I’ve been seeing more and more of these ads on my dashboard, and I think it’s despicable. Using thinspo marketing (and taking advantage of people who are suffering or on the verge of suffering from eating disorders) is shameful, wrong and morally reprehensible.
If you see an image similar to the one above with the link “need to lose weight” (or something similar), please remove it, delete it, unfollow, and whatever you do, don’t click.
Excerpt via Blisstree
Fat Loss Factor isn’t all that different from other online diet plans: It’s unclear how it works until you buy, their advertising all seems shady, and it’s incredibly difficult to find legit reviews about their weight loss methods. But they’re distinguishing themselves by targeting a demographic that others don’t dare: Anorexic teens, via the pro ana community on Tumblr.
The strategy sounds almost too horrific to be true, but the posts–which have been put up under several stock tumblr accounts–are undeniably meant to provoke the anorexic teen girls and women who belong to pro ana communities. In the example below (which links out to FatLossFactor.com), the post is not only visually triggering; it’s actually tagged with popular terms used by the pro ana community on tumblr, including “pro ana,” “thinspo,” “thinspiration,” and “eating disorder.”
WARNING: Content may be triggering for those with eating disorders or body image problems. Read more: http://www.blisstree.com/2013/01/08/food/fat-loss-factor-pro-ana-ads/#ixzz2HafDVy9c
“Eat a cheeseburger”
“She looks disgusting”
“She’s clearly unhealthy. Skin & bones. Gross”
“That’s not what a real woman looks like”
“She’s clearly anorexic. Someone feed her”
“Anyone who thinks this is beautiful is warped”
“She’s just TOO thin.”
“To me being that skinny is just as bas as being obese!”
“Real men prefer women with curves”
“She looks like she’s going to die”
A few comments from The Victoria Secret fashion Show this year. Which I don’t watch, but was bombarded with on social media anyways. The evening of the show, I avoid Twitter like the plague. It’s a body shaming apocolypse, and I find myself disppointed in some of my favorite people whenever they share these seemingly “innocent” opinions. It’s so common to talk ‘bodies’ amongst women, that many don’t even realize or consider their comments as ‘bullying’ or ‘inappropriate’.
“Calling women “disgusting & anorexic” totally changes everything for the better and helps them in the long run”
- Said NO ONE with any insight into eating disorders and body image. In fact, it makes everything soooo much worse.
Just a quick reminder: anorexia is a mental disorder. An illness. A pretty brutal one at that. It’s horrible. All consuming. Shameful even. Devastating in some cases. And so, so misunderstood. Same goes for bulimia and the myriad of other eating disorders out there.
SOME people with anorexia become very, very thin for their frames, and many do not. Some people are naturally very, very thin with no disorder whatsoever. Some people have an eating disorder and remain overweight. Because it’s a mental disorder, it’s not something that can be diagnosed based on appearances alone. There’s also a range in the realm of disorders; some can be milder such as someone who is constantly ‘dieting’ and ‘restricting’…but still eating a little. Perpetuating the idea that only the thin can suffer from anorexia, makes it harder to diagnose the millions of women who have it but are not quite “thin” enough for it to be apparent. Because everyone’s looking for thinness as a sign something’s wrong, behaviors that are actual signs to be worried about often go unnoticed. (language, eating patterns, withdrawal, fixation on food etc).
Can you imagine how many more girls (and boys) would be treated earlier if we stopped focusing on looks and started focusing on behavior warnings and signs? (family members of those who suffer from eating disorders often blame themselves for not noticing warning signs that were very clear in hindsight). By the time most are diagnosed, treatment becomes very, VERY difficult.
While eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, there is hope. Help is available and recovery is possible.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, they are there to help. Call the toll free, confidential Helpline Monday-Friday, 9:00 am- 5:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time: 1-800-931-2237 or click here. The helpline volunteers will be there to offer support and guidance with compassion and understanding.
