Pakistan industry is endemic; here money and beauty are conventionally associated with thinness, what is believed to be slimness.
Many people lack the understanding of what pressures celebrities and models go through to remain in vogue–no matter the effects and after effects that tell on the health status of such people and then… Some of these people misinform their viewers through shows pageants and programmes by recommending tips on how people should look like and what they shouldn’t look like. They have a very strong influence on people around them and on their viewers.
Many get obsessed about the career and you know what follows? Craze, Obsession, Insecurities, depression. Hence, sometimes the emergence of eating disorder(s).
I have someone’s story that I would like to share with you. Many things have been changed to seal the anonymity. In late 2012, someone from Pakistan contacted me via my blog. This person was suffering from Bulimia Nervosa and was exploring options for treatment. I didn’t know she was a model/actress/host/performer. When I learned of her identity, it was a shocking revelation for me. This story simply had to be told to create the awareness and to give another face to Eating Disorder. She later entered Rehab for her problems in Thailand. I thank this person for entrusting me with this responsibility and for giving this blog such an honour.
She’s now a married woman. In order to seal the anonymity, we are not using any names here. Also we’ve left out many of her personal life details and names of the people from Pakistan Entertainment Industry out. This is to safeguard this person and to save her from stigmatization.
Light Cameras, Action and Eating Disorder
Pakistan Fashion Week
“Put this on.” I looked at the glittering outfit that was handed to me.. It was all a mad rush.
“It doesn’t have sleeves” My mind froze. OK, breathe, breathe, I tell myself. It can’t be that bad. All I knew was my figure will be put on full display in this outfit.
In less than two weeks, Pakistani designers were going to be displaying their work at the country’s Annual Fashion Week. Slim Models is the mantra of world Fashion Industry.
I had binged the night before on spicy street food. Every food vendor on the street of Karachi was happy by my purchase. Purging had been a difficult experience. I was all shaken up. I felt revolted and just could not look at myself in the mirror. I desperately needed the money. Bingeing and Weight Loss Programs don’t come cheap. My bills were overdue now and my cards were nearly all marked out.
I entered the fitting room area on shaky legs, and put on that top. I didn’t dare look at myself in the full length mirror. All shaken up I walked out and saw blue. World spun in mad circles and I fainted.
Two weeks later- Taking to the runway, my heart stopped.
Shoulders back, stomach in, chin lifted and a huge smile on my face. It’s the same ritual I perform every time before stepping on to the ramp. Protruding elbow joints and gaunt and sunken cheeks, this was how I looked in reality but my mirror told me different story, I was heavy and horribly fat. I made it through the show. I felt all eyes were on me. I kept quiet, gritted my teeth and did my job displaying one outfit after the other.
The women are judged on their appearance, so it’s no wonder eating disorders are rife. I eat nothing on the day of ramp walking, to make sure my stomach is as flat as possible. Then, there’s the expense. The facial, fake nails, hair pieces, and false eyelashes are a must. I own so many dresses – which cost anything from 8000 to 20,000 rupees at a go – and 80 pairs of shoes (which cost anything from 7000-15,000 a pair.)
Few months later, I was on a flight to Thailand to seek treatment for my Eating/Addiction problems.
What happened? I thought I was living my dream, but where did all these challenges come from?
When I began, I thought I was letting myself into glamour world of fashion, fame, beauty and money. I was five when I began singing and performing in my own home and at family gatherings. But at eight, I was very confident and could perform in front of 200 people at any given time.
I was merely out of my teens when I entered the entertainment industry. I was living a dream life. Fun, Excitement, thrills, I enjoyed everything. I was invited to exclusive society parties. I partied till early hours of the morning. I was friends with most good looking men in the industry. It didn’t matter they were married with kids and old enough to be my father. None of this matters, it’s all about ‘who knows who’. It also didn’t matter I had zero acting talent, my face, my height, my looks, my hair all compensated for my lack of talent.
When I went on Diet-
In Pakistan we have a slightly low BMI. For my height, I was slightly low weight. Before entering the Entertainment Industry, I had never dieted. Why did I go on a diet? There’s the madness. We look at Western models for inspiration. “Always keep your weight down and eat what you like was the advice given to me by a colleague. She ate very well and never seemed to gain any weight.”
Few fad diets led to some more diets. I was someone who never cared about food or eating. Now all of a sudden, I was always hungry. I started to binge, then I would feel guilty and I would use compensatory behaviours. It became a vicious circle, because somehow I started to gain weight and it was driving me crazy. I was then introduced to purging by a fellow model.
I can’t forget that unforgettable day
We were rehearsing for an award show and I was performing on this song with another actor from the industry. Stage performance/dancing is about the relationship and chemistry with your partner. To dance convincingly, particularly on Bollywood numbers on love songs, you have to have a connection.
I rehearsed non-stop for three days, when director decided to change the entry of the song. I would enter the stage on the shoulders of six men. Six background dancers would carry me to the stage. If I knew what was to follow, I would have walked out from that sequence. As six men lifted me on their shoulders, first comment they whispered was that I was slightly heavy. and then my mind went numb, there were hands on my legs, on my back, I tried to focus on appearing blissful, serene, calm, but those hands of background dancers were like snakes. I felt each and every part of my body pulse under their hands. Put me down, I screamed. More hands, more exploring as I was lifted to the floor. I ran to the bathroom and I was sick and sick. I went home and took couple of **** to go to sleep. I wanted to shut the world out. I walked out of that show. I can’t do it, ‘why?’ was the question by the director? I told him about that background dancer and his whispers.
