every Day

We see this sort of thing every day in magazines and on television. Whenever I talk in schools I refuse to tell the students how much I weighed at my lowest weight or what "tips" I used. All they need to know is how much you can deteriorate and the hell you go through with an ED, so they dont start in the first place, and that there IS hope for a full recovery, if they're already suffering. That's why I'm happy my bulimia story in Cosmopolitan focussed on the positives and tried to give people hope, rather than sensationalising the whole thing. Understand why you're angry!
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[User Picture]From: ndevon
2010-05-21 01:26 pm (UTC)

Blinkered?!!

Also, in response to the comment entitled "blinkered" - Eating disorders are about mindset - There are things parents and friends can look out for other than the behaviours Nikki described, which are done in such secret in any case, it is unlikely you would detect them. Plenty of people are suffering behind closed doors and are an entirely normal weight, bulimics particularly, and all you would notice is how moody, depressed and withdrawn they were, rather then specific ED behaviour. These are the signs to look out for, in my opinion.
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[User Picture]From: ndevon
2010-05-25 03:28 pm (UTC)

Nikki Grahame

In response to Nikki's mate, I agree that she is misunderstood and has the best intentions. Please read my blog http://realbeautydebate.blogspot.com/2010/05/ilona-burton-v-phillip-schofield-my-two.html. N x
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-21 11:53 pm (UTC)
All I can say is that I think Nikki is hugely misunderstood.
As someone who knows someone who was in treatment with Nikki, and actually befriended her, it is a shame things have become so confused.
I never saw the show, or the interview, but maybe it is too easy to hit out at her.
If I recall, you used an image of yourself which showed your hipbones, as a means of promoting eating disorder awareness week.
Can you really judge Nikki (and/or anyone else) especially when you so adamantly "denied" this being about promoting your illness and emaciation.
You maybe want to think about that when you make such judgement calls.
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-22 08:15 am (UTC)
I don't think this blog post is 'hitting out' at Nikki. It explicitly says that Nikki simply answered the questions that were asked of her. The real criticism is of the This Morning presenters...who should have known better than to ask questions like that in the first place. Yes, anorexia is a misunderstood illness; yes, they probably didn't realise the damage they might cause - but this is what they have a team of researchers for, to help them learn these things in advance. If you go on any mainstream eating disorder site (B-eat, for example) you will find examples of what to say and what not to say when you are with a sufferer. With all this information out there, it is not exactly difficult to work out that asking such leading questions is likely to be disturbing and dangerous to sufferers, especially as competitiveness and a skewed kind of perfectionism are classic anorexic traits. Nikki herself talks about how competitive her illness made her become, so how could the presenters not realise that an unfortunate number of sufferers will listen to those tips and decide to go one better?

And explicitly giving out tips on how to hide your anorexia is not remotely comparable to accidentally using a photo that other people found distressing. As Ilona was perhaps comparing how she looks now with how she looked before hospital, when she was at the brink of cardiac arrest, it is likely that to her mind she didn't look emaciated - and as soon as she found out that people were upset by the picture, she cropped it. I was triggered by it myself, but I was able to recognise that it was a genuine mistake. Philip Schofield probing for gory details? Not so much.

As for Nikki Grahame, she may well be a very nice person. Being a nice person is no guarantee that you won't do stupid things in your life. It doesn't make your behaviour immune from criticism. I've now read her book, and she takes obvious pride in being 'the best anorexic', 'an anorexic pro', and 'a special anorexic' (all descriptors that she applies to herself). On her website, she states that she was not cured at Rhodes Farm Clinic because she was 'too clever' for the nurses. No, Nikki; you weren't too clever, you were too sick. Anorexia is not an intellectual pursuit. When I watched the interview on YouTube, I got the impression that in answering those questions she was keen to emphasise just how good and special and 'professional' she had become at this game. And I don't blame her for that. I'm similar. This illness can drive you to think like that. But if she is *still* thinking like that, and apparently lacking recognition that her words could be dangerous to others, perhaps she should not be talking about anorexia on TV.

- makingweight
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-05-25 03:29 pm (UTC)

Nikki Grahame

In response to Nikki's mate, I agree that she is misunderstood and has the best intentions. Please read my blog http://realbeautydebate.blogspot.com/2010/05/ilona-burton-v-phillip-schofield-my-two.html. N x
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