A good solution or a quick fix?

Should women suffering from anorexia take pills to suppress hunger? Should women suffering from fertility take pills to suppress babies?
Anne Morse | Feb 22 2012 | comment  



I am anorexic. I don’t want to be emaciated; I want to be healthy. But eating makes me really uncomfortable, anxious, and even nauseous. I eat because I have to. I eat to survive. So I’ve come up with a novel idea to have my cake and eat it, too.

It’s my bad luck to be 5’11,” have a fast metabolism and need to eat over 2,500 calories a day to maintain my weight. This means that I have to battle my impulse to restrict frequently. I used to be a hurdler and a competitive dancer, but I had to sacrifice that active calorie-burning lifestyle when I chose to maintain a healthy weight.. So instead of doing things I love, I spend my money on food that I don’t really want to eat, and I give up time that I would prefer to spend on other things to make time to eat.

I am a slave to my biology.

This is an intolerable servitude. On behalf of all anorexics, I therefore demand access to a pill that will slow down my metabolism so that I can do hurdling and do competitive dancing and restrict my eating. We demand the right to live my life the way we see fit. We want to have it all. We demand the right to not eat. It is not fair that we are forced to be uncomfortable every day simply because our bodies demand food. We demand liberation from the oppression of the hourly demands of our metabolism.

The government owes us this medication. We will not be free until the government gives us access to an anorexia pill.

Sounds crazy? Don’t worry, I’m kidding. It’s just a thought experiment.

However, I really am anorexic, and I really have wished I could take a pill to slow down my metabolism. I am in recovery, and have been out of rehab for almost a year. Even though I have a good outpatient treatment team that I see regularly, maintaining my weight is still a daily struggle.

When I brought up the idea of taking a pill to slow down my metabolism, however, my treatment team told me No. Taking a pill wouldn’t really keep me at a healthy weight, they told me, and, besides, eating is about more than just maintaining a healthy weight. Eating is social, and I need to be comfortable around food in social situations. Dinner provides more than nutrients, it provides a time for families and friends to come together. Coffee and dessert is more than caffeine and sugar -- it’s a great first date.

I think the lesson from my treatment team can be applied to sexuality as well. People use the argument of biology all the time in the context of sexuality. Women claim a right to alter their biology, because their current hormones “enslave” them. Yes, sexuality is natural, but like eating, there is still a proper context for this “natural” instinct. The pill removes sex from its natural and good consequence of creating life.

But women are more than baby-making machines and therefore should have a right to the pill, people say. It is true that we are more than baby-making machines, but we are more than calorie consuming machines too. Sex, like eating, has more value than just continuing life, or creating a new one. Sex, like food, has a social purpose as well as a physical purpose.

The pill, however, not only removes the procreative act from sex, but also removes the social act of commitment and enables consumer sex which exists in epidemic proportions on my campus. The pill encourages sex to be an on-demand, recreational activity between non-committed persons. The pill alters a woman’s biology so that she and her sexual partner can follow their “natural impulses.”

Well, my natural impulse is to not eat. Your impulse may be to eat, but that does not mean we have the right to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, in any circumstances, and for eating to be devoid of consequences, such as losing or gaining weight. Like eating, sex is natural and good, but neither is universally good in any context.

While a pill to slow down my metabolism may provide me with a quick fix, it does not solve my long term problem. I suggest that contraception similarly provides a quick fix, but does not really make us happy in the long run. Like my therapist so often asks me, what then is the real problem? And is altering our bodies a good solution, or simply a quick fix?

Anne Morse is a Junior at the University of California at Berkeley, studying Political Economy. She is President of Berkeley Students for Life. The Ruth Institute provided support and training for this article.



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