Did Allison Williams have an eating disorder? (3 types of stigma)

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In this blog post, we will answer the question “did Allison Williams have an eating disorder?” and look at what eating disorders are, the types of eating disorders, symptoms and causes. We will also discuss the stigma that comes with eating disorders as well as the societal expectations of what they define as beautiful.

Did Allison Williams have an eating disorder?

It is uncertain whether Allison Williams had an eating disorder. She denied the claims of having an eating disorder. However, in 2015, rumours circulated that the sitcom actress Allison Williams was anorexic. These claims surfaced after the noticeable and dramatic weight loss of the TV star between the first season of the comedy series Girls and the second season.

She said that the remarks drove her crazy. “Being analyzed about my weight drives me crazy. It’s easier to say, ‘oh she must be anorexic and depriving herself,’ than to say, ‘she must have a fast metabolism’. I deprive myself of nothing. But that’s an annoying thing to say, right?” she said.

Even after Allison denied ‌she was not anorexic, people did not believe her. Many people commented that it would be very impossible to cut that much weight in a short time without depriving herself. Another comment said that she was using fast metabolism as an excuse, as it would have affected her from when she was a teenager.

Many other negative comments included people telling her ‌she looked better when she was ‘fuller’ than she did then. She was body-shamed for losing weight and being petite. The comments, however, did not stop at that. Many others commented on how every girl who would become famous would suddenly lose weight to maintain certain beauty standards.

Before we look at the stigma that comes with eating disorders, let us define what an eating disorder is and the types of eating disorders.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits, and complex and damaging relationships between food, exercise and body image that impairs physical and mental health.

Eating disorders are also known to cause death. In fact, about one person dies every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016)

Types of eating disorders

According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM-5), there are six types of eating disorders. Obesity is no longer included as an eating disorder since it results from long-term excess energy intake relative to energy expenditure. 

A range of genetics, physiological, behavioural, and environmental factors that vary across individuals contribute to the development of obesity; thus, obesity is not a mental disorder. (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition 2013).

The six eating disorders are;

  • Pica
  • Rumination disorder
  • Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating

Pica 

Pica is a feeding and eating disorder characterized by eating non-nutritive non-food substances such as ice, clay, soil, paper and stones. Can be caused by nutrition deficiencies, pregnancy, stress and cultural factors.

Rumination 

Rumination is an eating disorder characterized by spitting up digested or partially digested food from the stomach, re-chewing the food and either re-swallowing or spitting it out. It tends to occur within 30 minutes of every meal. The causes of rumination remain unknown.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

Formally referred to as selective eating disorder, is an eating disorder characterized by intense restriction or selection of food consumed. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with this eating disorder are not interested in their body image, shape or size.

Anorexia nervosa

Is a severe eating disorder characterized by abnormal body weight, distorted body image, and unwarranted fear of gaining weight. In order to prevent weight gain, anorexic people try to control their body weight by vomiting food, using laxatives, diet aids, and excessive exercise. People concluded that Allison Williams was suffering from anorexia because of her drastic weight loss.

Common symptoms include extreme low body weight, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, hair that easily falls off, preoccupation with food, skipping meals, refusing to eat, denying hunger, complaints of being overweight, measuring weight often and lying about the quantity of food taken.

Causes include; biological factors such as genes, psychological factors such as temperaments and environmental factors such as societal demands.

Preverance

Usually begins during the teenage and early adulthood years. It is more common in women than in men.

Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016).

Bulimia nervosa

Is a mental disorder characterized by binge eating (consuming large quantities of food over a short period of time) followed by calorie reducing strategies such as purging (induced vomiting), fasting or exercising excessively. 

Bulimia is a severe, life-threatening eating disorder. Symptoms include; binge eating, vomiting, self-harm, fatigue, dehydration, avoiding food, irregular and absence of menstruation, constipation, heartburn and guilt.

Causes include genetic factors, psychological factors such as personality, dieting and societal pressure.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating is an eating disorder characterized by consuming large amounts of food over a short period of time, and feelings of being unable to stop eating even when full. It is the most common eating disorder with a prevalence of  5.5%.

Symptoms include; eating large amounts of food over a short period of time, eating even when not hungry, feeling that your eating behaviour is out of control, eating until you are uncomfortably full, eating in secret, eating alone and feelings of depression and guilt.

Unlike people with bulimia, binge eaters are not concerned with weight reduction through vomiting, using laxatives or excessive exercise and can thus suffer from other physical conditions such as obesity.

