Will New Reality TV Show Exploit Women With Eating Disorders?

AnorexiaWe've seen drug addicts, teen moms, chronic hoarders, and a host of people with other serious issues sacrificed to the reality TV gods -- their deeply personal troubles and struggles paraded before us for our casual entertainment. Now, apparently, it's people with eating disorders' turn.

Yep, Lifetime TV has announced plans to premiere a new reality show following people with eating disorders, Starving Secrets, on December 2. The show's host, Tracey Gold, who as a teen starring on the sitcom Growing Pains went through her own struggle with anorexia nervosa, swears the show will be tasteful and not exploitative, but honestly, I have a hard time believing that will be the case.


It's not that I wouldn't like to think that a project like this could have a positive effect, showing young women the dangers of a devastating and sometimes deadly disease, perhaps prompting them to get help. Clearly Gold -- who was one of the earliest stars to admit to having an eating disorder -- would like to believe this too.

But it's difficult to imagine how the women who (for whatever mysterious reason) have agreed to have a camera track their efforts, setbacks, and stumbles will be helped by their participation. In fact, one wonders whether their willingness to participate is more a symptom than a cure: Could the craving for acceptance and self-esteem issues that may have driven them to starve themselves also have driven them to sign on to have their private issues so publicly displayed? Honestly, it doesn't seem like that big a leap.

I recall hearing that anorexia and bulimia are more about control than anything else. But by signing away the rights to their privacy, Starving Secrets' participants are very much ceding control over their own images. That seems almost tragically ironic.

Do you think Starving Secrets sounds like it might exploit people with eating disorders or like it will help them?


Image via Katie Tegtmeyer/Flickr

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