Therapeutic Casting for People with Eating Disorders or BDD

A few years ago, CJ and André from Rockabelly Lifecasts were invited to participate in the popular Channel 4 television show 'Supersize vs Superskinny'. We were asked to cast three young women who each suffered from a different eating disorder, and had struggled in their own ways with the ongoing battle that diseases such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia and various binge/purge disorders entail. The aim of the the casting process was to provide a realistic and accurate three dimensional portrait of each woman's body to act as a motivational catalyst for healing, and as a clear and un-arguable reference point for the women to see themselves as others see them. The resulting casts provided such a powerful impact on the participants (although each affected differently by the process) and for one woman in particular, whose disorder was seen as the most severe case of the three and most urgently life threatening, it marked a turning point in her life and the start of an incredible recovery from Anorexia. Although the casting process was only one part of the therapeutic activities arranged by the show's producers, it seemed to have a significant part to play in the positive steps that came after. Following the show we were contacted by other sufferers of ED and BDD to help create casts either to provide them with that same 'datum', a frame of reference they couldn't argue with unlike a mirror or a photograph - something they could physically measure; or in some cases it was a way to discover their own beauty and begin the long process of self-acceptance that leads to recovery. Although there is no simple 'cure' for these incredibly stressful and challenging conditions, the feedback we have received over the years has led us to believe that for some people the lifecasting process can indeed be very therapeutic and a significant step on the road to combatting the power of the disease. 

One of those who contacted us after seeing us on 'Supersize vs Superskinny', was a lady called Michelle, with whom we formed a great bond. In the hope of helping other people in the same or similar situations, Michelle has agreed to share her own personal story in her own words here:-

"Strange as it may sound, anorexia actually isn’t about food or weight, but is instead a visible symptom of something much deeper within myself and every other anorexic in the world. It is a way of dealing with deep seated feelings, emotions and unwanted experiences. A way of gaining (a false sense) of control in what feels like an ‘out of control and frightening life’. Anorexia provides an alternative focus to unspoken deep guilt, sadness, shame, anger, disturbing memories and events that lie within. It gives a false confidence and security and fast becomes an enemy disguised as a friend.
Anyone who sees anorexia as attractive or enticing is potentially playing with a slippery slope towards death because in reality anorexia is evil, destroying hopes, dreams and ultimately life. The invisible chains become so tightly wrapped around it becomes hard to breath because every waking and sleeping moment is filled with anorexic voices and thoughts, no matter how hard I try to fight against them. I’ve lost precious friendships, 2 careers that I loved, I can’t have children, I can’t work, I can’t socialise normally, but I know that somewhere buried deeply is the ‘real’ me clamouring to be heard and to be set free. The ‘real’ me that fights back every time I reach a cross road of life versus death.
Having been ill and in treatment for most of my life I find it hard to imagine life without anorexia. I still see a giant staring back at me when I look in the mirror (a ‘giant’ who has to wear clothes for an 11 year old child) but by taking this huge step of coming face to face with my monster, I believe I have taken a tiny and crucial step towards life, life as it is meant to be rather than a life lived in the shadow of an eating disorder. My journal entry on December 31st 2010 included a list of ‘to do’s for 2011, one of which was to ‘do something different’. I can safely say I’ve achieved that target and done something that I would never have thought possible! The road out of anorexia is a very long one but having this once in a life time opportunity is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Ultimately I long to be comfortable in my own skin, to live without the chains of anorexia or the 24/7 evil voices that taunt me, and to be able to do some of the things in life I long to do. Looking ahead is too daunting and I am still terrified of gaining weight but I now know I CAN step outside of my comfort zone. I treasure my cast because as a work of art it is stunningly beautiful. However I also treasure my cast because it is me. It is proof that I can do something beyond the norm. It is visible proof that the human body, my body, is to be nurtured and not destroyed, valued and not abused. So often I want to give up the fight but somehow I have to, and WILL win this battle. Anorexia continues to try and rob me but having the body cast done has kept the flickering flame of life alive and my prayer is that the flame will grow brighter and brighter.  To anyone reading this, I urge you to be brave and step outside of your comfort zone, to seek help as soon as possible, to do something that challenges your perception but most of all, to keep hold of your dreams and ambitions. Don’t let anorexia steal precious years of your life in the way it has done for me. To do anything, however small, that goes against the monster within, could provide you with the key of hope and the way forward to building a new foundation for a life truly worth living."
When Michelle first visited the Rockabelly Lifecasts studio she was fascinated by all the other many casts of other women on our walls - curiously asking of each one 'What dress size was she?' as she perceived herself to be larger than all of the bodies she saw and remained unconvinced by our insistence that she was not. However, when she returned to see her own cast hanging on the wall amongst the others, she was stunned to see very clearly, perhaps for the first time, how much smaller her body was than the size 10-18 bodies that surrounded hers. Almost defiantly, she pointed at a pair of legs and a bottom that she thought 'matched' her own sized cast 'What dress size was THAT lady? She's the same size as me.' She said, almost as if trying to prove a point. CJ's response proved so unexpected that the reality of what she saw before her hit her like a truck. 'Michelle, that is a cast of my son, when he was seven years old.'  Michelle spoke of the shock of finally seeing her true form objectively that day. But as she described in her own words, over time she learned to respect and care for her body that little bit more - shifting her perspective just enough to start making small changes. And in a situation where a little more care or a few tiny changes can make the difference between living and dying, we have been so very honoured to help in even a small way. 
If you are affected by an Eating Disorder or Body Dysmorphic Disorder and would like a lifecast sculpture for any therapeutic or artistic/expressive reason, please do get in contact with us and we will be very happy to answer any questions you may have and book you an appointment. We recognise that these conditions often make it hard for people to work regularly, and as such your income may be low. For this type of casting we charge the same amount as for all our torso/body casts, however we do offer very flexible payment plans for those on a low income, to enable you to break up the cost over several months, should you need to. Please note that due to the physical challenges of being lifecast, we would normally insist upon casting you in a laying down position if you suffer from an eating disorder or any illness that might affect your blood sugar levels, heart or circulation, and we like you to get written permission from your GP that you are well enough to undergo the casting session. Your safety and wellbeing are always at the forefront of any work we do so that your experience can be as positive as possible.