Monday, August 25, 2008

"fat is not a feeling," it's a visual.

I need as wide-spread involvement with this thought as possible.
I have been working with a doctor (actually working with her, not as her patient) in the area who is interested in treating anorexia.  I found her on Craigslist looking for a digital imager who could help her achieve a goal she has in mind for something that has never been done before.  I've brought up my skepticism to her about the ideas, but I'm also interested to see where it goes.  My goal, as the recovering, is to keep her up to date with reality checks about certain aspects of the project.
The general idea is that pictures are taken of patients and then manipulated to look as overweight as they "feel".  Now, hold on a second.. the point is not to show these images to patients and be like, "See, this is not what you look like!"  The point is to give patients a visual to describe how they feel, so that they can show someone what they feel like when they see themselves differently than other people do.
The more I go into it, the more skeptical I feel about it.  However, I think about groups that some treatment centers do with body-tracing and how helpful that can be because it's visual.  Maybe there aren't enough visual outlets in treatment.  Yes, so much of it needs to be about emotion, and feeling, and the deeper stuff, but the fact of the matter is that, to the patient, there is such a visual aspect that maybe it isn't addressed as much as it should be?  I'm not sure.
The bottom line is, if a doctor asked to take a photo of you ("you" being the recovering anorexia patients) and to manipulate you to look "heavier," how would you feel about that?  Do you think it would help?  Do you think it's just an absolutely disgusting idea?
I can't decide if I think it might be interesting to try or if it has the potential to make things much, much worse.  Or, even, if it's overall irrelevant?

14 comments:

BamaGal said...

I feel like this manipulated pic would just reinforce how fat I felt. It would only serve to provide me with what my mind feels is a true picture.

Lisa said...

I can see the benefit of having a digitally altered picture to compare with the image in the mirror. However, I think my own reaction would be along the lines of, "this is what I COULD look like if I lost control. I can't let that happen; I need to restrict more."

emmy. said...

the two points you guys make are exactly what makes me fear the idea of this project. i feel like this is the sort of thing where someone might even be able to argue the fact that the manipulated photo is, in fact, the original, instead. in their eyes, anyways.

Charlynn said...

In my worst days, I don't think I would have really believed the difference between the two pictures anyway, so I doubt it would help.

Tangerine said...

It sounds like an honest and naive idea, but to me this sounds like nothing but trouble. Personally, I find this concept absolutely disgusting. I don't need to see that, I see it in my head already.

I don't particularly feel the need to have a photo like that to show others. Why? Why should I feel like I need to justify myself?

Any way I look at this, it sounds like trouble....

Tangerine said...

Like the commenters before me have said, I would only look at the photo and see it as true, or as what I could look like if I gained to a "normal" weight.....

Tiptoe said...

I think for the majority of people with eating disorders, it would unfortunately only perpetuate how they feel about themselves and wind up being counterintuitive. But I think a small percentage would find it beneficial, especially for those who may have alexithymia, a trait where individuals have a difficulty in describing their feelings .

I also it would also highly depend on where the person was in their stage of eating disorder. I think those in mid-recovery may benefit from it more versus someone inpatient and underweight.

Just my two cents.

emmy. said...

that's a very interesting point, tiptoe. i hadn't thought about it maybe not being for someone in a higher level of care.

although, the risk of trying it at a lower level of care may be too high without knowing the effects it will have on a person. i'm not sure that's worth it.

Labyrinith said...

I think I would freak and probably think any other pics were digitally changed.
My nutritionist does picture therapy with my re: being at a healthier weight and where I was in life/emotionally/happiness wise.
I think LATER, in a recovery place if there weren't/aren't pictures of a person in the sickest phase it could prevent relapse. What do I know though. This is a quick reply. I am running out the door but also a very thought provoking post Ms. Em! Thank you!

Lauren Gaw Photography said...

Hi em, I have a few thoughts and want to preface them by saying that they come from someone w/out an ed so they may be way off but here goes..

I think for someone struggling with an ed so see a digitally altered photo of themselves "fatter" would only confirm fears of gaining weight, because a patient might say i dont want to look like that picture.

You say the purpose of the manipulated photos of the patients would be good visual aids to describe how they feel, but why not have the patients draw how they feel, something along the lines of art therapy, a little more low tech but have the patients grab a crayon and show what size they feel like on paper, or even take a photo of their head and draw the body part. I dont know if something like that already happens during treatment, but thats just my artsy imput

Anon mom said...

There is quite a difference between what you describe and body-tracing.

With body-tracing exercises, the outline shows you as you are ... not how you feel or fear you are. Once you have been traced, you then go to the real image of yourself and draw an outline showing how big/small you feel. Or, sometimes, you draw your self-concept outline first, then you are traced. In the processing part, you talk about the differences and your feelings.

The project you describe pretty much just allows for distortion of reality ... not for challenging truth of distortion. And, it seems like the project would give form to free-floating fear rather than release dysmorphic anxiety.

emmy. said...

i agree whole-heartedly. you all make extremely good points and really helped me figure this whole thing out. i'm so glad i got so many comments on it. i will be sure to run these feelings about the project by her, as it is extremely important (obviously) that she sees how patients would react to this type of idea.

thank you guys very much.

emmy. said...

i agree whole-heartedly. you all make extremely good points and really helped me figure this whole thing out. i'm so glad i got so many comments on it. i will be sure to run these feelings about the project by her, as it is extremely important (obviously) that she sees how patients would react to this type of idea.

thank you guys very much.

KC Elaine said...

I think I would cry if I saw that. My bf has mirrors in his house that are distorted so I look wider..and that's how I feel I really look so much of the time. I absolutely despise those mirrors.