Anorexic young women tend to be popular with the opposite sex. They epitomize our cultural definitions of feminine: thin, passive, weak and eager to please. Oftentimes young women report that they are complimented on their appearance right up until they are admitted to hospitals for emergency feeding.
I think anorexia is a metaphor. It is a young woman's statement that she will become what the culture asks of its women, which is that they be thin and nonthreatening. Anorexia signifies that a young woman is so delicate that...she needs a man to shelter and protect her from a world she cannot handle. Anorexic women signal with their bodies "I will take up only a small amount of space. I won't get in the way." They signal, "I won't be intimidating or threatening." (Who is afraid of a seventy-pound adult?)
---Mary Pipher, Ph.D. (from Reviving Ophelia, p. 175)