When I grow up I wanna…

I was browsing the internets today for a completely unrelated topic when I came across a user’s page at 43things.com. In among the other, relatively normal goals was this:

become anorexic

Now if you’re familiar with the layout of 43things, after each goal, there’s usually a number representing the number of people who want to do that goal. The number after “become anorexic”?


3,941 of the people using the site want to somehow obtain a mental illness. Specifically, a disease with the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illnesses. One where 50% of those fatalities are the result of suicide. These 3,941 people would quite literally rather be dead than fat. If this doesn’t tell us that there’s something seriously wrong with the way we see idolize thin bodies in our current culture, I doesn’t know what does.

I suppose you could argue that I’m blowing this out of proportion. In a preliminary search, I can’t find an exact figure of the number of people using 43things, but here’s some other top goals for comparision:
1. lose weight 29039 people
2. stop procrastinating 21663 people
3. Fall in love 19533 people
4. write a book 19203 people
5. be happy 17307 people

10. get married 13889 people
20. To live instead of exist 8630 people
41. make a difference 5674 people
67. make more friends 3963 people
68. be more social 3790 people

Now, you might wonder… why is “become anorexic” not number 68? In fact, it doesn’t show up at all on the list of the top 100 goals. That’s because 43things has noticed how popular this goal is, and so it doesn’t show up on any sorts of popular goal lists – just on individual people’s goal lists. They’ve also added a special version of the “goal page”. Instead of the normal page (see here for an example), which shows people currently doing a goal and provides you the options of “I want to do this” and “I’ve done this”, they’ve created this page. It lists some resources about eating disorders and emphasizes that providing instructions to another person on how to harm themselves in the form of an eating disorder is cause for suspension of one’s account. It also provides a list of “alternate goals:

I applaud them for creating this page, although I’m concern by their attempt to hide this goal’s popularity, since this to me only seems to increase the sense of secrecy surrounding eating disorders. But I’d like to suggest a few additions to their list:

  • Learn to love my body the way that it is
  • Challenge the culture that tells me that I have to be thin to have value


  1. Bee said

    Amen! :o)

  2. Amazing. That’s really sad, that so many people would be looking for how to acquire an eating disorder. And that the top goal is so tied into the second. It’s still tied around losing weight and going along with a body image we’ve been taught to have.

    Incidentally, I just wondered over here randomly looking at wordpress tags, and I really enjoy your it!

  3. Gretchen said

    Thanks, acallidryas! I hope you’ll stick around 🙂 And yeah, I agree about how the two goals are tied… I didn’t mention it in the post, but if you look at the top 100 goals, I’d say probably half of them involve some sort of change to weight or body in some way, just all worded differently. It’s pretty depressing.

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