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March 7, 2012

Trigger Warning: General discussion of eating disorders.

When I first inquired about being a blogger for Fierce, Freethinking Fatties, I was concerned that I would be rejected for three reasons:

  • Reason number one was based on my assumption that with all of the amazing writers out in the world, why would they choose me? This is a self-esteem issue that I have been working on in therapy for most of my life. Although I have recently made progress with Dr. J., in the past I would not have even submitted my work to be reviewed. I would attribute some of this insecurity to being a card-carrying member of the New York Neurotic Jew Society (NYNJS), but I am reticent to perpetuate the stereotype that all NYJs  have a touch of Woody Allen in us lest I offend anyone… since I am also conflict avoidant.
  • Reason number two was that perhaps I wasn’t fat enough for a website called Fierce, Freethinking Fatties.  I didn’t know if there were size requirements to blog for FFFs, and while I have an extensive history of yoyo dieting and yoyo weights, I have settled at a size that is considered fat for some, but not so much for others.
  • Reason number three was that the majority of my professional work has been in the field of eating disorders and body DISSATISFACTION, and here was a website devoted to body SATISFACTION and Fat Activism. If you are wondering why I thought this may be grounds for rejection, it is because one of the many blatant misconceptions about fat people is that we all suffer from an eating disorder. This, of course, is untrue and has been a focal point of my work as an activist, clinician, and educator.  Nevertheless, I was concerned that having an ED. specialist on this site may reinforce the misperception.

Well, obviously the fact that this blog is posted, and may actually be being read by at least five people (Hi family!) (Ah! Self-effacing comment… not terminating therapy yet), means that I was asked to blog on this site. Today I want to write about why cooperation between the Fat/Size Acceptance and the eating disorders community is so imperative.

Not all people who have an eating disorder are fat, and not all fat people have an eating disorder, but at some point most, if not all, people engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Watching television
  • Listening to the radio
  • Going to a movie
  • Surfing the internet
  • Leaving the house

Unfortunately, the world we all share at this point in our cultural development has a very narrow standard for what is considered an acceptable size. People who fall outside of this range immediately become equal targets for:

  • Criticism
  • “Concerned suggestions”
  •  Tsks tsks and other finger wagging expressions of “shame on you”
  • Marketing products in order to “fix” them

It is this commonality that results in people who have recovered from their eating disorder who are still battling their obsession, attachment, and longing to conform to society’s standard of beauty, especially if their body weight and type stabilized outside the “acceptable” range. In the theater piece that I co-authored, Leftovers, the Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater, we call this phenomenon “Getting Hit by the Mag Rag.”

One of the characters in Leftovers has diligently worked at identifying the triggers of her ED, and figured out healthier ways of taking care of herself. She steps out into the world with a spring in her step, radiating self-acceptance, confidence and optimism. The moment she closes the door behind her she is assaulted by the “real world,” and we witness her frustration and resurgence of self-loathing as she is pummeled by the media and a chorus that taunts:

Hit By the Mag Rag!
Hit by the tube!
Hit by the billboards…
Defenseless by two.
Singing the jingles
Comparing and crazed
We look in the mirror… always amazed
We buy the right products
Start shaving at twelve
We ACHE for the fashions
We’ve bought the HARD SELL…
Eyes by Maybelline®, hair by Sassoon®
Smell by Jovan®
Romance by the moon?
Where am I?
Breasts by Playtex®
Teeth by Ultrabrite®
Ass by Jordache®
Waist by Pepsi Lite®
Where am I?  Where am I?

Where we are is in a world where stigmatizing based on body size is the norm. No matter if we have a food allergy, Prader-Willi syndrome, genetic predisposition, eating disorder… etiology be damned! We are wrong and the message is everywhere.

Even if you missed watching the Academy Awards last week, it was difficult not to catch wind of the post-show buzz on how Angelina Jolie was too skinny and MUST be anorexic. This was no different than the post-Grammy hoopla about Adele being too fat. The assumption in both cases was that they both had an eating disorder (anorexia in Angelina’s case and compulsive or binge eating in Adele’s) and both had fallen out of the approved parameters of fashionable acceptance.

The focus on their appearance in lieu of their work/talent is a prime example of how the Mag Rag machine sets the priorities and is running the show. I don’t know about you, but I am just NOT okay with that and it fans the flames of my activism.

I know, I know, activism is a charged word with many meanings and associations, and may dissuade people who are a tad conflict avoidant, like myself, from getting involved. But taking the power back from the media, as well as the fashion, diet, and health care industries is crucial. And the activism needs to be external, as well as internal, because unless you are a Gandhi-like rock, it is profoundly challenging to hold on to our body SATISFACTION and not relapse or develop an eating or affective disorder when subjected to the relentless external pressure and demands to fit in; pressures and demands that have worsened exponentially with the increase of social media networking that has young girls videotaping themselves and asking some invisible web expert, “Am I Ugly?”

Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I am hoping that we can become more aware of how the worlds of Fat/Size Acceptance and eating disorders are interconnected. Organizations, websites, journalists and bloggers from both communities (e.g. NEDA, BEDA, IAEDP, About Face, Adios Barbie, Miss Representation, Someday Melissa, ASDAH, NAAFA, NAMED, HAES, Darryl Roberts, ANAD, People of Size MOMTL, and FFFs (and that is a short list for more resources visit Leftoverstogo)) need to join forces, share resources, and cooperate so people of all sizes and shapes, whether eating disordered or not, are free from bullying, scrutiny, stereotyping, and exploitation. In my opinion, (for what it’s worth… which may not be much) (dang, sorry Dr. J.) we can be a powerful voice advocating for the health and happiness of people of all sizes.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Disney!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 10:17 am

    So, can we finally put your real picture on your profile? 🙂

    Everything you’ve said about the common ground between ED and FA interests are dead on. Every cultural distortion that contributes to fat hatred and bigotry has the potential to contribute to an eating disordered culture. And it is absolutely vital that we realize how we are all fighting a common enemy, and to stop segregating ourselves. We are all fighting these pervasive/invasive messages that affect all of our children in different ways, and if we could simply coordinate our voices and our mission, we could prove to be a formidable foe against this kind of crap. Thanks for pointing out where we can come together, Deah. This is so important.


  2. March 7, 2012 2:59 pm

    Deah this is an amazing article can not wait to read your next

  3. March 8, 2012 9:59 am

    Good one! People don’t get that the female body is a profit center at our expense. Self-care is perfect and natural beauty is great, but promoting a celebrity culture to make us feel badly about ourselves in order to buy products? As they say here in Brooklyn, forgetaboutit.

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