It was officially reported that Demi Moore is seeking help for stress, exhaustion, and substance abuse, but it also appears that Demi is suffering from an eating disorder.
Over the years I have followed her movies. I have watched her extreme body changes, diets, and exercise. Demi Moore has been engaging in an eating disorder. This has been going on for years in front of our eyes as we have watched her on the screen. It was in plain site, but most people are not even aware of eating disorders, especially exercise bulimia. Even now it is officially reported that her hospitalization is due to other causes.
If we look at Demi Moore’s highly publicized dieting we can find eating disorder behavior resembling anorexia. She used the Zone Diet, Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet, Raw Food Diet, and other extreme methods of calorie restriction. She became vegetarian eliminating whole food groups making it easier to avoid eating, which is very typical with someone with anorexia. At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs we often see patients who are afraid that if they start eating they will not be able to stop.
At Rebecca’s House we are seeing an increase in eating disorder patients who are in their 40’s and 50’s. This corresponds to recent national statistics. Typically this age group has been engaging in eating disorder behaviors for years but they have been able to keep their symptoms obscured. Demi Moore has been using over exercising (exercise bulimia) and extreme dieting, but it has been masked as preparing for her movie roles.
When women struggle with their maturing body, launching children into the world, and marital problems it can cause an untreated eating disorder to re-emerge. The focus of child rearing has provided a temporary reprieve, but even this focus to avoid looking at oneself profoundly affects the children creating a second generation of eating disorders. When the emptiness that was filled with child rearing is gone the eating disorder can become critical. With the children grown relationship problems now come into focus, marriages dissolve and that profound emptiness takes over. Women often focus on their bodies to distract themselves from the pain of relationship issues with their mate and themself.
Coping with loss, change and especially a feeling of a loss of control can send a susceptible person back into the throes of an eating disorder. Demi Moore said in a Harper’s Bazaar interview, “What scares me the most is not knowing and accepting that just about everything is not in my control. That makes me feel unsafe.” Very often women use their weight and diet as a way to control something when other areas of their lives feel out of control.
The eating disorder is used as a diversion to suppress the feelings and fill the emptiness. The thoughts of food, weight, diet, and body image soon consume every waking moment of their life. I ask my patients at Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs “how much time do you spend thinking about food, weight, diet, and body image” and most will say “99% of the time”.
Earlier this year Demi Moore revealed to British Elle that she used to have an unhealthy “extreme obsession” with her body. In the recent Harper’s Bazaar interview, Demi Moore said she had struggled with body image for years. She said her deepest fear “is that I’m going to ultimately find out at the end of my life that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved. That there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. …” At Rebecca’s House this is a statement we hear from almost every eating disorder patient. Low self-esteem and feeling unlovable is very evident in eating disorders.
In the early ’90s her trainer, Rob Parr, said she biked or hiked for up to two hours a day, six times a week while pregnant. On the day she gave birth to her second daughter, Scout, he said they did a 22-mile bike ride that morning. After the birth of her daughter Demi Moore wanted to be camera-ready 30 days postpartum. She was obsessed with exercise. Demi Moore’s self-confidence was bound up in her roles and her body image.
In 1996 to prepare for her starring role in Striptease, Demi Moore followed a daily regimen of long predawn runs, three hours of dance, a session with her trainer and yoga.
Then in 1997 to prepare for her role in GI Jane, Demi Moore went through a grueling fitness regime for her role. She spent two hours a day pumping iron and then ran 6 miles. She was envied for her hard body, but no one thought she could be using exercise as a manifestation of her underlying eating disorder. Then in 2003 Demi Moore, age 41, was back in the spotlight as a shockingly buffed bodied bad guy in Charlie’s Angles: Full Throttle. No one said that this could be exercise bulimia.
Demi said she was obsessed with working out to prepare for these roles but now she is kinder to her body, staying super fit with Pilates, walking, and light weight training. The recent hospitalization seems to contradict this.
But that is the most important fact about eating disorders. You say and believe you can stop on your own. That is the reason so many people die from eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but with eating disorder treatment you can recover. At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs, we see patients come back to life. They find meaning and purpose that the eating disorder had taken away. And most important is they are able to live without those obsessive thoughts that fuel the eating disorder behaviors. They are free!