“Get over it, this is normal” was his remark.
I don’t know how but then all of a sudden, everything started to take its toll on me. I became critical of my body. I started binging uncontrollably and I started to eat to compensate for something that was missing in my life. All those male friends now irritated me. Hypocrites, cheats, two-timers, I saw them all in new light. Forty plus men befriending 16 year olds, partying with 21 year olds.
For 12 months, I was locked down in this vicious cycle of weight loss, purging, bingeing and madness. I was late, I missed out on assignments and everything started to irritate me. I was paranoid about other’s opinion of me. I would clad myself from head to toe in a black veil and I would rush out and purchase the food. I would drive all the way to Student Biryani in a down beat area to take care of my binges. Debt was piling and I was getting suffocated under all that pressure.
One of many memories- Binging can cost life
Those industry parties were suffocating me. I can’t forget that evening when I wanted lamb shank. That week Karachi was under fire, road blocks, shooting, killing, everything was taking place. No one was safe. People were locked inside. I went out all clad in black. My neighbour gave me a meaningful look, which I ignored.
Violence erupted and roads were blocked. Rangers were everywhere. I was running out of fuel. They won’t allow anyone to pass; it doesn’t matter how latest your car was. They were searching everyone. A death toll was rising as a result of suicide bombing. The smell of food warm food was overpowering my senses. I just want to go home and binge, I screamed in my mind.
I lifted my veil and took out my make up kit to perfect my face. I somehow got home but the horror of that evening remained with me.
After a long while, in a desperate bid to win some assignments, I went to a launch party. I sold my gold bracelet and my ring to raise money for the beauty treatments that day. My reward was full on binge that night. Everything in my disordered flat was in place for my scheduled binge. I was ordering food in. It was all normal take away, no five stars dinning, were too expensive.
I walked in. Everyone looked good, but my top felt tight. I was choking. If I had an option, I would have covered myself in yards and yards of cloth. My upper arms felt wiggly. I wanted to run and then there was Buffett from a very good restaurant. As people networked I went to buffet table and binged and binged and binged. I stuffed food in an oversize bag and went to bathroom and ate till I could no longer eat.
I had three sessions of purge. Midnight was approaching and I felt so shaken up. I was desperately trying to cover up the damage when I saw another model from yesteryears, a pioneer of our fashion industry. Our eyes met across the mirror and she asked me a dreaded question; ‘Are you ok?’ ‘yes’, as I splashed water on my wrists and on my face. ‘It’s not going to work,’ ‘excuse me’, purging doesn’t work, she smirked. I froze; ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about?’ ‘Stop before it’s too late. You’re a mess, and we can all tell’.
I saw blue. Minutes later I was sitting on a vanity tool with my head between my legs.
She said few things to me which will stay with me forever and she did something for me that has changed and saved my life. I can’t say more except to say that she helped me to enter Eating Disorder center for my problems.
I flew to Thailand. No way, I was seeing someone anyone in Pakistan. I wanted to get as far away from these people as I could have. Thailand was no easy feat. Six weeks is not long enough. But money was an issue, six figures of debt. My mind couldn’t cope.
I had no friends in the industry. They had all moved on, new people entering the industry. It was like a honey pot and young people were like bees coming in great number. Every week a new face, a new fresh talent, a new challenge.
In Thailand I begged the psychiatrist, just to get me to stop bingeing; he said that we need to explore deeper issues. “There are no deeper issues”, I yelled. “I wanted to work in this industry. No one forced me”, I cried. “Please just get me well”. “I can’t gain weight”, I told him that my livelihood depends on my body, my weight. These designers won’t hire me. I have no money; I just want to remain thin”.
Those six weeks were the hardest weeks of my life. I will tell you one thing from experience; first five days are the hardest. You just have to get through without purging, keeping the food down and dealing with the weight of food in stomach. At times I really don’t want to reflect on those days. I don’t want to remember the pain, the agony, the loneliness; those tears and the yelling.
Six weeks night and day I worked through the steps to recovery. The pride of wanting to rid myself of this addiction took priority over everything. I killed my desire for food. I shut my mind and ate what was given to me. Food was wholesome fresh and simple.
I remained binge purge free. I felt drained at leaving the facility. I carried on with online recovery program from Karachi.
Six months later, I was Stronger and more sure of myself, I no longer put myself in a situation where other models/actors would become jealous of me. No one saw me as a threat. I simply worked and worked to make the ends meet.
Since my marriage I have made very few friends in the society- I’ve learnt from previous mistakes. I keep myself to myself and guard my privacy. Though life’s not without its challenges, I’m certainly sure of my place in the world. Some days are a challenge but my good days outweigh the bad days.
You have read her story and without much ado, you will pick things up from here for your consumption, meditation or rumination. It is very simple to take out of what Allah has provided; this is void of trouble and ED free. Let us not relent or retreat in this war against eating disorders.
And don’t forget about the upcoming Annual World Eating Disorders Action Day to Take Place June 2, 2016.