Here are some general links to the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) website. The information is for anyone seeking to learn more, help, inform, educate or seek help of their own.
Toolkit downloads: Links not working? Click here.
Go Kaleo’s frequently used term “Dietary Dogma” has to be one of my favorite’s this year. Love, love, love it.
Personally, I don’t care which lifestyle diet you choose, so long as it actually benefits your health (lifestyle = set of principles that you choose to live by. Not being on A diet). If it includes lots of fresh veggies, enough protein, is mostly clean, allows for occasional treats and makes your BODY feel AWESOME, you get high fives from me. And if it doesn’t, hopefully you’ll make healthier changes over time that suit you.
But… feeling awesome is about how your BODY responds to your diet. Not how superior YOU FEEL because you follow it. That’s where dietary dogma can get tricky and MAY cross over into orthorexia: a growing problem in the fitness & health community.
Orthorexia is an unhealthy fixation on healthy foods. Unlike anorexia, the goal is not to be thin, but rather to be as healthy as possible. While that may not SEEM all that bad, there is a VERY big difference between someone making healthy lifestyle choices to ENHANCE their life, versus someone who’s healthy choices ARE their life.
Most simply, the difference can be seen in how two individuals handle a situation like hunger….
When faced with the option to either A. starve or B. eat McDonald’s, a person with a healthy relationship with food will choose McDonald’s. They know their body needs food, even if it’s not the kind of food they’d regularly have. They know that the only thing WORSE than eating McDonald’s is starving their bodies.
A person with orthorexic tendencies, on the other hand, would rather starve than eat unhealthy OR will experience SEVERE feelings of guilt, self-loathing and anxiety should they eat the undesirable food. Even when the alternative was starving.
See the difference?
**UPDATE: Just a little add on, since some people seem to be going NUTS over the idea of eating McDonald’s in the example above. I don’t want McHate to cloud the points being made.
I’m not talking about having to wait an hour before you can find yourself something healthy to eat. In the extreme example below (which, by the way would probably never happen in real life. Figured that most people would ‘get’ that, but hey), I’m talking about a hypothetical life or death situation that highlights the thought process of someone who might suffer from orthorexia.
Someone who would rather starve to death than eat McDonald’s HAS ISSUES (considering that most of these people avoid McDonald’s in order to be healthier, it seems funny that they would choose ‘death’ over it. If anything could be considered unhealthier than McDonald’s, it’s starving or dying. Hands down). That’s all I’m sayin’. I am not, nor have I ever, encouraged people to eat McDonald’s, lol. But if the thought of eating McDonald’s versus starving (not just for an hour or two) actually makes you anxious, stressed, or ________, you MAY want to look into that. That kind of thinking crosses over into MANY behaviors (and most don’t have anything to do with McDonald’s).
Like all eating disorders, it’s about your relationship with food AND there’s a scale. You may have some orthorexic tendencies, without it having a SERIOUS impact on your health (though it may cause you more stress than you’re aware of). The biggest concerns with orthorexics involve the anxiety & stress they experience surrounding food (and meal planning), a decrease in quality of life with increased focus on diet ‘perfection’, ignoring warning signs from the body and potential malnourishment/health problems pertaining to dietary restrictions (very severe at that point. Ortho-anorexia)
Some Signs You May Have Orthorexic Tendencies
Do you have a problem with food?
Disordered eating has to do with an unhealthy relationship with food: it preoccupies the mind and influences behavior. It’s important to know there’s a spectrum: unhealthy relationships with food can be mild (someone who’s always dieting, or feels as though they should or feels guilt/shame for eating certain foods) to extreme (someone with anorexic or bulimic tendencies).
Disordered eating is complicated.
People who diet constantly may qualify. People who are overly restrictive (keeping to exactly 1200 calories, or having to know the calorie content of every food) may qualify. This is about more than simply watching your diet: those who suffer from disordered eating can’t think of anything else. This may mean they miss out on social occasions, stress about weight gain, spend too much time finding ways to lower their calories, over exercise, or have body image issues related to weight gain. On the other end of the spectrum, disordered eating can be related to those who try to gain weight unhealthily as well (like this lady).
