Supporting Friends through Eating Disorders

Below is tumblr question that was submitted to me and I thought it was a really important topic that should be spoken about. So often as fat people we have thin friends in our lives who are going through disordered eating patterns and negative thoughts about their own bodies. We want to support them but many times it is without thinking about our own mental health or how their negative beliefs about their body can be a direct attack on our own.

Not only does this touch on people believing that feeling fat is the same as being fat but it also discusses how someone doesn’t necessarily have the right to seek support of friends if they are in the middle of an eating disorder. Particularly if they are not trying to stop the disordered pattern of behavior. Far too often are we expected to shoulder the burden of others, when we need to create space for ourselves. When we need to support our own mental health and wellbeing first.

While I don’t know if that is what is truly going on within this friendship, the reality is that many people have the expectation we take on or support their behaviors even if it is destructive to everyone involved.

TRIGGER WARNING: Eating disorder / weight loss talk

This was submitted anonymously but I wanted to have a trigger warning on it as the person talks about disordered eating behaviors / weight loss.

So I’m in a healthy weight range and I’m talking to my best friend who is overweight about how I’m going to try to loose weight through diet and exercise cause I want her support. She starts getting upset saying how I’m not fat and don’t need to loose weight and I explain that it’s because I’ve been going to an old habit of not eating for three or four days at all then binging and purging (and repeat) and I’d like to loose weight the healthy way, because I feel fat. And she takes this as criticism to her. Yes she has fat and is overweight and by no means has a healthy lifestyle but I’m just trying to make sure I’m being healthy and not doing something I’d regret. She said I’m just trying to be the skinny friend and trying to make her look bad, so I told her that I just want to get in shape and she can come workout with me if she wants and it could be fun and she said I was calling her fat and not accepting her. Why is it wrong for me to want to be skinny?

What did I say that offended her and how can I fix it? I’m not trying to fat shame I’m just trying to be comfortable with myself and healthy while doing it.

So you’re in a healthy weight range, performing disordered behaviors and want to lose weight? TBH there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in whatever body you want to but you’re friend doesn’t need to support you, particularly if she is reacting to the harmful behavior you’ve outlined. I would seriously suggest seeking help to normalize your eating behaviors before attempting to diet or lose weight, because it sounds like there is something else going on other than your friend not supporting you. I mean this seriously, if you are not eating properly you need to regulate that and work toward having a more normalized eating pattern first and foremost. This includes healing your own self image because feeling fat and being fat are two totally different things. There are people who can support you through this.

It’s probably really hard for your friend to see you in the middle of this pattern while you are bingeing / purging and feeling like your body is wrong. You are saying that you feel fat while your friend is fat. I don’t know how there is any other way than to respond as hurt when your best friend is telling you the body you live in is wrong. She may not feel comfortable or safe being around you if you are in this pattern, especially if you are talking negatively about yourself and saying how you feel fat when she is fat.

So basically, I would suggest you get help and support to normalize your eating / thoughts about your body. Don’t expect your friend to support your disordered thinking and behaviors, because she is also trying to make sure she is ok. She is trying to feel better about her own body and to be really frank, as someone whose been friends with someone who is very similar to you, it is really hard to love yourself when your friend is telling you that they are terrified of being you.

I can also bet that if you stopped talking negatively about yourself and worked toward normalizing your own behaviors your friend would be supporting you to the best of her ability.

March 25th Presentation at Oakland University

Dissenting Bodies Flyers

 

Come listen to me talk for a really long time. It will be fun I promise.

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Detroit Free Press and USA Today Article

The past 24 hours has been an overwhelming outpouring of love from so many people within the fat positive community as well as new people who have found my blog.

If you aren’t already aware, I was featured in an article at the Detroit Free Press and it was picked up by USA Today. Since then I have been contacted by CNN and will be appearing on the show at 8:30 am eastern today (December 30th). If you aren’t able to tune in I will be posting the video later, as long as they put it up online.

Wish me luck!

As always, connect with me on tumblr and twitter.

Just No Jennifer Lawrence

For those of you who own a TV and would actually spend time watching Barbara Walters’ interview people her yearly special on people she thinks are fascinating is airing soon, mind you she’s interviewing famous people. I’m pretty sure she isn’t interviewing activists, community builders and others who spend their lives helping people in need (but that’s another post entirely.) If watch her yearly special you will be able to see an interview with Jennifer Lawrence, where she talks about how Jennifer has been critical of the way the media talks about the bodies of women on red carpets and elsewhere.

