Stop bypassing the dangers of anorexia – Q&A with Cathy Ladman

“My job is to understand and accept myself, my imperfect self.” - Cathy Ladman, TEDMED 2014 [Photo by Brett Hartman]
“My job is to understand and accept myself, my imperfect self.” – Cathy Ladman, TEDMED 2014 [Photo by Brett Hartman]

At TEDMED 2014, Cathy Ladman – a comedian famous for poking fun at her personal neuroses – shared the internal dialogue of someone struggling to cope and understand her eating disorder. Her talk, funny in the “I don’t know if I should be laughing” kind of way, focused on anorexia, which has the highest death rate of any mental illness. We got in touch with Cathy to learn more about her talk and experience at TEDMED.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

I have thought, for a very long time, that there has to be a real, honest wake-up call in our society regarding the obsession with being thin. There are people dying from anorexia, and our society turns away from these facts because they are inconvenient. These facts get in the way of the, most often, ridiculous female body standard, and that’s what sells magazines, movies, TV shows, etc. I hope that people will see how grave this is, and how we have the power to stop perpetuating it.

After watching this talk, what actions do you want your viewers to take?

Be honest with yourself and others. Find your self-worth in things other than your body and your looks. Speak out when you see TV shows, films or any public media glorifying skinny.

Which TEDMED 2014 talks or performances left the biggest impression on you? Why?

Sigrid Fry-Revere’s “What can Iran teach us about the kidney shortage?” – I never knew of the donor system that exists in Iran. This talk was fascinating, and made a lot of sense to me. I was partly surprised by my response. I would have guessed that I would not be on the side of selling organs, but I see that, handled this way, it’s a sound idea.

Rosie King’s “How autism freed me to be myself”– Rosie was terrific, vibrant, hopeful, brave, completely real, and spoke with no artifice. I loved her!

Abraham Verghese’s “A linguistic prescription for ailing communication”  – Abraham is a gentle, intelligent man, whose love of words echoes my own. The more we know language, the more we create language, the better we can communicate with each other and, hence, understand each other.

Carl Hart’s “Let quit abusing drug users” – This was such a terrific presentation of a perspective that I hadn’t known before, and makes complete sense. His theories could help to change the cycle of drug addiction and poverty.