A couple of years ago I gave a presentation at a college to both male and female students on eating disorder awareness. One young man approached me after the program and told me “Before this program I thought an eating disorder was just a white girl problem, something that girls were doing for attention…now I see I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
I remember feeling somewhat hurt by his former assumption. Did people look at me like I was just another snobby white girl, welcoming an eating disorder as a means of attention and glamour? Didn’t they understand that an eating disorder was not my choice, that it can be fatal, that it was the worst thing to ever happen to me?
This week I found a source as to why some of these assumptions are made. Assumptions that tear at my heart strings and perpetuate the denial and shame of those suffering from asking for help.
This piece, titled “5 Reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder” was posted on November 13th and has been circulating all over the internet. I first caught notice of it when innocently scrolling through my news feed on Facebook. The featured image of the attractive young woman in a red dress, red heels, and red lipstick making herself vomit over a toilet screamed out at me and I found myself doing a double take. The image was all wrong. Why did it even exist? Who would have the audacity to shoot and star in such a photo? Images like these only work to humiliate the women who find themselves actually using this behavior – AS A RESULT OF A MENTAL ILLNESS – in real life. And I can assure you it is done in pain, not the glamor of red stilettos.
I nervously began reading the piece, mortified by its title.
The author starts by describing an eating disorder as a “white-girl” problem, one that is a “luxury reserved only for the most privileged members of the female race.” To utter the idea that an eating disorder is a luxury, let alone have it printed is not only infuriating but dangerous. An eating disorder is a mental illness and one that destroys the lives and functioning of those who suffer.
He then comments that he is not describing individuals who binge or emotionally eat, or as he writes “fatties with no sense of control.” While first reading this article I thought that perhaps the anonymous male author who wrote this piece was simply ignorant. After completing the first paragraph my feelings rapidly changed.
The fact that anyone would dare post something as revolting as this list repulses me. But it does not shock me. We watch countless sitcoms where jokes are made about throwing up food as a way to lose weight. Movies such as “Mean Girls” make light of students in high school who are Anorexic or Binge Eaters. We live in a society where making fun of eating disorders has somehow become the norm…it is somehow okay. If another individual were to make a list “Top 5 Reasons to Date Someone Suicidal” or “Top 5 Reasons to Date Someone with Cancer,” not a single person would find it funny.
The man who wrote this, if I can even call him a man, is not only insulting countless people who are suffering, but is stereotyping an illness which brings death to too many people. Just today it was announced that actress Karla Alvarez died of heart complications due to Anorexia and Bulimia. He also writes as if Anorexia is the only eating disorder and as if females are the only ones who suffer…
I had thought the “Anna Rexia” costume (http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/anorexia-its-an-illness-not-a-costume/) was bad, but this man took things to a completely different level. His message encourages other men to seek out women who suffer from an eating disorder as there are great reasons to date them – they’ll always look great, you won’t have to spend much money on them, etc. He claims that he has personal experience dating girls who have suffered from an eating disorder.
Well I have personal experience with an eating disorder and I know firsthand that men such as this have made it terrifying to open up about my struggles.
I wish that I could take this man to a treatment center and have him hear the pain and stories of those who are fighting for recovery. I wish that I could introduce him to my peers who are finally able to live full lives after defeating this demon. I wish I could sit this man down and explain why what he’s doing can cause harm to countless people who truly desire help.
The men and women I’ve met who are in a relationship or marriage with someone in recovery happen to be some of the most sensitive, patient, and committed people I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. To stick by someone in recovery can be scary and frustrating but also worthwhile. I was blessed to date a wonderful young man while I was suffering who continued to support me even as I became a shell of a person. This piece mocks not only those who suffer, but their loved ones who know firsthand how dating a girl with an eating disorder really looks.
Before I write an inappropriate list of “5 Violent Things I’d Like to do to This Guy” I’d like to encourage you to comment on his piece and sign one of the petitions floating around to have this piece taken down.
There is one thing that this man did get right, he just didn’t know it… the women I have met as a client in treatment and now as a professional are some of the most amazing people I have had the privilege of getting to know. Their personalities and perseverence amaze me and anyone would be lucky to enter a relationship with these fine, strong ladies.