THE BLOG

"Liar-exics": A Catchy Name For A Serious Problem

"Liar-rexic" is the Daily Mail's catchy new term for women who in public appear to have hearty appetites but greatly restrict their calories in private. The word joins the linguistic ranks of "mommyrexics," "drunkorexics," "manorexics," and "tanorexics" -- the last of which has nothing to do with eating.

In the real world -- the world beyond The Daily Mail -- the behavior described by the article has a less catchy name. The clinical term for it is "eating disorder not otherwise specified" or EDNOS, which applies to disordered eating habits that don't fit the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia but still call for treatment. While the Mail article acknowledges eating in public, then starving in private as unhealthy and exemplary of the painful relationship many women have with food, labeling the behavior "liarexia" distracts from its seriousness.

But looking past the unfortunate label, and acknowledging the behavior first and foremost as a women's health issue, this eating pattern is worth examining as yet another manifestation of the need so many contemporary women feel to do and be all things.

In addition to being professionally driven but always nice, independent but marriage-oriented and maternal, some women feel they should be carefree enough to regularly consume cheeseburgers and sundaes and never worry about their weight, yet remain pencil thin.

Why do modern women hold themselves to these standards? How might they rewrite the rules? These are the larger questions "liarexia" raises, but the Mail isn't interested in those. Instead, it portrays this disordered eating as an example of the dysfunction in female friendships.

One woman interviewed, Jane Traynor, tells the paper that she doesn't eat carbs and runs daily. According to Traynor, when she's the only one of her friends to order a salad, she hears a chorus of disapproval and is peer pressured into "treating herself." It's easier for her to just give in, she says, and go back to her strict routine the next day.

This form of peer pressure is one that many women have probably felt at some point or other, and also gives more credence to studies that link weight gain to the company you keep.

But the article also seems to suggest that women eat this way out of fear of one another, "of being challenged by other people," which, in typical Daily Mail  fashion, hurts women more than it helps them.

In a recent blog post, Margaret Wheeler Johnson, The Huffington Post's Women's Editor, wrote of the British paper's Femail section:

Every day headlines like these cascade down the page, calling women out on bodily imperfections, criticizing their life choices, or recounting all of the ways women are supposedly, inevitably horrible to each other.

The "liarexia" article is no exception, especially when it cautions women who are concerned about a friend's eating to gently bring up the issue with her but also question their motives for doing so. The Mail includes this helpful quote from health psychologist James Lamper, "'Some women may simply feel jealous that a friend is slim, but that is not a good reason to pressure her to eat more.'"

Similarly, the article concludes with the suggestion that it's time women accept what their friends eat rather than "nagging" them to order higher calorie foods, which again casts women as passive-aggressive and manipulative, rather than refocusing on the deeper psychological -- and cultural -- issues that cause a woman to "pig out" with her friends, then eat less than she wants and needs later. Chalking it up to peer pressure -- and calling it "liarexia" -- sweeps the real problem under the rug.