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am 24. Juli 2000
I have read this book a few times and had mixed reactions. I have been hospitalized twice for anorexia at the same hospital as Marya went to, and her experiences are brutally honest and true-to-life. Anyone wanting to understand anorexia or bulimia ought to read this book. Her quotes about how much she hated the bulimia episodes and how anorectics view bulimics are usually right on (although as both an anorectic and a bulimic, I have found quite a few exceptions to her "rule." I still suffer greatly from the two disorders, and it is refreshing to get someone's voice out there.
One CAUTION, however: If you suffer from an eating disorder, be very careful in reading this book. I have needed to put it down quite a few times because it was too intense for me, and I have been triggered by it quite a few times. But if you want to know what is going on inside your loved one's head, remember that everyone is different so do not assume he/she feels like Marya does, but also bear in mind that Marya has been through a lot of the same stuff that many people with ED's go through.
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am 17. Juni 2000
Absolutely, this book is riveting-- hideously breathtaking. It is also a book that all of us with eating disorders will empathize with to an almost dangerous extent. I do agree that this book is necessary reading for anyone who is close to a person with an eating disorder, and like the many people who reviewed this book, would recommend that people afflicted approach this book with trepidation. Sylvia Plath's ARIEL is probably not the book of poetry you would counsel someone to read if they were suicidal, and, in the same manner, Hornbacher's WASTED has a similarly upsetting, intoxicating, engaging effect, and it is equally possible that those who fight bulemia and aneorexia will find such pain & joy in finally stumbling upon someone whom speaks the reality of these diseases with such little mincing, that they will feel as if they've found a hero, and, as we do with heroes, forget to question her in relation to us as individuals. I know that my experiance with this book was that I found it necessary to stop, take a deep breath & search for my own voice of sanity, because the insanity of my disease was so similar to hers (as I've seen mentioned quite frequently in these reviews). Even after 5 years in recovery, I had to forcibly distance myself, not to stop myself from falling back in, but to remind myself that recovery is as much a part of these diseases as the years of abuse.
Most importantly, I believe, is that it is impossible to dissuade those who suffer from reading this book-- we need someone who gets this disease out there, who acknowledges the seriousness of these cycles-- that it is no small crisis and that it can consume your life and fell your emotional, material, romantic, & physical goals on every level. But be careful, Marya is right-- those who recover will always deal with it-- recovery is a day to day goal, its not feasible to even think of it in terms of completion-- however, this is a book that deals with the pain and the torment of crisis, not the pain & the torment of slowly clamoring to life. The journey back from active bingeing, purging & starving is an equally compelling story, and it is possible that it can be told with the same brutality and honesty that it is in WASTED. I hope that Hornbacher makes that effort, there is a way back from active compulsion, even if those Demons remain a part of you forever.
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am 27. Mai 2000
as i write this, my soup is warming in the microwave, so this'll have to be quick.
i admit it. i first purchased marya hornbacher's 'wasted' as a kind of diet bible. i looked to it for inspiration, for details, for instructions to basically self-destruct. and indeed, that is what i found.
because she writes in such vivid, honest detail, you really can't help but get caught up in marya's book. in fact, i read it straight through four or so times, envisioning myself as setting out on the Ultimate Diet, inching towards the door to anorexia or bulimia. but suddenly, in the middle of my fifth read, something changed, and for the first time in my life, i realized that starving myself is something i do not want to do. being sick is something i do not need in a world that is so very chaotic already. i need my strength, and i need my whole self, to survive.
and then i began to look around. realized that the majority of women in this world,--specifically the u.s.--including friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, aunts, are completely and utterly obsessed with their weight. suddenly, i realized that i don't want to be like that, i don't want to be just another girl caught up in this insane, pointless, fruitless race for the ideal body. try it. observe a casual conversation between a group of women. see how many times weight, if not the immediate topic, then simply implied, comes up. it's really, really scary.
i never thought i'd say this, but women really make me sick. their petty, catty comments, the comparisons, the expectations, they all make me ill, and i want none of it. i've always been a bit off, a little too uncouth to conform with society, and the only way i could really describe how i feel now is to quote marya, from the end of her book: "i don't necessarily want pants that are slimming, i don't want to look like the photos of skeletal models on the wall. wanting to be healthy is seen as really weird. so i'm weird. so what?"
what it comes down to, people, is that eating disorders--and not to belittle the pain and madness they bring about--are really pathetic. the culture that we live in that submerges young women with these hideous images of an ugly, emaciated, skeletal body as an ideal and a state of grace is pathetic. marya hornbacher is pathetic for letting an eating disorder ruin an otherwise incredible life. all of the people, including myself, who buy 'wasted' and other e.d. related books simply to get more tips and instructions and pointers instead of really reading what the author's trying to say, are pathetic. the fact that, just last night, while watching the television show 'e.r.' the weight of nurse hathoway was brought up twice--need i mention that this woman is pregnant, and that she's WEIGHING herself?--is pathetic. women buying DIET pills during pregnancy is pathetic. see, i could go on and on.
we as a whole are in a terrible state right now. i'm grateful, very much so, to marya for writing this book and waking me up. and i'm grateful to myself, for finally realizing that our culture is severely screwed up, that i don't WANT that life, and if it's anarchistic to want to NOT jump in the whole eating disordered pool and become obsessed and ridiculous and ultimately idiotic, well, then just call me a subversive.
