Reflections Inspired by Starving in Suburbia

Look Better Naked By Apr 27, 2014 40 Comments

Last night Buffy, The Bee and I watched the Lifetime movie Starving in Suburbia. Buffy thought the movie was about people who had lost their jobs and were unable to afford food there fore making them starving but this movie was much darker about the horrors of anorexia. The movie was dark, literally, as if Lifetime wanted to show that anorexia was a horror story and not a choice made by people for vanity reasons.

The movie centers around Hanna, a 17 year old who becomes interested with “thinspiration” websites. Her interest grows to obsession and soon her Thinspo support person, ButterflyAna, seems to possess her as Hanna falls deeper and deeper into her disorder. Paralleling Hanna’s story is that of her brother Theo who is trying to make weight for wrestling. Hanna is being encouraged to eat while her brother is being discouraged to do anything to threaten his chances for a wrestling victory. In Lifetime movie fashion, disaster strikes before the movie resolves itself (a little too neatly I feel) but I have to thank Lifetime for opening up dialogue between The Bee and myself.

I grew up in a “Fat Family.” We had/have/live food/body weight issues. The message that I got was that “fat” was bad and “thin” was good. Things would be so much better when I lost weight. Things would happen, life could begin and there would be no worries if I were down to a single digit dress size. My family didn’t know about portion sizes or moderation. We didn’t exercise much and if we did, it only meant that we could eat more. It was nothing to buy in bulk, eat in bulk but then wonder why we were still looking the same. It was thing to berate ourselves and comment on what was going into our mouths until even the most innocent foods, an extra piece of bread, one more sip of soda or a taste of ice cream was fodder to be remarked and commented on.

The first time I had heard about anorexia and eating disorders I was in high school and struggling to deal with the weight I put on somewhere during the summer of eighth grade. At the time I thought that people who were anorexics were lucky because they had such self control. I always thought that I was to lazy, too unfocused and too undisciplined to do what seemed to be needed to do to lose weight. It was so much easier to hit the school store and snack on candy and soda than to remember that I wasn’t supposed to eat. The times when I would try to not eat, calling it “fasting” I would get so dizzy and hungry that I would be eating by lunch time.  Anorexia was something that didn’t happen to girls like me. This was a disease for the privileged, those who could afford the luxury of not eating, not poor Black girls who better not waste any food. When I got to college, a dorm mate suffered from anorexia and when she would be worn down to make the trip to the cafeteria with me I would feel ashamed of the pile of food on my plate as she munched sprouts and sipped water. I would often look at my thick legs and soft belly and wonder why I couldn’t say no to food.

Purging was a thing I tried but I got scared when one day I couldn’t stop throwing up. That is when I wasn’t forgetting that I was supposed to be purging. The binge part, I got. The purging…I was always forgetting to make myself throw up so I was just consuming too many calories and adding to my “weight problem.” Besides, I was so afraid of losing my hair or my teeth falling out that this ended before I got too much into trouble.

Weight has been an up and down battle but having my own daughter is the push I need to work through the negative talk and want more. The Bee is naturally thin and it scares me because secretly (well not now) it pleases me. She is healthy..ish. She runs track, eats like she has a hollow leg and is very (very) confident about herself. I have tried to speak about body images in the most positive light around her so that she won’t ever have the doubts that I did but watching Starving in Surburbia gave us an opportunity to talk. I brought up the movie and we talked about body images. I was honest with her about feeling like I am not my best and she responded that we could go to the track, make different food choices or just be happy. In that teen way that is becoming all too familiar, she assured me that “I eat! I would let you know if there were problems, besides I like looking good and those girls did not look good.”

Weight and body image is still a thing but I am working with what I got and not waiting to get to where I think I should be. Having my teen talk about being “attractive” and “so good looking” is a nice reminder that I am doing something right and that we both are a bit more confident and that we are solid. In a very good way.


mondaymusings (1)



I am mom, daughter, sister, yarn lover, word lover, crazy cat lady and library chick. Find me with book or with hook and a hot cuppa.


  1. I, too, grew up in a “fat” family. We are Italian and boy can we eat. I was overweight most of my life until a health scare made me work hard to lose it. I can still eat most people under the table because I truly love to eat, but I don’t indulge all the time.

  2. Lindsey says:

    Eating disorders are a real thing. It was something I always considered as a teenager, but never acted on. I have more willpower than I know what to do with.

  3. Melissa says:

    I’ve always been overweight and I know I have to do something to make myself a good role model for my twin girls. I’m glad that it opened the dialogue for you two!

  4. Carly A. Bellard says:

    I applaud you for being able to share this! Too often people are afraid to share their stories when it comes food addictions or other eating disorders.

  5. Eating disorders are so scary. Girls, especially, are trained by society to look a certain way. I’m glad you have such a great outlook on the situation and have learned through your experiences how to model appropriate behavior for your daughter.

  6. Louida says:

    I currently eat very poorly now and overweight but I decided to get active and not to let myself go.

    I never really had a eating disorder but I’m seeing it with teens way too often. I thank the media for pushing being skinny is pretty.

  7. Christie says:

    It’s great how a TV show can connect people on a different level. I love that you were able to open lines of communication with your daughter

  8. Brandi says:

    As a parent of a child who is in maintenance mode after an anorexia diagnosis, I wish I had seen this movie. My daughter is now 12 and was diagnosed at 10 years old with anorexia nervosa. Part of hers started with her ADHD meds that were causing her to not want to eat. Then she would get called fat from other kids at school. Which then led to her just refusing to eat. We spent a year trying to fight our way back to a healthy weight for her. I wish body image wasn’t such a big deal, but it is. We have crazy limits set to reach each day to make sure we are appealing to the top 2% of the world. One day I really hope that our daughters don’t see the need to be thin as a need. But instead see being healthy as a need!