After I finished my blog yesterday I realized I would be late meeting Ruth. We had arranged to meet before the first session in the lounge area to the right of the hotel’s reception. I emailed her that I would meet her after the session instead of before, in front of the door to the conference room. The session was about spirituality and it was one I did not want to miss. The title of the session was ‘Spirituality, Culture and Mental Health Prevention.’
Because I was late all the headsets had been given out. I did not think that the lady understood that I wanted a translation headset, but she did understand me and was trying to tell me there were no more headsets available. Some one behind me understood my English and translated it to me. I was so disappointed.
Why were things becoming so difficult? Was it my negative thinking? Most of the last few years of my life things just seem to flow. In fact I call this “living in the stream of goodness.” I realized I was still in some fear, which I believe is the absence of faith. I made a mental shift or as some people in 12-step meetings said I “let go and let God” or “turned it over.”
I actually thought of attending the session anyway because just the energy in the room would be good. I have found that a crowd of people assembled for spiritual purposes have a healing kind of energy as a group conscious. I have attended 12-step meetings in different parts of the world where I had not understood the language, but I always could make out some of the dialogue and had an uncanny feeling of peace. I have experienced that same sensation in cathedrals, mosques, and temples and especially in the old city in Jerusalem.
This year has been such a blessed experience. In February I was asked to present at the 2013 Israeli Association of Eating Disorders Conference in Jerusalem, Israel on Eating Disorders and Food Addictions. One day I hired a tour guide to take me around the city and show me the sights. You see so much more with a guide and also get an explanation of the historical value of what you were seeing. We went through little allies and down old worn steps to see places where Jesus walked. There were some places in the old city that I felt like I could just drank in the energy of those places. The old city is a wonderful place where the four great religions are all residing inside the city walls and working peacefully together.
It feels safe there even with the presence of young military men and women standing around with machine guns. The citizens are required to serve two years of military training. It was a somewhat tense period in world affairs at that time; the Egyptians political unrest and other happenings of the ‘Arab Spring’ was in progress, but I was told that I would be safe in the old city.
I had an amazing experience on top of a building there that overlooked the entire area. There was a group of soldiers listening to their commanders. In the background the Dome of the Rock was in full view. I took a picture of a soldier wearing a Yakama with his gun strapped to his side gazing at the Dome of the Rock. What a contrast in themes; the Holy of Holies, a place that is supposed to be the most holy place on earth in the background with a soldier contemplating his military missions. Over history there have been so many religious wars to possess that site. Sometimes religions just do not make sense to me. Why kill one another in the name of spirituality?
While I was standing in that position with my camera, church bells started toiling, at the same time I heard the Muslims call to prayer over the loud speakers. A flock of birds ascended into the crystal blue sky at the same time. It was truly a magical moment to experience that I will always remember.
As I turned to walk away from the session I had been so excited about attending, another person who apparently understood English said, “This lecture is in English.” There are not many of us who are presenting in English here, but the translation headsets have completely removed that obstacle.
As I entered the conference room I spotted only one seat across the room. I sat down and then there was a rush of new people wanting to attend. The chairman of the session told the mass at the entry to come in and sit on the floor like they had done at my session the day before. Argentina evidently does not have ordinances about total occupancy allowed in a room. Then there was another wave of more people assembling at the door. The chairman again told the people to come in. There was not one more place to sit even on the floor.
The room was packed with mental health professionals from all over the world from many beliefs and religions. This was truly amazing to think about. All these diverse mental health practitioners who were in the business of healing were coming together to learn about different worldviews. There would be an opportunity at the end of the session to ask questions. I thought that would be interesting.
Because of the overwhelming majority of professions in the room who spoke Spanish, the presenter decided to speak in Spanish instead of the scheduled English. Everyone clapped. My heart sunk. The lady sitting next to me saw my disappointment. She took off her headset and handed it to me with a beautiful smile. I too smiled back placing my hands together and nodding my head with gratitude. It is amazing how you can connect with another without using language. I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating lecture. I need a whole blog just to talk about what I learned.
The session went over the scheduled time by an hour. I had missed Ruth again. She had emailed me that we could connect at another time. I decided to have lunch before my tour in the afternoon. During the last few conferences I have taken some time off to see the country I am actually visiting. I spoke at a conference in Portugal a few years ago and never saw anything but the hotel. What a wasted opportunity. I vowed to never do that again, at least not if I had traveled to a new county.
