Hadley Freeman On Anorexia

Hadley Freeman is a journalist and author. She worked for the Guardian and now for the Times.

This was, predictably, a book signing after listening to her being interviewed (by Helen Lewis) about her book on anorexia. Freeman suffered from it for years and had several long stays in hospital where she was with other anorexics.

Not all her treatment was helpful. One doctor put her on something that triggered a latent epilepsy from which she has suffered ever since. Thankfully, something has lessened the frequency of attacks. She did say what that something was but I forget.

In this shot she is talking to my wife Tamara and looks decidedly less defeated than she looked when talking to the person who was in the queue ahead of us. That said, she looks wan and less than in full health. It could be she was simply tired but I thought maybe it was the toll on her of those years of anorexia.

Freeman talked very well about anorexia and she had a different take on it than I have heard before. Rather than that the anorexic thinks they look great, they are expressing that they are ill. They do not have a different way to express it so it comes out in the body. She talked about the desire in young girls and woman not to be a seen as a sexual object by men. She mentioned it being caused by a fear of the gaze of men or of their own mystifying burgeoning sexuality. I hope I got that right but if it interests you there is her book on the subject – Good Girls. It’s not just a look back at her own experience but an understanding based on interviews with fellow sufferers with whom she was in hospital and doctors who talk about how treatment has changed over the years.

That said, she explained that there is no treatment in the sense of a medicine to make it all go away. Freeman mentioned how OCD took over as anorexia lessened, and that she believes she has a predisposition, partly genetic and partly something else unspecified beyond just being ‘like that’ that caused her anorexia.

She was clear that underrating and overeating are two sides of the same coin, and the bulimia, because it is hidden is not of the same family.

All in all, well worth going and I learned something.