Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

The Occupational Health specialist, Nicola, is small and slight, with luxuriant dark curls. She is unfailingly calm, tolerant and cheerful, so much so that I wonder if it is a studied and professional demeanour. I hope it’s authentic, though, because I think she’s lovely.

In our land of processed fast foods and ready meals, slimness is intentional. People who don’t think much about food and cooking, or about what they eat and drink, must become fat. The default body shape must be corpulent, if not obese, so I wonder how staff like Nicola, who no doubt value their slimness, manage to avoid being influenced by our concerns. Surely that obsessive scrutiny of our own body shape must rub off on them.

Then there’s Jamie, the psycho-therapist. The other psycho-therapist, Jane, manages to be both a healthy weight and gorgeous, and claims not to think about what she eats, but Jamie is small and skinny. I guess everyone is afflicted by private torments that they can’t admit to at work, but their situation seems particularly dangerous. Do they require constant debriefing to ensure they haven’t, themselves, been infected? They could never admit it to us. It would give us the impression that our behaviours are normal and thus ok. It would also damage our confidence in them and shake our belief in recovery. And we’d exploit the knowledge unmercifully; we’d try to get them on side, we’d work on the weakness, persecute, even destroy them, just so they’d leave us alone to indulge in our secret practices. It’s an industrious little beast, anorexia.

(Incidentally, the phrase “a healthy weight” is an interesting one. To us anorexics it is definitely a euphemism for “fat” and thus to be taken, and offered, as an outrageous insult, yet it is an objective truth about Jane, which she owns in her forthright manner, so how does the normal world read those words?)

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