Pictures of Keira should carry a health warning,
says grieving mother
Daily Mail - 11th January 2007
With size 00 figures to aspire to, celebrities are shrinking in front of our eyes. Only this week Pirates Of The Caribbean star Keira Knightley's skinny frame was revealed as she holidayed on a Pacific island. But for ordinary young girls, attempting to emulate this image is often dangerous. Last month, Rosalind Ponomarenko-Jones, 46, lost her daughter Sophie Mazurek, 19, to anorexia. Rosalind, from Powys, Wales, blames the fashion industry for Sophie's death. She says:
Seeing Keira in her bikini made my stomach turn. She is losing weight too quickly and I think she is over-exercising. You can tell by her belly button that she is not healthy. There is no fat underneath her piercing and it is hanging loosely. To me, it is unattractive: she looks more like a man than a woman.
Tragically it reminds me of how Sophie looked in her final months. She, too, had a belly button piercing and where it once used to sit comfortably in her pillowy stomach, by the end it was dangling from the flap of skin covering her hollowed-out midriff. It is a tiny detail but one that makes me think that Keira has, or is on the way to having, an eating disorder.
Keira, like my daughter, has never been a big girl. Looking at pictures of her two years ago it is inconceivable to think she was fat. All I can think is that she must be under tremendous pressure from the fashion and movie industries to aspire to an impossibly stick-thin look.
That pressure is passed through celebrities like Keira and Victoria Beckham on to vulnerable girls like Sophie. I hold the whole industry responsible for my daughter's death and I hope by sharing her story, other lives can be saved.
Sophie began obsessing about what she was eating when she was 17. In the kitchen she was keen to help me prepare the food. She offered to chop the vegetables and pored over the ingredients of anything I'd bought prepackaged.
Then she stopped eating cheese, declaring that she'd never liked it. She'd been a vegetarian since she was 12, so many of the dishes I'd made for her were cheese-based, I thought it was odd that she'd suddenly decided she didn't like it. Still, she could have been out drinking or taking drugs so, as teenage phases go, I really wasn't too worried.
Besides, unhealthy eating had never been an issue in our family. I'd always cooked a family meal every evening for Sophie and my other three children, Lauren, 25, Jacob, 17, and Polly, 11. On Fridays they were allowed a treat of an oven-baked pizza and chips, but that was the only time they ever ate junk.
Also we led an active life walking our dogs, so at 17 Sophie was her naturally healthy weight which, as she was 5ft, was eight-and-a-half stone.
However, it was in that year that Sophie enrolled on an animal care course at a college in North Shropshire. She stayed in the halls of residence during the week and at weekends she'd either be working at a supermarket or out with her friends.
As a result, the only time I really saw her was on a Sunday night when I'd drive her back to college.
I didn't think she was spending too much time away from home, I was happy for her. I thought that she was having fun and doing all the things teenagers were supposed to do.
It was when my husband Lloyd, 48, and I went on holiday to Tunisia in October 2004 that I first noticed something was badly wrong.
When we returned, she was at home for the first time in weeks. I was shocked by how skinny she was. Her legs looked like twigs.
She reluctantly agreed to be weighed and the scales read sevenanda-half stone. Straight away I feared anorexia, so we sat down and talked it through. She finally admitted that she'd been skipping the canteen meals, which were inclusive in her college fees, because she wanted a flatter stomach like the models and celebrities in the magazines.
I was horrified and tried to reason with her, but she said her friends had complimented her and that the boys would fancy her more now.
She promised me she'd eat properly from then on, but of course she was still at college so I had no idea what she was eating. By Christmas that year she was painfully thin, probably around six stone, so I took her to our doctor.
She stayed at home after that and I was mortified to see she was only eating two mouthfuls of pasta for lunch. At dinner she'd take her food into the lounge and although I thought she was eating it, days later I'd find it stuffed in the pockets of her trousers.
I tried reasoning with her, shouting at her, explaining the dangers she was putting herself under, but she was like a closed book.
Eventually, I took her back to the GP and after several more visits Sophie was admitted to hospital with dangerously low blood sugar.
She spent the next 15 months in a specialist eating disorder ward at a hospital near Telford, Shropshire. Sophie had a feeding tube up her nose and we had to go to regular family counselling sessions.
Each time, I felt like my daughter was becoming a stranger. She said she didn't have many friends and it was obvious she had no self-esteem. It was nearly impossible to get her to open up.
Even though she was discharged in May last year, I don't think she ever recovered. She was back up to seven stone, but almost immediately the weight fell off again.
I pleaded with the health authorities to return her to the hospital, but as she had turned 18 she was officially an adult - they could not force her to do anything against her will.
By December the situation was perilous. She weighed four stone and could hardly stand without support. She couldn't see properly, she was hypoglycaemic and had contracted hypothermia. Finally she agreed to be treated - but it was too late.
Sophie was admitted to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford on December 10, but she died 11 days later of heart failure caused by malnutrition brought on by anorexia.
I wouldn't wish what we went through as a family on my worst enemy. Burying a child is probably the hardest thing any parent has to contemplate.
So to see fashion magazines glamorising size 00 women is truly deplorable. Women should be proud to be women and flaunt their curves.
In my mind, women like Victoria Beckham and Keira Knightley aren't attractive, they have masculine physiques. It is shameful that they are in such influential positions but don't think about how their actions can affect girls like my Sophie.
I champion The Dove advertisement campaign for real beauty because it uses real women. It teaches women to be happy with their natural shapes.
Anorexia is an affliction and an addiction. When I was a child, smoking was seen as glamorous but now we all know that it kills. It is hardly seen in films and never promoted in other media. I think the same should be true of emaciated women.
Thinness should carry a health warning just like obesity. If women didn't aspire to be skinny then maybe my beautiful daughter would still be here today.