EDNOS is a term used to describe eating disorders within the spectrum that don’t necessarily fall into binge eating, anorexia or bulimia. They can include orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) to drunkorexia (restricting calories to get drunker and/or feel more intoxicated). You do not have to starve yourself completely or purge to qualify as having an eating disorder or a tendency towards disordered eating.
A step in the right direction? Thoughts?
The heads of Vogue’s 19 international editions have come together to form a six-point pact which promises, among other things, to stop the practice of working with models younger than 16, or those who, at the editors’ discretion, are determined to be suffering from an eating disorder.
“Vogue editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the wellbeing of their readers,” Condé Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse said in a statement.
Eat clean & move more: sounds simple right?
Well, yes & no. Being healthy involves a variety of behaviors and choices, including some that may seem counter-intuitive. It’s important to try to give our bodies the best we can, but equally important that we stay mentally healthy while we do it. With healthy eating & exercise, normally healthy endeavors can turn into unhealthy obsessions given the right circumstances.
Eating disorders have a broad range: it’s not just anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. You do not need to lose or gain weight to have an eating disorder. You do not need to be obsessed with your body image to have an eating disorder. E.D.’s are qualified as having an “unhealthy, disordered relationship with food (too much, too little, or very specific kinds) & are characterized by stress, anxiety & gaining (or losing) control over the body”. It’s about behavior: not outward symptoms. Many people go undiagnosed because we tend to focus heavily on visual signs and not enough on behavioral cues.
It’s tough to imagine, but you CAN be too “healthy”. Orthorexia (Healthy Diet Obsession) is more and more common, and it’s hard to diagnose people who suffer.
If you’re a health nut, how can you tell the difference between orthorexia & just doing what’s best for your body?
Orthorexia becomes a problem when food becomes a source not just of nutrition, but of virtue or self-worth, when eating “bad” food implies that one is a bad person, and when the diet becomes a source of either self-esteem or, conversely, guilt and self-loathing.
Possible Signs of Orthorexia (particularly if 4 or more apply. If they all apply, you may be suffering)
Commitment and adherence to a diet can be warranted for the seriously overweight, even to the point of altering their lifestyle. But, “isn’t it also important in life to have some spontaneity, some enjoyment?”
Do photos of friends & co-workers trigger self-esteem bombs? You’re not alone.
When it comes to comparing ourselves to unrealistic images, most of us wouldn’t think to include our Facebook timelines. But maybe we should. According to the Center For Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Maryland “600 Facebook users, ages 16 to 40 about their body image and self-esteem. More than half said that Facebook makes them more self-conscious about their bodies and weight. And, surprisingly enough, men were some of those with the most negative feelings”.
The last 10 years have seen a dramatic rise in images, social media and instant sharing. We’re only starting to see how this drastic shift is affecting our behavior, our sense of the world around us and our self-esteem. Do you find yourself carefully untagging photos where you think you look ‘fat’, are making a ‘face’, are too ‘shiny’, are showing some muffin top, are at a bad angle or is otherwise maybe unflattering (to you)? Hey, we all do it - I’m not judging. But while we’re all trying to put our best face forward, we may be guilty of sending out an unrealistic portrayal of the real US. It’s true: not every picture is flattering, but we don’t always look ‘awesome’ in real life. So why hide it online?
Digital cameras + social media = acute hyperawareness of our “image”. It’s become currency, and every photo taken carries the threat of being posted somewhere. This knowledge makes us more likely to screen our photos, pose a certain way, make ‘camera ready’ faces, ask to see photos for approval and remove photos we believe to be unflattering, even if the photos themselves may not be all that bad.
