• Mon, Jul 12 2010

I Miss My Eating Disorder

I see what people are saying about how Rosie Whiteley’s exposed ribs make her look “disgusting.” But I can’t help but feel like you guys are way in the minority. She’s about to be cast as a mega-hot bombshell in a major action movie. And I think if most people saw her fully dressed, they wouldn’t talk about how she needed to eat something. They’d just talk about how great she looks. Here are some things people said to me when I was eating 600 calories a day:
You’re my thinspiration!

I’m so jealous of your body

Are you a model?

You have such great discipline

Look at your tiny little waist! I would kill for your waist.

No, seriously, which agency do you model for?

Your body is perfect

All clothing looks good on you

This is what people say to me now that I’ve worked to resume eating a normal diet:

You look healthy.

That’s great and all, but somehow it doesn’t feel as good as having a group of people gathered around you telling you how you have to become a model. Especially since it only comes from my close friends and family, and not casual acquaintances.

Intellectually, I know there are a lot of benefits to allowing myself to eat a normal diet again. I don’t faint anymore. I don’t sleep 12 hours a night. I don’t feel irritable and distracted all the time. But do I get as much validation as I did when I had an eating disorder? No. And while it might be nice to go out and eat a sandwich, it’s not as nice as having everyone tell you how great you look and what a good person you are to look that way. I really miss that.

I think maybe a way to make eating disorders less appealing isn’t to talk about how it’s disgusting and not sexy. Maybe the best way is to start talking about physical traits we admire in women that aren’t just thinness. If some woman in your class, or office has really muscular arms that you admire, maybe it would be nice to tell her. Or if someone styles her hair really prettily, maybe it would be good to tell her that. Just thinking about doing that with someone I don’t know feels really weird to me, but I got to a point where I absolutely expected compliments from near-total strangers when I weighed 95 pounds. And there are so many things that can be beautiful about women – things that have nothing to do with being super skinny.

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  • wintour4pres

    I hate it when people say, “Wow, you look great.” Like I didn’t look great before? I’d much rather hear a compliment about my hair or even the outfit I’m wearing. I find it easier to return a compliment when it’s not related to physicality.

  • rebecca r.

    guest blogger, so true, what you say. not sure what the remedy is, either. maybe it all boils down to the way being thin makes us look child-like, and children are for the most part full of vitality, and everyone wants that. i miss being tiny, also, though i was really mentally unhealthy and my periods stopped and so on. the attention you get when you’re thin is extraordinary. but maybe it’s a sort of impersonal, distant sort of attention?

  • Kate

    What about boobs? Stick thin people rarely have great boobs. Let’s focus on one another’s ta-tas.

  • EviEbi

    This is spot-on. I feel like this nearly every day and feel so powerless while the world is in a frenzy to attain “perfection”: eternal youth, thinness, and wealth. I, too, miss the attention of being super thin only because I could wear anything without a worry; that didn’t mean I looked good. I begin to think about opportunities lost in the modeling industry, etc. But then I remind myself that being celebrated for representing an ideal that requires a constant near-death commitment isn’t the kind of life I want. I want to inspire life, to be one with it in all of its beautiful “mistakes” and “imperfections”, for in them I find the perfection that is MY life.

  • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

    wow, great post. and i totally agree. it’s that much harder to recover from an eating disorder when you’re the only one reinforcing the idea that it’s more important to be alive than it is to be skinny. i also think its a great idea not to make it “disgusting” and “not sexy,” since that’s just as judgmental as hating on fat people — and that the most important thing, as cheesy as this sounds, is to figure out what we love about ourselves so that it’s not necessary for any one of us to be jealous or feel bad about ourselves based on how someone else looks — the kinds of feelings that lead to “i wish i had your discipline,” etc.

  • Eileen

    It’s funny how “thin” is the way that women compliment each other on their looks (and compliments on looks tend to come before compliments on anything else), unless one of the women happens to be wearing a very low-cut top, and then she might get compliments on her breasts. I remember reading a comment JK Rowling made once, that a woman was raving about how much thinner she was than the last time they’d met. Rowling commented that in the years since she’d last seen the woman, she’d had another baby and written another bestselling novel – why would the FIRST comment be about how thin she was or wasn’t?

    I mean, it’s second nature to say to a friend “You look great,” in greeting – but why is it that we have to equate “great” with “thin”?

  • Ireho

    I’ve been the token fat girl my entire life.

    I lost 70+ pounds, and I’m keeping it off. People comment on my figure more than anything now, and every time they say how good I look, I can’t help but hate everything about myself. I’ve never liked the way I look. My arms are too skinny, my legs too large, my torso too short. There are a million things I hate about how I look, but there are plenty of things I love about the way I think.
    I know the physical and mental advantages of maintaining my weight as it is. I have more energy, I’m healthier, my work performance increased, and I’m nowhere near as depressed as I was when I was fat. No one notices those things. Everyone comments on my waist, or tries to make me tell them my miracle diet.
    There’s a lot more to me than how I look. I could eat even less than I do now, and they’d probably decide I looked even better. Maybe they’d have noticed how miserable I was if I’d weighed 115 instead of 215. Maybe they’d notice how much effort it took on my part to get down to 140. Maybe they’d notice that my hips are already sticking out, or that I can’t lose any more weight and still be healthy. For once in my life, I want someone to look past how I look and see who I am.

  • Suzi

    In response to both the piece, and Rebecca R.: a disturbing trend seems to be to look like children instead of looking like we might be able to carry a healthy child. Pre-Twiggy days (1960′s), being thin was a sign of poverty and a telltale sign that as a woman you would not be able to carry a healthy baby. Women who were thin were unattractive, and curves were all the rage. Then came Twiggy, who ensured we’d never be able to eat a full meal without feeling slightly ugly inside. There’s always a fashion pendulum, and it will forever swing back and forth faster than the human body could dream of catching up…. So, I’ll take my ‘ugly’ with a side of fries, thanks, and wear my clothes curvy forever. Wake me up when the hourglass figure is desirable again. :)

  • Amfaay

    I agree with everything you wrote. I suffered from an ED for 8years, and I think the worst part now is that I am healthy and take care of myself and no one seems to notice me anymore. Its definitely a reality check trying to get over the vainess of eating dissorders. Thank you for writting this!

  • Eve

    I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I lost some weight near the end of college because I was broke and couldn’t afford food. I was hungry, miserable and angry all the time. And when I got home, people were all “Oh, you look so good!” That really pissed me off. I’m actually thinner than that now, because I get a lot of exercise, but I eat enough and am feeling good– but nobody has said anything about it. Which makes me think it’s not even about objective thinness so much as looking hungry and sickly– because, you know, a woman’s only worthy if she’s suffering. Grr.

  • Lottie

    I suffered with Anorexia for 3 – 4 years (I have memory issues due to it so I cannot actual recall if it was 3 or 4 years)
    And recently (2 years on and recovered) I’ve found myself relapsing, I liked how I looked when I was skeletal, I liked feeling the bones beneath my fingertips.. But It isn’t healthy.. I’m determined not to go back there again though…I don’t need that again in my life.