As an eating disorder and mental health specialist, I came here to ask how was pica seen/treated in this era? You know, the disorder where someone craves and/or eats inedible and non-food objects. Are there any surviving documents or any record of anyone, from Tudor times, that suffered from this condition? If so, can you please give me an example, or two, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.
I also want to say that I’ve seen some 1,400 preserved, half-digested objects that were removed from a woman’s stomach back from 1929. This was a few years ago when I went to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. If you want to see it without traveling there, there is a picture of it in the pica Wikipedia article. However, be warned, it is a bit disturbing and creepy.
Hi Emily, I've been a historian and history teacher for 35 years, and to answer your question, yes, I firmly believe that all the eating disorders have, unfortunately, been a part of human life for centuries, since after Adam and Eve. However, it would be anachronistic to say they were diagnosed, recognized, or treated in our modern day sense, because unfortunately they weren't.
Anorexia wasn't first called that until the Victorian era, and bulimia wasn't named until about the mid 20th century, and BED (binge eating disorder) has only been recently even recognized as a disorder. I would say pica is the only eating disorder that's been "observed" since ancient times, but even then, past societies probably wouldn't have had the modern day understanding of it either that we have now. The only most historical preserved evidence of pica that I've seen is of the objects of an unknown lady who swallowed them from 1929, at the Glore museum. (And yes, I've visited it, too).
Both my great-grandfather, and grandfather developed eating disorders along with shell shock after coming back home from WW1 and WW2. My great-grandfather became anorexic, and likely had pica, too, as some objects such as jewelry started mysteriously disappearing, and he had digestive distress, and my grandpa came back from WW2, as a binge-eater and also likely a bulimiac.
Sorry for being so long-winded with my response, but I hope this info helps you. Please have a great rest of your day.
Thank you so much for that info, Howard. I hope you're having a nice day, too.
My reply is a little late I can see but I’ll share my thoughts anyway. Pica and other eating disorders in general, e.g., anorexia and bulimia would NOT have been treated or regarded the same way people do today, it’s true they’ve always existed, for millennia, but unfortunately, back then, most people might’ve just at best, viewed the sufferer of them as “eccentric” or “odd” and at worst, “mad” or mentally disturbed”. It’s safe to say that at least we’ve come a long way from an era where an eating disorder sufferer could’ve even been thought to be possessed by Satan, and thereby, should be subjected to painful, sadistic procedures and torment.
This is my take on the subject. If a woman centuries ago had/developed an eating disorder, it wouldn't have been because she necessarily wanted to get skinny/lose weight, it would have been, in a way, a coping mechanism to escape male oppressiveness and abuse. Since bigger women with a few love handles, (not obese, mind you), but reasonably plump, used to be more ideal, her starving herself might've been a way to make herself less attractive to the men, and/or even a protective mechanism to not attract an/another abusive husband. Same way, nowadays, some women have binged and overeaten until they become obese, in order to "protect themselves" from getting into another abusive relationship, since being skinny is revered, now, instead.
Actually, yes, while it is mostly true that being a little overweight was viewed as attractive, this was mostly viewed only for the nobility, aristocracy, and royals. Not that it would have been criticized in peasants, or surfs, either, but they understandably would have been much skinnier because of more physical labor, and unfortunately, sometimes not enough to eat, combination. And no rich man or woman would’ve wanted to, or their child(ren) to be so skinny that they looked like their peasant counterparts! This may sound amateur or anachronistic of me to say, but I think the only other exception would have been the knights. He may have been more likely to want to be unhealthily thin, even, because an overweight knight was not a seen as a good, honorable knight. However, that besides, I think most knights were skinnier, more svelte, and agile because of their lifestyles, they jousted, rode horses at high speeds, rescued ladies in distress, and fought battles, all of which would’ve burned off more calories. (Or some, just as some people now, could’ve gotten away with eating whatever amount of junk they wanted, because they had a hyperactive metabolism)! Not because they starved themselves, and deprived themselves of food, or their favorite treats! Then, too, they might’ve had a minority that unfortunately developed an eating disorder, and a bad body image, but mostly, that definitely would’ve been a rare occurrence.
I’ve been wondering why, all of a sudden, everybody keeps posting comments on old blog posts, and going on and on about them. But anyways, actually, skinny knights were not ideal either. Lol! What a joke! Svelte, athletic, and agile, yes, but anorexic kind of thin, no way! Sounds like this person was comparing runway models from the 1990’s and even now, to medieval knighthood ideals, which in no way are the same! Many Medieval knights were also over 6 ft. tall, which also helped. They would’ve both looked and stayed slimmer, btw, than a shorter person, and naturally been able to eat more, and burn more. In fact, I’d like to imagine that if a squire or knight was too skinny, the lord or the king would try to fatten him up, and threaten to take away his knighthood (or if he was still a squire, not let him become a knight) if he didn’t gain some weight / bulk up!
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