I don’t know you personally but we share a space on the Internet called Body Positivity and Eating Disorder Recovery. Many people know you better than I. You reach 2.9 million followers and that is on Instagram alone. While in the past we may have approached body diversity and body positivity differently yesterday your posts are something I cannot sit idly by and see as ‘differing opinions’.
You’re a spokesperson for NEDA, I’ve seen you attend their walk, I’ve seen you be called a role model and now I’ve seen something attached with your name that devastated me. Luckily with sixteen hundred and eighty days since my last purge I am well into the comfy part of recovery. It would take a lot more than a meal plan to upset the demon of my eating disorder. Yet for hundreds possibly thousands of people your collaboration with Self Magazine has left them triggered and hurt. Coming at the worst time of year when the world is saturated with diet messages, exercise and weight loss challenges.
There are so many facets wrong with your ‘January New Year’s Fitness Challenge’, I find it hard to understand why you signed up with your face all over it. You’re an eating disorder survivor. You’re a NEDA spokesperson but within 24 hours I feel like you care very little about that. While I’m sure that is probably not true it feels that way.
As a fat eating disorder sufferer who was fat at points during her eating disorder and never truly emaciated here is my letter to you. See you are afforded the privilege of speaking about a topic that is not only dear to your heart and mine but affecting millions around the world. You form opinions of the public regarding what eating disorder sufferers and people in recovery look like.
Your ‘January New Year’s Fitness’ challenge is yours there is no denying that. While perhaps because it was a collaboration (Hey Self Magazine I’m looking at you) your face, name and platform has been used to promote this. So here within lies the first problem of this issue either you knew about what was posted and you were fine with it OR you didn’t know and people behind the scenes are speaking for you. Subsequently your response to the issue was to delete, disengage and then turn off commenting on the post. Then repost the original with a different caption including the words ‘This is NOT triggering’… and then delete that post all together
Either you or your team made that choice. Unfortunately if it was your team, it still was you because they work on behalf and your name is attached. It is attached to a piece of new years diet rhetoric that isn’t new or surprising. While it is covered in messages like healthy, challenge, strong and fit just because you say those words doesn’t make it so.
Your meal plan is the thing that made me most shocked, saddened and pissed off. A plan that on some days has only 1500 calories in it, A plan that has items of food so intertwined with clean eating and privilege it reeks of acai bowls and $5 avocados. Which by the way the meal plan says, I can only eat half of. So where is the rest of my $5 Australian avocado going? In the bin or the fridge to rot? I am not miss moneybags.
There is a more eloquent break down of the meal plan food issues on BodyPosiPanda’s Blog about it here but let’s talk about the interconnection of meal plans, eating disorders and body positivity.
Time and time again I see people claiming body positivity only to the next week promote a skinny tea or brag about the pounds they lost and now a kick start January fitness plan by you. While these things may seem small personal choices in which people can choose to engage with or not it speaks to a bigger issue. These seemingly ‘healthy’ diet culture promotions are contributing to the very system were trying to dismantle in body positivity.
See as a fat person I don’t get to pick and choose my body positivity. I can’t wrap it in a nice societally acceptable bow, because my body makes some people uncomfortable. Hence my need for body positivity and even more so as an eating disorder survivor. I fight for eating disorder acceptance and understanding at all sizes. I fight for people to dismantle the diet industry, stop chasing the ever-changing beauty unicorn and to talk about fat peoples issues. My version of recovery is bashed left, right and centre because of my size. That is if people even believe my eating disorder history.
Your recovery is worshipped and while it isn’t your fault you are an ideal of beauty – you should acknowledge it and tread even more carefully regarding diets, meal plans and fitness.
Not everyone who recovers will look like you, not every one who does the January challenge will look like you, not every eating disorder sufferer who has looked up to you via your social following may realise the impact this challenge will have on their mental health. Many eating disorders start as meal plans, exercise plans and the idea of control. Mine certainly did.
Your ‘Fitness Challenge’ has hijacked body positivity left it dripping with diet culture and served up as some act of self-love. It isn’t. It also perpetuates the idea that to be healthy you must be fit, to be fit you must contribute it in purposeful exercise and oh also change your diet. Subsequently to be healthy means meal plans.
While a disclaimer is placed before the meal plan warning eating disorder sufferers to consult with their doctors before participating let me tell you this reads more like a cop out of responsibility than a caring act. If self love magazine and by extension you wanted to be caring there would be no meal plan – with calories included. I sure as hell at 14 would of continued on with a new ‘challenge’ sending me further into the hells of eating disorder land. Actually I did and it fucking sucked.
It also comes at a time of year capitalising off of the age old New Year, New Me, New Diet trend that body positivity fights against. This reeks of buzz, trending and fitting in with the curve. We don’t need another body positive role model telling people how to eat or how to work out. We don’t need another message of “health” that isn’t healthy for most people.
If you were a fitness model or had a healthy recipes account this would be part and parcel of your New Year social media campaign. Yet you are not. You’re body positive, inclusive, a NEDA eating disorder spokesperson and you are afforded the luxury to be a huge influence in body positivity in mainstream media. That means people by extension look to you to discover what body positive is. So yesterday they found out that the shitty new year diet culture is body positive.
I’m not asking to ban you, or to lose you from this space nor do I think people should condemn you BUT I think this is a great chance to see conversation and growth among people. I hope you choose to address this further. I hope you choose to see our sides. I hope that you understand that you could help the world see true body positivity and not a watered down version.
I know you’re a good person but all these little things that reach your 2.9 million followers matter. They matter to people like me whose diversity and story is still constantly challenged and mocked. They matter to people like your teenage followers who were just starting the new year off unworried about their bodies and exercise/food but now think if their idol who is promoting this that maybe they should complete the ‘challenge’ too.
Regardless of the intent the impact and reaction from people is enough to tell you that while you might think this doesn’t add to negative body image and eating disorder tendencies for a lot of people it does. Those people matter too! Even though they don’t have 2.9 million followers. Right now some feel they don’t have a voice. Some feel body positivity is just a code for diets wrapped in nice words. So here I am speaking for them, please listen Iskra.
With Only Love,