Anorexics: Jackson is one of us

The eating disorder community guesses at what killed the King of Pop

By Tracy Clark-Flory
July 1, 2009 2:30PM (UTC)
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The autopsy has been kept private, the cause of death is unknown, but that hasn't stopped theories about Michael Jackson's demise from thriving like immorality at an OK! magazine pitch meeting. One hypothesis in particular is quickly gaining followers, especially in the eating disorder community -- that the King of Pop was killed by anorexia. Many anorexics and bulimics are "eager to claim [him] as one of their own," Double X reports, and they have only been further encouraged by a British tabloid claiming that Jackson's autopsy revealed him to be bald and severely emaciated at the time of his death. The Los Angeles coroner's office swiftly dismissed the report but, no matter, the seed was planted.

The 15-year-old recovering anorexic behind Beautiful Without Consequences recently memorialized MJ by noting that "under all those billowing shirts, he is thin ... Michael Jackson struggled with anorexia nervosa up until his death." She goes on to write: "If you ask me if he was pro-recovery or even a blogger like me with a pseudonym, I'll have to admit I don't know." She continues: "But I hope that he was. In the case that he was, we can't let him down! Kick your eating disorder in the balls. BEAT IT!" Then follows the music video for "Beat It." The blog Tales of a (Recovering) Disordered Eater says of Jackson's death: "What I think is saddest of all is that an intervention could have probably helped save his life."


Tweeters are also buzzing with similar speculation and attempts at awareness raising. AnorexiaSupport wrote: "Why, only After death, is Anorexia revealed in Michael Jackson's life? Wake up call 4 ED! Heart canNot continue 2 work w/out food - period." Indeed, eating disorders can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. JoannaPoppink, an "eating disorder recovery psychotherapist," seized on the chatter as a teachable moment: "Michael Jackson: RIP possible anorexia? Can we learn from his life and death?" Presumably that anorexia can kill. It's also possible that Jackson's death could give disordered eaters strength during their ongoing recovery.

What if the rumors actually prove to be true and Jackson did die from anorexia? Maybe it would bring some much-needed attention to the disease, especially in men. Then again, maybe it would only further stigmatize disordered eaters. Based on how we treated Jackson during his life, and how we're treating him even in death, chances are it would be the latter.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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