It is more common in women than in men and usually begins during early adulthood. Causes include dieting and psychological issues such as depression and low self-esteem.

The stigma around eating disorders

The story of Allison Williams portrays how people suffering from eating disorders are stigmatized and afraid of opening up. It is common for people with mental disorders to be stigmatized, especially those with eating disorders. Stigma happens everywhere, including in workplaces, at school, at home, in social gatherings and in public. This makes people suffering from eating disorders not speak out or seek help and isolate themselves from other people. 

This affects their physical and mental health and may lead to suicide. Research has shown that people with eating disorders receive more criticism than those with other mental illnesses. Lack of awareness of eating disorders makes people believe that it is the fault of the individual.

Research conducted showed that 70% of people with eating disorders believe that they should be able to hold it together and feel they are responsible for their condition. Other studies showed that most of them feel judged, socially marginalized, and dismissed. They also see their illness as flaws and weaknesses.

The types of stigma experienced include;

Self-stigmatization

The stigma-induced secrecy compromises the individual by lowering their self-esteem and increasing the symptoms and the duration of the disorder. They conceal their illness due to shame or from fear of being judged and ridiculed.

Stigma in the healthcare context

Research done showed most eating disorder patients feel misunderstood by healthcare workers. They felt like their issues were not taken seriously and did not take their severe distress with the emergency required. There was also evidence to show that some received quality healthcare.

Stigma in families

Not only does society judge people with eating disorders but also their own families. This could be caused by a lack of understanding of the illness. They also feel like a disappointment and shame to the family and fear judgement from them. 

This causes relationship strains, causes tension and conflicts and affects the well-being of all family members.

Do people get body-shamed for being skinny?

‘You are so thin. Do you even eat?’

‘Are you anorexic?’

‘How do you eat so much and not gain weight?’

‘Do you have anything over those bones?’

The list is endless. Skinny shaming might not be as severe as fat-shaming, but it also affects the well-being of the individual. 

Skinny shaming is the act of criticizing a lean person and speaking negatively about their body size and shape. Allison received skinny shaming comments after her drastic weight loss and everyone was quick to accuse her of being anorexic and depriving herself of food. This made her annoyed, and she had to emphasize this in several interviews.

What causes one to be skinny?

Allison Williams denied the allegations of being anorexic. Her drastic weight could be caused by other factors. Some of the factors that make people lose weight fast include;

  • Fast metabolism and active lifestyle. They are bound to lose calories faster
  • Emotional and psychological disorders that might cause weight loss
  • genetics

Effect of skinny shaming on an individual

  • It can lead to other mental and emotional disorders when constantly criticised
  • Can cause general hate for one’s own body
  • It can make the individuals isolate themselves to avoid the negative criticism
  • Can cause body dysmorphia

One way to deal with negative criticism brought about by skinny shaming is not letting their opinions get to you and stop you from being yourself. You can also speak out and let them know the error of their mean comments.

Conclusion

We have discussed whether Allison Williams had an eating disorder, who she is, what eating disorders are and the types of eating disorders. We have also looked at the stigma that comes with an eating disorder and discussed skinny shaming and how it affects an individual. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: Allison Williams eating disorder

Who has the highest rate of disordered eating?

Gay men are 7 times more likely to report binge eating and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men. Research shows that bisexual and gay men are more likely to use laxatives, diet pills and vomit to control their weight.

Who is a famous person with bulimia?

Lady Gaga in 2012. She confessed ‌she has struggled with bulimia and anorexia since age 15.

Do supermodels suffer from eating disorders?

Models are pressured to be a size zero, and this makes most of them adopt unhealthy eating habits, thus causing eating disorders.

What is the death rate from eating disorders?

Without treatment, 20% of those with serious eating disorders die, while with treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%

What is the age that is more likely to suffer from an eating disorder?

Ages of 12-25. Eating disorders are more common in females than men.

Citations

Anusha S. (September 30, 2021). Is Skinny Shaming Also Body Shaming? Retrieved from https://www.femina.in/food/is-skinny-shaming-also-body-shaming-207336.html

Collins L. (December 20, 2019). Stigma and eating disorders: theory and practice. Retrieved from https://www.nationalelfservice.net/mental-health/eating-disorders/stigma-eating-disorders-theory-practice/

Kohen Y.(January 11, 2013). Will Girls Be Believable Now That the Actresses Look ‘Hollywood’? Retrieved from https://www.thecut.com/2013/01/girls-cast-looks-hollywood-does-it-matter.html

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