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am 30. März 2000
the thing that strikes me most is that people forever search for the catalyst. the epiphany. the end of the story, amen. you wanted marya to tell you: okay, this is the hell that i went through, here is how i recovered, let me tell you how i got my life back.
and of course she can't, and you all should know that. there is no end to the story. she can't tell you how to get back on the road to recovery..when it comes to an eating disorder, there's really no such thing. of course she's not a "model of recovery"..she's still going through it. rumor has it she's just recently been released from yet another hospital.
which is proof that no matter how good life may seem to someone on the outside, proof that no matter how lucky someone appears, they are simply human. no matter how many books she writes and sells, no matter how many people are infuriated and hurt by her behaviour, it remains the same. an eating disorder is an addiction. a terrible, maddening addiction. if it's something you've lived with your entire life, it's not as though it's something you can just up and drop. and of course her book (that's why it's called a memoir, honey) would contain nothing but information and details about her life. think about it. go on. go write your own autobiography. sort of difficult to not mention your own life, huh?
something else that shocks me is the way people can be so cold. over and over i'm seeing "self-absorbed, selfish, self-induced", as if she's flaunting the serious damage she's done to herself, as if she's beckoning you to join her. to quote myself, because it needs to be stated again: "i think she had to be candid and personal, or else the point would not have come across so harshly and therefore truthful. of course it was dangerous and perhaps even unwise for her to write so openly. but you've got to take into consideration that there's danger in writing any book. discussing drug abuse, self-mutilation, eating disorders..they can all be risky, triggering subjects. ms. hornbacher wrote the book because she felt she needed to get her voice out. she is not responsible and not in control of the way her book affects others, she is not in control of other people's minds".
i certainly hope that you didn't expect marya (or anyone else writing about their own experiences with an eating disorder) to paint a pretty picture, soften the edges of a horrifying disease. it makes me wonder what you expect of people. it makes me wonder what it is you consider as compassion and empathy for a person so obviously in a lot of pain and living a life of madness. it makes me wonder if you've even read the book.
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am 27. März 2000
Marya Hornbacher's book kept me awake a couple of nights, reading. It's a terrifying book, an honest, brutal, personal account of an eating disorder- her own- an eating disorder that came close to killing her. What I liked was the fact that eating disorders are not seen in a simplistic way in "Wasted". They are seen as the complex & dangerous diseases they are. Reading this book, you'll probably feel disgusted, angry, sad at times, but mostly you'll take a deep look into the image that society makes us strive toward: the image of the perfect, beautiful, succesful, thin at all costs, calm & controlled individual. I think these stereotypes are extremely dangerous, & they make people (such as the author herself) get caught up in their image & forget about their soul & their true needs. Killing yourself, slowly, just to achieve the "perfect" body, the perfect image, is a trap that unfortunately many, many women (and men,too) fall into nowadays. It's probably society's way of keeping women "in their right place". Hornbacher's book is very disturbing because it's very personal. It doesn't hold anything back, it describes the lies, the self-deceit, the ignoring of friends & family that love you, the secret pride in the identity you've achieved, & of course the actual medical danger that comes with eating disorders. I think it's an intelligent look on the subject, useful for anybody who wants to learn more about it. I especially appreciated the fact that nothing was black or white, not even recovery: Marya Hornbacher accepts that recovery is an ongoing process, an everyday struggle that she'll have to live with for the rest of her life, & this makes the book even more honest & real.
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am 27. November 1999
After reading several reviews of Mayra Hornbacher's WASTED, I feel compelled to respond to the book myself. I have suffered from the consequences of my own bad "habit" of bulimic behavior patterns for the better part of my adult life. A year ago, when this book practically jumped off the shelf into my hands, I read it all in one day. My first reactions to Hornbacher's lucid depiction of the damage she inflicted on herself again and again included anger and disgust: how dare she be so honest about her feelings of being out-of-control, her hideously painful purges, without tacking on a Beverly Hills 90210-like public service announcement at the end of every chapter? I wanted a Hollywood happy ending, not because it would make the book more accurate, but because it would make me -- and perhaps those around me -- believe that an eating disorder is easy to recover from, that it's not as life threatening as she makes it out to be...that it's not THAT serious. After all, according to some of the reviewers I've read here, psychologically induced suffering is not "real," right? She could just "stop" at any time, couldn't she? Well, maybe...but I don't know many other mentally illnesses (eg: manic depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder or addiction) that tend to disappear quite that simply; such transformations are usually attributed to miracles for a reason.
