(written to the editor of Star magazine)
I am writing in regard to your recent (August 28th) feature about Nicole Ritchie, entitled, "Bare Bones!" As Pearson, Clark, and Levine note, Ms. Ritchie is grossly underweight.
My concern is that anorexia, a serious (and often lethal) physical and psychological condition is not represented properly in the article. The writers quote Christine Bybee, a "nutritionist and fitness expert" regarding Nicole's condition: "'A true anorexic looks like a walking skeleton. . . . At that point, a person needs to be hospitalized. Nicole isn't there yet."
Unfortunately, Bybee's statement is wholly untrue. First, it is impossible to judge whether someone is anorexic simply based on her appearance. A comprehensive clinical interview is necessary, and, even then, a diagnosis may be difficult if the patient is not forthcoming. Second, not all anorexics have the look of a "walking skeleton," as the diagnosis requires (amongst other criteria) that a patient weigh less than 85% than expected--how this translates into "looks" varies by individual. Finally, hospitalization can and does occur at various points along the continuum of eating-disordered symptoms and is not simply a stop-gap, life-saving measure once a patient appears to be "a walking skeleton."
I write with concern that your readers may, based on the above misinformation, understand anorexia to be less serious (or more black-and-white) than it is. Nicole Ritchie is, even by her own account, "too thin," but to label her as anorexic (or not) is questionable journalism, given the complexity of the diagnosis. Moreover, information about an eating disorder (a mental health disorder) diagnosis and treatment should come from a mental health professional, not a nutritionist or fitness expert.
I urge you to promote responsible journalism, particularly with regard to a disease as grave as anorexia, as many young women are turning to celebrity magazines for information about this condition.
Licensed Psychologist (specializing in eating- and body-image concerns)