  9. melinda says:

    I’ve always had a bad opinion of my weight. even as a child I remember sucking it in. thankfully no eating disorders though

  10. keikilani says:

    I still am weary of some members of my family making ugly comments towards me and my body. The truth is no matter what I look like they have nothing good to say. So sad.

  11. Katy Rawson says:

    Weight has always been an issue with me. I really do understand how tricky it can be to have this discussion with a daughter. You are fortunate that you can do so.

  12. Meagan Ivie says:

    Those are such important conversation topics, especially with young women. Loving our bodies can be such a struggle. However, I find that I can gain self esteem when I'm doing my best to take care of my body; exercising and eating healthy.

  13. Janel Case says:

    I've been fighting my own body issues with weight since hitting 30. I'm sure it has something to do with pregnancies, too.

  14. Kecia says:

    I have been overweight since my early teens and have struggled with body image issues. I want to be more healthy for my husband and two boys, so I’m working to focus on it!

  15. Shell Roush says:

    I watched this, too. I thought it was an interesting way they chose to end it, showing that boys struggle with eating disorders, too.

  16. Karen says:

    I saw a preview for this movie and it looked so sad. Body issues are such a struggle for women. I want my daughter to feel healthy and good about herself as she gets older.

  17. Eating disorders are so scary and real. I’m glad this gave you an opening to have a conversation.

  18. It’s great that you were able to recognize there was a problem and stop it before it got worse. your daughter s fortunate to have someone who understands.

  19. I haven’t seen that movie but do know how serious eating disorders can be. I recall when “fasting” was in as well.

  20. Debra says:

    These are important conversations to have with our children, especially girls. Body Image is so important, but nothing is more important than being healthy and happy.

  21. Jessica says:

    These conversations are so important to have… not only for our own children, but so that they can recognize the signs and symptoms in their friends as well.

  22. Theresa says:

    I think this would be a great movie for my daughter to watch. She has a friend who she thinks could have an eating disorder. I am going to look it up on my Tivo to see if we can record it. It would be great for her to have that kind of resource to study, then talk about with her friend.

    It is so sad how girls think thin is the only way to be pretty. My 10 year old daughter started on asking if she was fat. I think some of the girls in her class (4th grade) are already on the body issue kick. My daughter is 55 lbs and all muscle. Very tiny indeed, so it upsets me to think that girls can be influenced about body issues that young!

  23. I’m not looking forward to having these conversations with my daughter. I am slender and I worry that if she’s a curvy girl that she’ll compare herself to me. My goal is to continue to practice a healthy lifestyle and encourage her to be happy with herself no matter what. Thanks for sharing your story.

  24. Brett Martin says:

    I've struggled with my weight my whole life. I'm working hard to keep my girls from the same issues

  25. Toni Patton says:

    These are such important conversations to have with my kids. Especially with a daughter, and how other girls can be so cruel. I am doing my best to instill positive self-confidence so hopefully she will never be affected by the words of others and have any kind of eating disorder, they are so scary.

  26. Felicia says:

    As a high school counselor I see eating disorders too much. It saddens me to see these girls struggling 🙁

  27. Amanda says:

    I struggled when I was younger. I struggle now with my weight and when I get going loosing I sometimes find my self getting obsessive. It’s a scary feeling to have when you start to lose control!

  28. Tonia Sanders says:

    What a great conversation to have and you're lucky to have each other for encouragement. Going to the track together will be a great bonding experience.

  29. krystalk says:

    I’ve never seen this movie before. I hope to be a good role model for my children and show them healthy habits. I need to get started!

  30. Liz Mays says:

    I never developed body issues until after my kids were older so they both grew up with healthy ideals. (Thankfully). They actually inspire me now, truth be told!

  31. Rosey says:

    That’s nice that the movie gave you a reason to have a talk. My daughter has challenges w/her body image based on things her peers have said about her being fat (she’s a size 3) and it breaks my heart that she doesn’t see their opinion doesn’t hold her value. We keep working with her, for her. I have faith she’ll come out on top.

  32. Ashley M says:

    I try very hard to monitor my own body image and the body issues of my children. I want them to be confidenct and in love with their selves.

  33. Rachée Fagg says:

    I was surprised by that twist too. It made for discussion with my nephew as well.

  34. Rachée Fagg says:

    Thank you! It was hard at first and then I just stopped worrying about what other people would think.

  35. Melissa says:

    I definitely have body image issues. I know I can loose the weight and be healthy, I have been there. It is just hard to stay there. Even though my daughter doesn’t have issues now I don’t want her to ever have issues so I definitely need to learn to make better choices for myself and for being her model.

  36. Erica says:

    With a daughter that is just about to be a teenager I worry about body image issues a lot. I am glad that you had the opportunity to have an important discussion about the topic.

  37. Dina says:

    It’s so hard to deal with the weight issue. I am always up 10 and down 10 lbs. They say that’s worst then saying 10 lbs heavy. I know I’ve never been anorexic and I can’t imagine how horrible that is to deal with as a family.

  38. Tatanisha W says:

    Oh I will have to check out this show. I can definitely relate to the weight issue- it’s one I still struggle with to this day.

  39. Jess says:

    Thanks for opening up to us and sharing!! I struggle with trying to lose weight and it’s amazing how big of an emotional battle it can be.

  40. Amber K says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m struggling right now to lose weight.

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