If you aren’t aware Jennifer has made comments about body policing quite a bit in the past and continues to make comments that appear on their surface to be body positive. Though overall her career she has also made quite a few problematic statements that make me wary of almost anything she says.

This is what she had to say,

Because why is humiliating people funny? And I get it, and I do it too, we all do it. But I think when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls that are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool. So then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing an ugly dress or making fun of the girl that’s, you know. And the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV. If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?

Most of what she said about how the media creates and participates in a culture of body policing is true. They are pivotal in the way women in the media are spoken about and continue to create new media that feeds off of promoting white cis heteronormative thin beauty ideals. The issue with her statement is the way she is blaming this kind of climate on people using the word fat and not on how they use it as a weapon.

This kind of thinking has been around for awhile, particularly within body positive spaces where discussions about “fat talk” or negative body talk are being discussed. The framing of fat as a negative word, a word that hurts people, is completely ignorant of how the word is being used and the context of the statements being made. The word fat is nothing more than a description of someone’s body type, but when someone like Jennifer Lawrence is telling the world it should be illegal there is a huge issue.

When people are calling someone who looks like Jennifer Lawrence fat we shouldn’t be telling them that they shouldn’t use that word. We should be thinking about how fat phobia and stigma is so pervasive in our society we body shame people who live in thin bodies by making them fear fat people, appearing to be a fat person or becoming fat themselves. It’s not a coincidence the people who are telling others to not use the word fat are more often than not never going to be defined as “overweight” or “obese” and revel in a thin privileged reality by being able to frame words like fat as something that should be considered illegal. Nor is it a coincidence that the people who face the real harm are fat people, not the thin people being called or taught to fear fatness.

Their bodies will never be pathologized or thought to be inherently diseased like fat people’s bodies are. They will find no problem in denying how fat positive communities have used the word fat to build spaces where fat political identities are empowering fat people daily. That’s why when I hear statements like the one Jennifer Lawrence said; I know that those words are not for me. They are only for the people who look just like her.

If we wanted to actually challenge the media to create a landscape where white cis heteronormative thin beauty ideals aren’t able to thrive, we need to deconstruct how body policing isn’t just about saying mean words but a structure that denies people with specific bodies access to it. We need to question why we fear the word fat but are completely comfortable with using medicalized terms that imply pathology like “overweight” and “obese,” in all of my years dealing with the media they fear using the word fat but will drop o-words in a second. We need to question why we are only talking about the media being critical of the bodies of women who already have access to those spaces, but not the people who are regularly denied jobs within the industry due to issues with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat phobia etc. (the list continues).

Once Jennifer Lawrence starts talking about that, I may take the time to listen.

**A reader reported Jennifer decided that it would be awesome to dress up like a fat person for halloween. Not surprised at all.

Trolling by Dude Bros™: Fat positive backlash in the spotlight

If you weren’t already aware, this past week has been dubbed “Fat Shaming Week” by a small group of men who incorrectly assume that shaming will actually make fat women thin. Leaving aside that these dude bros have created a week to shame fat women as they are in tears over their lack of boners because fat women are fat. It sounds like a personal problem and the notion that fat people are unfuckable is unfounded (social construction anyone?). They spent the beginning of the week harassing every fat activist, news source and blogger they could find as an attempt to have their “campaign” get attention.

I was one of about five people who had been tweeted at on Monday when their “campaign” started and like everyone else ignored them until Buzzfeed thoughtlessly pick it up. While I’m happy that the few major sites who wrote something about the week framed it as being disgusting, almost all of them have centered the tweets they shared around the worst tweets that could be found in the hashtag. In the beginning of the week almost all of the tweets were directed specifically at fat women but quickly devolved into arguments about health, which shows how little fat shamers actually care about health and in reality are interested in promoting an ideal body type that they find to be physically / sexually pleasing.

A few other fat / body positive bloggers have written a response to the week and you can find them herehere and here (tw weight loss talk). I wanted to create a post that specifically outlines the kind of responses to this week I had as well as other people on twitter. While most news sources have focused on the hateful tweets by the creator and his numerous fake twitter accounts, the outpouring of people objecting to this week has been too big to ignore.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. This week has given even more proof that bullying is not something that only happens when someone is a child but continues on throughout their lifetime and is deeply rooted in different forms of marginalization. Read my post, Bullying It’s Not Just for Kids