Why do we feel it's necessary to try to quantify others' suffering, anyway? Since our culture tells us that material advantage solves all problems in a snap, maybe it's a bit too much of a bubble-burster for people to contemplate the reality that stands in stark relief against this suggestion without accusing her of self-pity...yes, even a person with access to many doctors and hospitals can suffer from relapse after relapse...mental illness is not self-indulgence; mind-control exercises can help, but, as anyone skilled in training their minds will tell you, such training can take years of hard work, day after day, before it yields any positive results...in the meantime, the negative habit energies reign supreme.
Finally, having grown up in literally the same environment that Hornbacher experienced, and a year after reading the book for the first time, I can now see that hers is not a story of self-pity, but an account of what can happen when a person -- and especially a young woman -- internalizes contemporary social cues (get skinny/deprive yourself/martyr yourself for "beauty" at any cost and you will be happy and loved) for how to ease the most basic of human conditions: suffering. I applaud Hornbacher's tough-minded prose. Her unflinching look at herself and her taking of responsibility for the consequences of her actions -- painfully deluded by a skewed self-perception as they were -- make her a real hero for those of us who struggle daily with the consequences of a bad habit that set in, for many of us, at the same time that most kids were trying beer and cigarettes for the first time. But, unlike overindulgence in those relatively "acceptable" social habits, overindulgence in trying to control one's body shape and size is not an obsession dubbed "immature" by our culture; it is not a condition considered undesirable at any time in a woman's lifespan; how pathetic is it that American children, when polled, say they would rather lose a limb than be fat! I hope that, someday, fashion magazine editors, like tobacco companies paying for lung cancer patients' operations, will pay the hospital bills for recovering anorectics and bulimics, and that eating disordered women (4 out of every 10 college age women) will be able to get health insurance coverage with minimal hassles, rather than having their health issues shunted off into the realm off "oh, you silly girl, it's not THAT serious" when even a month of bulimia -- as a fifteen year old who chose food, perhaps because it's NOT illegal -- can damage the esophagus, kidneys, teeth, and heart irreparably. Books like Hornbacher's annihilate any chance anyone has of EVER glamorizing eating disorders...I hope people who've read WASTED will think of her sufferings the next time they hear a crass joke about bulimics or anorexics or compulsive eaters in general...eating disorders are not funny. Hornbacher goes to great pains to show us the truth: eating disorders are deadly.
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am 7. Juni 1999
Marya writes beautifully, as many reviewers have noted. I was captivated by this book and finished it in a day. However, my two main reactions are pity for her, because she tormented herself so terribly, and disgust, because she refused to improve even though she went through many hospitalizations. I also believe her claim to be "all right" is bull. Yeah, I believe "all right" is exercising for an hour and a half, then blacking out. I also believe that pigs fly and Santa Claus puts presents under my Christmas tree!
In the end, there is no one who can save a person such as Marya who is hell-bent on self-destruction. She probably can't even save herself: Her heart and immune system are both shot. I hope her will is up to date. It's sad that someone with such obvious abilities turned her energies to destroying herself.
By the way, on several occasions Marya whines about being misunderstood by doctors. Am I the only one who noticed that there is no sign of a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace in the two pictures of her? Nor does she describe herself as wearing this necessary jewelry in the book. A very stupid omission for someone who portrays herself in imminent danger of cardiac arrest.
Marya, please, grow up and realize that communicating with medical personnel is your responsibility. When they hear hoofbeats, they are trained to think horses, not zebras. In other words an ordinary doctor or dentist will not expect a normal-looking woman to have inflicted such massive damage on herself. Don't blame the dentist when he doesn't understand you. Grow up, get a Medic Alert bracelet, and present your health care practitioners with your medical records. It's the least you can do.
