For once, the Daily Mail got there before FMS, publishing a story on Lisa Cross in the middle of September that revealed that she struggled through her teens and early twenties with anorexia, and only started to conquer it when she started to read up on nutrition after taking up bodybuilding while she was teaching English in Japan.
FMS reported on Linda Gartside's struggle with an eating disorder earlier in the year, and C. Moore Glootz noted last week that Suzy Kellner is a former anorexic. There are numerous other examples of female bodybuilders, physique, figure, fitness and bikini competitors who have beaten anorexia or bulimia through the kind of diet and exercise demanded by the sport. A cursory search on Google brought up plenty of hits for the recent Lisa story, but also pointed to a former anorexic from Kent called Jenny Cornelius, an ex-bulimic mother from Wales called Lydia Rees, and fitness competitor Heather Singleton, among others.
And then there's a woman named Cecile Bayeul,who as well as being a fitness model and author, is also a registered nurse. She's on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and has her own websites (cecilebayeul.com and the marvellously-named universityofabs.com), all preaching the gospel of defeating anorexia through fitness.
Point is, while everybody's journey out of their private hell is a unique one, Lisa is not alone in having made this journey successfully, although few have changed so spectacularly. I was experiencing pains in my heart and I was constantly cold, she told the Mail. My joints ached and I had no energy at all. I had no enthusiasm for anything and I was only sleeping a few hours a night. In my spare time I would do sit ups in my bedroom for hours until my spine hurt from rubbing against the floor.
And yet, look at her now. And praise is again due to the Mail for taking the 'bodybuilder-as-role-model' angle for the story. Even the comments attached to it, while often beginning with a 'not my cup of tea' proviso, are at worst merely supportive for Lisa's achievement in turning her life around, and at best probably written by guys like you and me. And of course, as we saw with Georgina McConnell's appearance in the Mail, it doesn't stop there. It runs and runs and morphs and soon it is a story about the former anorexic hell of The SEXIEST Bodybuilder in the World!
It's not difficult to argue that hardcore bodybuilding is little more than reverse anorexia. There are those, academics among them, who point out that swapping one eating disorder for another not exactly normal nutritional regime (bodybuilding) does not get rid of the cause of the disorder. Bodybuilders, male and female, can be just as dissatisfied with their appearance as an anorexic. It's a valid point, but it's also a valid point that if you search the other way round - for ex-bodybuilders who have overcome their 'bigorexia' through a combination of starvation and lack of exercise - well, you won't find one.
I'm not being flippant here. It is easy to make the 'bodybuilding as dysmorphia' argument, but overall, I don't think it holds up, and that's because, unlike the other disorders that some would lump it together with, bodybuilding provides a route to self-esteem. As Lisa says in the Mail article, I’ve never felt so happy about myself. I feel feminine and I feel sexy.
So, it's congratulations all round then. Congratulations to all the women (and men) who have conquered their eating disorders through weight training programs. And congratulations to the Mail for yet another positive female bodybuilding story. And most of all, congratulations to Lisa for her own personal triumph: she looks much more than ten times better on 5,000 calories a day than 500!
More Lisa tomorrow.