We’ve also become very particular and careful about what kind of image we want to represent us on our profile pic or what we want others to see … which may not be ‘us’ at all. The majority of Facebook photos have been through an editing process even without photoshop: they are carefully chosen, planned, tagged (or untagged), filtered, cropped, “grouped” & presented in a particular way. A highlight reel, if you will. We tend to avoid posting the images we don’t want people to see. Images that make you ‘jealous’ or may incite negative self-thoughts have been carefully selected from dozens of others that didn’t make the cut (or were deleted on the spot thanks to digital cameras). Comparing ourselves to the Facebook photos may be just as unrealistic a practice as comparing us to women in magazines.
We focus a lot on photoshopping in the media, but perhaps we should focus a little more on our own image ‘editing’.
If we want the media to start portraying women in a more diverse light, maybe we should start with ourselves. Would letting our friends see us in our less than flattering light really be all that bad?
If you or someone you know is struggling with eating issues, call the National Eating Disorder Association’s Information and Referral Hotline at 800.931.2237
Baby steps in the right direction!
I agree with The National Eating Disorders Association: the measures are a good start, but they don’t go far enough. But you have to start somewhere and at least this is an attempt to inform & educate. Personally, I believe those who notice symptoms of an eating disorder and exacerbate it and/or do nothing to help treat or prevent it - i.e managers, designers, dressers and agents - should be held legally responsible when their models get sick. Especially since many of these girls are very, VERY young, very impressionable and very vulnerable.
The vast majority of models break into the industry in their early teens & enter a world that praises thinness, and evokes criticism on every detail of their bodies. It’s a perfect storm for developing a disorder.
Via CNN Health
The guidelines attempt to address the “overwhelming concern about whether some models are unhealthily thin, and whether or not to impose restrictions in such cases.”
The new guidelines say models should be at least 16 years old to participate in a show. It also encourages greater awareness of the risks and signs of eating disorders. Backstage at the fashion shows should be tobacco-free and also address underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol, according to the guidelines.
Models who may have an eating disorder should seek professional help and should not continue modeling unless they have a professional’s approval, according to health initiative.
“Designers share a responsibility to protect women, and very young girls in particular, within the business, sending the message that beauty is health,” according to a statement signed by CFDA’s Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb.
The health initiative also urges more education about the warning signs of eating disorders - workshops for the industry on how the disorders arise and treatment. It will not be policing different runway shows; the purpose is to bring “awareness, education, and safety,” according to the statement.
The council’s guidelines also say that nutrition and fitness education should be provided, and that healthy meals, snacks, and water should be available backstage and at shoots.
The National Eating Disorders Association commended the council for taking the models’ health into consideration, but it says the measures don’t go far enough.
“Although these guidelines are good ‘suggestions,’ no real health protections exist in this industry for those under 18. That is particularly worrisome in an industry that is not only known for extreme thinness – in fact, it’s practically required – putting its models at dramatically increased risk of developing an illness that has the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness,” said Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association.
What do you think of the new measures?
The results can be breathtaking, as I learned from one young woman, just a year out of treatment, who recently wrote to me:“Before starting recovery, I was afraid to go anywhere with people, especially anywhere there’d be food. Since beginning recovery, I’ve discovered that I’m a people person! Who knew? Also I found out I have a true passion for the outdoors. Rock climbing, rappelling, hiking, all of it. I thought I was supposed to be a dud. But that’s not true. I’m supposed to enjoy living.”
Note to everyone who’s ever had an eating disorder: We are ALL supposed to enjoy living. Fortunately, most eating disorder treatment programs today understand this. They move well beyond the initial and necessary focus on eating and weight to address temperament, identity, self direction and other key predisposing or contributing issues. Qualified professionals in your area can be found through the Academy for Eating Disorders website’s search tool. I wish this help had been available when my classmates and I began our struggle to recover. If it had, we wouldn’t have spent so many years caught in our eating disorders’ half-lives.
Books by author Aimee Liu…
Other books on recovery…
Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia De Rossi
Thin by Grace Bowman