Eating Disorders

Unsurprisingly, Thought Catalog’s Conception of Anorexia is Totally Warped

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I strongly dislike (okay, loatheThought Catalog. The site’s viewpoint holds that everyone is a worthy writer, despite the seemingly minimal effort their pieces are given—they assume: if you have feelings and can put them on a page, you’re publishable. (Yes, I am being an asshole but “let me speak my truth.”) The site regurgitates the same old shit, over and over and over again, treading in clichés, overused metaphors, and a strictly surface-level attack of any subject matter—not to mention the boatload of vapid lists (i.e. “14 Things Your Black Friend Wants You to Know”) that this generation seems to feed off of. It’s a freshman writing seminar for the entire world to see, but unlike in that sphere, the work doesn’t get better with time—it remains eternally stunted.

So, when I stumbled upon this cloying, “abstract” piece on anorexia–which reads like something written by the greenest of students in said-seminar–it was definitely not the first piece of theirs that ticked me off. But its self-assuredness regarding anorexia and its supposed relationship to garnering male attention really, really disgusts me—especially because I know that some people will and do read this crap and think: wow, yes, it sounds meaningful, therefore it must be meaningful. If only we could move on from our male attachments, we’d all be freed from the disease!

The title is “Anorexia Doesn’t Love You Back” (no shit, Sherl-cock), and yet the opening is all about some elusive dude that this woman has been struggling to get over, barely even hinting at self-starvation. Eventually the author frames this woman’s anorexia as a direct reaction to this scorned lover—a choice simply made because “he left holes in her heart and she’s still bleeding.” Gag. The piece goes on to describe this character spiraling deeper and deeper into the disease, with the narrator dressing it up as “falling for all that self-improvement bullshit” and trying to mediate her suffering with the highly original, always-convincing line of “you’re perfect just the way you are.”

Well, that’s sweet, Mom, but I’m afraid you’re totally missing the mark—causing me to wonder, has this person ever actually had an eating disorder? Or is this one of those exercises where you “put yourself in someone else’s shoes?” Because that’s dangerous territory to tread authoritatively when you’re speaking of a disease that millions of people suffer from.

The end barely even mentions anorexia at all; instead it’s about how love shouldn’t feel this way, as if this man’s particularly unloving style is the direct cause of the illness. “You’re stronger than this, get up and walk away,” the narrator tells her, as if walking away from the man and the disease are one in the same. If only, pal, if only.

And the closing line—the damn closing line: “If he doesn’t love you, someone else will. I promise.” Ah, okay, thank you so much for setting the anorexic free with visions of romance—that’ll surely do the trick.

And if sarcasm’s not your jam, what I mean is that it absolutely won’t. Anorexia is not about a lover—it is not a weapon we use against “men who don’t love us enough.” Quite frankly, it shits all over whatever feelings are bestowed on you by a broken heart. It’s an entrenched illness whose only real enemies are the suffering people themselves. When we belittle and sentimentalize it, as this awful piece does, we make it more difficult for people to overcome. We convince them it’s merely a choice, or a phase in line with heartbreak. But while bad loves certainly can contribute to whatever wounds are being inflicted on us via eating disorders, they are not the call to anorexia’s response.

Falling out of love is not the doorway to anorexia, and falling into it will not save you. Ask anybody who’s suffered from an eating disorder, and I have no doubt they will attest.

It may be more palatable for us to view these illnesses as bent on the whims of men we desire, but, if that were the case, I don’t think they’d lead women to actively diminish their estrogen levels and their frames to the point where they’re near replicas of pre-pubescent boys.

1 reply »

  1. I’ll attest:
    I had an eating disorder when, as far as I was concerned, boys still had cooties.

    It’s a thing with many motives behind it. Many reasons for it. It happens to different people differently. Generalizing or assuming isn’t helpful to ANYONE.

    For me, it was about self-harm, control, and the looming knowledge that even in elementary school I was not built to be a ballerina.
    (thanks for letting me piggy-back on your rant.)

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