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am 28. April 1999
I am amazed at a few of the reviews that assume Marya wrote this book with the belief that she knows everything there is to know about eating disorders and how to cure one. She's only 23 years old! I've enjoyed reading this book because it IS one person's perspective. Having been through an eating disorder, I can often relate to much of what Marya writes but at the same time, I often don't - and I don't expect to. As far as this book not being exciting enough, life is what it is. It's not meant to be bait for a potential Hollywood blockbuster action-packed thriller. I had my eating disorder for 10 years and I began recovery roughly 12 years ago. I still have concerns about weight and have successfully maintained my weight, albeit just slightly under what would be considered normal for someone of my build. I don't know if the desire to remain thin will ever completely go away for me, but I maintain my weight in a much healthier way now and I no longer think I look fat. Fortunately, I never diet and food is no longer an obsession with me. In fact - and I never thought I'd say this or actually believe this back when I was sick - eating is not a priority for me and has truly become a means of survival. I believe this finally came about after years of therapy, both group and indivdual as well as my own self discovery. I think I finally just got sick of being sick. I'm still reading this book and do not have ANY expectations as to how I believe it should progress or if her recovery is being conducted in the most healthy manner. I'm just going with it. But I/we have no idea how things will really turn out since she is fairly new to recovery. I am 12 years recovered and every year just gets better. This book is very helpful in allowing me to dig into my past and really face many of the demons that caused my problems and may still linger today. It's actually helping me and I wasn't looking to get help going into it. Well, maybe I was. Anyway, I'm grateful for the book and I would say that only those who have been through some type of eating disorder or other addiction can truly appreciate its value. Thanks Marya. I think you'll help a lot of people out there with this one!!
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am 4. Januar 1999
This is a wonderful account of Anorexia and Bulimia. A well researched depiction of cultural stigmas, family dysfuntcion, and the inner voice of an Anorectic. The book fails, however, to tackle the most poignant issue of identity and eating disorders. Just when I thought Hornbacher would tackle it - she lets the reader down. For instance, when she talks about other eating disordered individuals helping eachother out - being the best counselor to another anorectic or bulimic - she surmounts this to competition - but fails to explore what the competition involves. For so many eating disordered individuals there is an emptiness of self, a lack of identification with self - a total lack of identity. Anorexia/Bulimia tends to become the identity of eating disordered individuals. "If I'm Anorexic, at least I'm someone, something, and it has a name, who could dispute the existence of identity - when it has a name?" This is usually the root of the competitiveness of eating disordered individuals, try to make the others well so the identity can be solely owned. It's a very strong trigger for relapse for many individuals and usually it's so subconscious - it's hard to admit. It can also be perceived by many to be a selfish act - to try to claim an illness as identity - but what it really illustrates is the depths of despair the individual truly feels about their own identity. Either they can't stand the one they have so much they need a new one or they are so empty they need any (albeit sick, Anorexic/Bulimic) to fill the desperate void. To chump this struggle up to competition seems careless to me and illustrates to me that Hornbacher has not humbled herself to come to terms with this issue as of yet. It seems even more evident in the recent interviews I've read with her - where she describes her recent relapse and recent hospitalization. She's yet to forgo the identity of "Anorectic or Bulimic" and that is dangerous as she travels the world and talks about her book. It speaks volumes to the inability to detach the eating disorder identity from self. It offers little hope to the many individuals who will read the book, read the interviews, and follow her career in search for hope. This scares me and tends to overshadow the whole book for me. As if it's on the market to claim her identity as an eating disordered individual and that certainly doesn't scream self-pity, self-sacrifice, or the common and recognizable faux pas of memoir writing. . .but at the same time it still claims more to reinforce the disorder than to help dispel it. I hope she will continue writing. I did think the book was well researched, honest (to the extent that Hornbacher can be honest with herself)and a beautiful depiction of the insane rules and rituals the mind can and will insist upon when trying to establish some sense of internal control and strength. I do wish, however, she would focus less on the relapses she has endured, the continuing battle she ensues when interviewing. . .this offers little hope to the audience she claims to be trying to inform and save from this inferno.
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am 29. September 1998
This wrenchingly self-revealing eating-disorders narrative examines how compulsive destructiveness to body and mind may be spurred by an obscure self-hatred and a haze of self-alienation. Also operating for Marya Hornbacher was a frightening existential curiosity, a desire to test her limits.
Recounting many painful events, she is straightforward and unsentimental, yet often evokes pathos by the fascinating, terrifying inner logic of her eating-disordered behavior. Another asset of this memoir is its sense of balance: exploring in detail both the subtle family and cultural messages that discourage self-acceptance and the personal responsibility of the individual for her response.
Ultimately, two facets of Hornbacher's experience stayed with me most: first, the way in which she increasingly worked to discard the roles she had long ago adopted to control her pain and anxiety. She has claimed lessons from reflecting on her history and is building the capacity to interpret the world independently, through categories of value that reflect her own perceptions. She makes clear that such learning is a grueling, largely solitary process.
Second, I am struck by how her growth was wrought from a condition that, for the author at least, had become a viscerally ingrained mode of being felt to be as central to surviving as breathing, and to be a crux of her sense of identity. This description of painful dependency is an achievement of visibility, because one just doesn't tend to realize a person's desperation could attain such intensity, especially if she is also high-functioning in some ways. Furthermore, to conceive of eating disorders as having the addictive component Hornbacher describes hints at the difficulty involved in progressively working one's way out of its grasp.
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