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Anorexia’s Living Face – CBS News

August 22, 2019


Isabelle Caro is as shocking a poster girl
as you will ever see. Last month, the anorexic woman who weighs less than 70 pounds appeared
on billboards in Milan, the fashion center of Italy. Looking at her made us wonder if
she would actually survive. CBS news correspondent, Sheila McVicker went to Paris to learn more
about her. You remember the picture, the shocking haunting gaze of an anorexic. Hard to look
at? Hard to look away from. It was part of an Italian attempt to raise awareness to the
disease in the fashion industry. Isabelle Caro was the model, she told us she has no
regrets that she posed for the campaign. I’ve been anorexic since I was thirteen. I said
that if I can put my years of suffering to use, they would not have been pointless. I
hope the message got through. I know there has been a lot of criticism because it is
a shocking photo and I wanted to shock. It’s really a warning that this is a serious illness.
But it is too painful now for Isabelle to see that picture. I say to myself, that’s
horrible, horrible. Are you worried that young girls suffering from anorexia might see that
picture of you and think, I have to lose more, I have to lose more. Look how beautiful she
is like that, I must lose more. I don’t think so, I hope not. To see my tailbone like an
open wound, I show myself as I am. I’m not beautiful, my hair is ruined and I know I
will never have long hair again. I’ve lost several teeth, my skin is dry, my breasts
have fallen. No young girl wants to look like a skeleton. It’s horrible, ugliness. I couldn’t
believe anyone would want to look like that. I don’t think there is any question about
it. At five feet and now 66 pounds, twenty-five year old Isabelle has a body mass index under
14. The lowest healthy adult BMI is 18.5. She has weighed even less. Her anorexia a
result of a dreadful childhood. This is when I was 55 pounds. It is actually very painful
to look at these photos again. When did you realize that this disease, this illness could
kill you? It was when I went into a coma about a year and a half ago and really up until
then I didn’t realize. I saw death coming for me. I saw what all of those people describe
when they survive and accident and they really come close to dying. At that stage, I freaked
out. I was so afraid that I took hold of myself and I said that I have to do something because
I won’t have a second chance. I really wanted to live, I really wanted to fight. Isabelle
left her family and moved to the south of France. She’s found a doctor who specializes
in treating eating disorders. She sees a psychotherapist, has her blood and heart checked regularly
and slowly, slowly, she has begun to eat. How difficult was it to literally begin to
eat again? My stomach rejected everything. It was very, very hard. I had to get used
to eating again, little bites and lots of liquids. Isabelle says she loves Japanese
food. I’ll have the seaweed salad and definitely the miso soup because it has lots of salt
in it and for lunch ordered soup and seaweed and a plate of sushimi, that’s raw sliced
fish. A whole cup of tea is sometimes, just too much. She cradles the cup for warmth.
Pasta and rice are still too heavy. She never uses olive oil but there is progress. I’ve
put on weight since the campaign photo was taken in April. I’ve gained more than four
pounds and I now weigh 32 kilos. And that’s a big success, that about 66 pounds, and that’s
a big success. Yes, it’s definitely a big success. I haven’t put on any weight since
I was a teenager. I was hospitalized several times and fattened up but at the time I wasn’t
given any psychiatric help. So, one week later, I’d lose the weight all over again. Critics
say that Isabelle was too sick and not mentally competent to be able to agree to participate
in the anti-anorexia campaign. She says that it has helped her. Did your doctors think
that it was a good idea? I didn’t really talk about it beforehand, but when he saw it, he
said it would give me motivation to get better, to give me a project and that was very good.
For the first time, in a long time, Isabelle is beginning to have enough strength to believe
that she has a future but there is still a long way to go. Tell me about the freckles
on your face. Do you paint the freckles on your face? I do have freckles naturally but
I use makeup to accentuate them because I like to bring out my eyes, because if someone
is looking at my eyes, they are not looking at the rest of me. Sheila McVicker, CBS news,
Paris

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