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

body image, eating disorders, eating habits, eating healthy, emotional health, mental health, nutrition, self esteem


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hmeg89 hmeg89

I've been recovered for 2years now. A show like this would easily throw me back into it, maybe not.completely, but sometimes I still crave the emptiness, or the image of a super skinny chick make me start sweating. It could help the girls, I got a job as a stripper and being that exposed and the fact I couldn't hide much helped me recover. I wish I could give them all a hug:(

Kritika Kritika

If they do a special on anorexia I want them to show the hideous side of it - the women that look like 60lb skeletons. Not teeny boppers that weigh 100lbs I mean show the really greusome side of it. I think that's the only way the girls will watch it, get a reality check, and not be "jealous" of the women on the show. But I'm sure MTV won't do that.

Lucre... LucretiaMcEvil

Yay. Another show about self-obsessed crazy people!

xanth... xanthian41691

There are plenty of shows that track weight LOSS so why not weight GAIN? I think this is a great idea.

nonmember avatar Maggie

I think this is an awful idea. I am struggling with recovery and I know seeing something like this will be triggering enough to throw me back into it. Sure, it's easy enough to tell someone like me to not watch it and all will be fine, but it's not that easy..sooner or later I WILL watch it and it WILL destroy all of my progress. Awful, awful idea.

nonmember avatar BeAMom

What's their concept of 'triggering'. I'm a sober alcoholic, and watching people drink on tv, or for that matter real life, doesn't 'trigger' me, or my sober friends. I don't mean to be anything but curious about this.

Opal_... Opal_skye86

I have to agree, bad idea. I know things like this also kind of helped me find new ways to do it/hide it when I was younger. As far as it being exploitation, well, I should hope these women already knew what they were getting into; they are big girls, and we all make our choices in life. The best thing they could do, is show these people at their worst (not necessarily documenting or showing everything), and then focus on recovery...

Water... Water_geM

Ill watch it.

nonmember avatar John

Maybe this will inspire obese Americans to finally start doing something about their grotesque appearance :)
Thank god!

Victo... VictoriaL.

I personally think that this show is a bad idea. In fact seeing these women that thin will probably make want to go back to the way I was years ago.

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