On the tour there was a couple from Arkansas and the tour guide also spoke English. I was able to share my experience about the taxi ride from the airport. The tour guide said she felt terrible that this had happen in her country. “There are some bad people in my country, but not all,” she said. I told her it was not her fault and we too in the United States have some of the same kind of people.
The couple told me that they had been warned to only use taxis that said “Radio Taxi” on the door and on the top light. The other taxis look identical but have these words missing. You are able to get these taxis reserved inside the airport. I went outside of the airport where there was a very official looking black and yellow ‘Taxi’ area where I went to find a taxi. I told them where I was going and asked how many pesos it would cost. I should have had enough pesos, but of course that was not what happened in my previous blog. A man picked up my bags and motioned to his cab. I got in and he said something in Spanish. I said, “Lo siento, pero yo no hablo español.” (Sorry, but I do not speak Spanish). We proceeded in silence for most of the way as I enjoyed the scenery of Argentina.
I awoke with an uneasy feeling today. I stated thinking about my trip here. My last thought was about the plane ride here. Someone needed medical assistance on the plane about an hour into the 10-hour flight from Atlanta. The person was lying on the galley floor about ten feet from where I was sitting. The flight attendants were asking for a medical doctor to come forward. She repeated the request several times while the other attendants rushed for the oxygen tank and first aid kit. I thought there must be a doctor on board. Then they started asking for nurses or anyone with medical training. The attendant sounded desperate. I wondered if people were afraid to get involved because they might get sued. Please God don’t let that be the reason. Finally three people came forward. All I could see was a group on people huddled around the person lying on the floor. Finally they dispersed, but I never saw the person or learned what happened to him or her.
Then I started thinking about my arrival in Buenos Aries. I had a bad experience with the taxi cab driver from the airport.
I have not talked to anyone about it. It is very hard to communicate here in English. The translations in the conferences are about the only proficient English I have found. When I talked to my husband I told him I had an interesting cab ride and I would tell him about it when I got home. I didn’t want to worry him.
I tried to put the cab incident out of my head because I don’t like to focus on the negative. I also had some positive things to think about, especially feeling so honored and excited to speaking at The World Mental Health Congress. What an opportunity to help other professionals understand more about the treatment of eating disorders. I was not going to allow that experience to ruin my trip.
But today I awoke feeling fear. I tried to examine where this feeling was coming from. I wondered if it was about Ruth that I am supposed to meet this morning. She responded to one of my Facebook or LinkedIn comments I had posted about being at the conference. She said she was attending too. She works with local patients with eating disorders too and would like to meet me. I gave her my itinerary and said I could only meet her today or Friday before I leave. I have learned to pay attention to my intuition, but was that the reasons for this feeling or was it about my first experience in Argentina?
The cab driver spoke very little English, but finally conveyed that the road at the hotel was closed for a festival and stopped the cab about 8 blocks from the hotel. He told me the fare, which was higher than I had been told. He then was trying to help me convert the fare to US dollars. He grabbed 2 one-hundred-dollar bills he saw in my wallet. I told him to give it back. He tried to give me 2 one-dollar bills, but I told him I knew that he took 2 one-hundred-dollar bills. He then gave me 1 hundred-dollar bill and a one-dollar bill, arguing all the time in loud Spanish. I stood my ground and he finally reached onto the floor like he must have dropped it and gave me the other one-hundred-dollar bill. He then showed me he had 2 twenty US dollars and asked for the 1 hundred-dollar bill and he would give me $40 in change. We exchanged money and he took my bags out of the cab and placed them onto the curb.
It was a desolated area. It was early in the morning and the shops along the street were boarded up. He pointed in a direction and left. I took my bags and started walking. In a few blocks I found a person and showed him my hotel reservation and he pointed in a direction. I walked till I found another person and he pointed and I walked, then another. When I got to the hotel taxis where pulling up in front of the hotel.
I am getting ready to meet with Ruth and hope this is not my source of anguish. At least I feel better getting this out. It is amazing how much journaling (or blogging) can help you get the thoughts out of your head and onto to paper (or computer). I tell my patients this all the time, “Journal before you act out on your eating disorder. When you get the feelings out onto the paper it forces you to go deeper to see what is really bothering you. This is a tool you can always have and need no one else to help you but your Self. The feelings will lessen when you get them out. Once they are out you no longer need to push them down with the eating disorder behaviors.”
I haven’t felt like using my eating disorder in decades, but I also refuse to set in these uncomfortable feeling. Maybe that is one of the reasons for my long-term recovery.