Anorexia Mirabilis is literally defined as “miraculous lack of appetite” and was an ascetic practice that was done in the Middle Ages. While anorexia mirabilis and anorexia nervosa are both a form of self-starvation, there is a difference between the two in the reasoning behind this sacrifice.

It has been established that individuals that indulged in the Mirabilis form of anorexia did so for reasons much different than those that indulge in the nervosa version of anorexia. In this health guide, you will be introduced to the differences between these two eating disorders.

Anorexia Mirabilis in the Middle Ages

Anorexia Mirabilis or “holy anorexia” was practiced among women in the Middle Ages who fasted for the sake of God, as well as to prove that there was a separation between body and spirit. These periods of fasting were said to last months and some women would refuse all food except to eat the holy Eucharist.

In anorexia mirabilis, the women believed that they could live without eating food because they believed that they could survive on the “delicious banquet of God”. These women were idolized because of their “ability” to live on very little food. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that women began to starve themselves of food for the sake of appearances.

Anorexia Nervosa Today

Many years later during the Renaissance period, the church began to think that anorexia mirabilis was heretical and maybe even the work of Satan, however, it was still practiced by some almost into the twentieth century which is then that a well known English doctor determined that it was a disorder and gave it the name “anorexia nervosa”.

Anorexia Nervosa is the self-starvation of food by individuals who feel they need to look a certain way for society. These individuals deprive themselves of food because they have a distorted image of there body believing that they are overweight when in reality they may be dangerously thin. Today, the eating disorder of anorexia is primarily due to the pressures of society and the desire to be thin. In the Middle Ages anorexia was accepted and even admired as a form of religious practice.

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