#Fitfam: Coverup for Eating Disorders?

Before I had a blog I was a member of the Twitter #fitfam.  The #fitfam on twitter and tumblr is where thousands of “anonymous” twitter users come together to bond over a love of fitness and strength. Or so they say.

Image

(Common #Fitfam Picture)

I joined looking for people who shared a love of a healthy lifestyle, a place to find recipes, share tips and inspiration.  What I found was a large percentage of #fitfam accounts that used being “fit” as a cover up for eating disorders. It wasn’t hard to get followers, I had 80 within the first day, each one desperate for advice on how to lose weight and for someone to commiserate with. Each one posting things on their own twitter accounts chronicling every single thing they put in their mouth, sharing guilt about missed workouts while at the same time talking about how they didn’t want to be “skinny” they wanted to be “fit”. They would then share photos with the hashtag “fitspo” that showed women equally as skinny as the eating disorder idealized “thinspo”, just with a small amount of muscle mass. (Following pic NSFW)

Image

(One of the MOST often posted pictures of “#fitspo”, posted with the remarks that this body was attainable if you worked out enough compared to stick thin “starving” girls, even though it’s just as impossible for most to achieve)

In the 72 hour period that I was a member of the #fitfam I witnessed multiple people talk about how their twitter account triggered past eating disorder behavior, while still having multiple exchanges with others about what breads were the lowest calorie and how many calories other girls ate, following it all up with “I feel bad for the girls who want to be skinny, I want to be strong #fitfam”. I would throw out questions asking girls for their fitness related goals, trying to shift the focus on what you could do with your “fit” body and not how being “fit” looked.  While at the end of my 72 hr fitfam experience I had almost 250 followers, not one responded to any post on fitness goals or ability.

Just to see the reaction, I tried posting trivial things like “Wheat will make you look bloated” I would get 15 questions about how much wheat do you need to eat before you look fat, mixed in with “omg no way! Maybe that’s why I look like a blimp.”

Image

(Things like this showing pride in effort were simply ignored)

After 3 days I deleted my account. It made me too sad to continue watching hundreds of girls, a lot of them in high school, picking apart every aspect of their body and truly believing looking a certain way would bring them happiness. I could relate and I feared if I hung out long enough I would begin to think the same way again. Feeling guilty for missing a workout is not healthy. Restricting and then binging is not healthy. Hating yourself based on what you consumed that day or because you don’t look as good as the unrealistic “fitspo” that you stare at is not healthy.

This article came out last week describing exactly my experience. I hadn’t written about it before because I didn’t want to get personal or offend people. Of course there are people who follow the #fitfam groups to truly find motivation to accomplish goals other than becoming thin and hot. But as the ice was already broken I thought I’d put it out there for people who currently are an active part of the twitter/tumblr fitfam to stop and consider if you enjoy being fit because of what you can accomplish, or if you believe achieving that perfect fitspo body will truly make your life better. Almost all the girls AND guys I saw on twitter were consistently lonely, no matter how amazing their body was, and hoping that they would be happier and have more friends once they obtained that perfect body. Just like I mentioned in my previous post,  image is not what makes you happy. You have to change your relationship with the world from the inside, changing what you value and what’s important. Once you do that, the image on the outside won’t matter as much.

Advertisements

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Warning: This post may act as a trigger to those suffering/recovering from an ED.

This week, February 24th – March 2nd, is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I’ve known for a while I wanted to write a post on it, but it’s been very hard for me to figure out the jumble of thoughts in my head about something I feel so strongly about and whether to write on such a personal topic.

Somebody

The theme of this year’s NEDA Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. With 7 million women and 1 million men suffering from Anorexia or Bulimia (that means 1 in every 200 with anorexia and 1 in every 100 with bulimia) that is almost certainly the case.

One of the most important things I feel the need to stress is that an eating disorder is not a choice. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and “Eating Disorder not Otherwise Specified” are classified mental illnesses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). In fact, these three classifications of mental illnesses have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. 5-10% of women with Anorexia die within 10 years of developing the disease, while 8-20% percent die within 20 years. The mortality rate of people with anorexia is twelve times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death in women 12-24.

These are very serious diseases.

Yet society today still does not remove the stigma placed on people suffering from these diseases or offer the research and care necessary for prevention. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health in 2011 showed that the average amount of money spent on research per person living with Schizophrenia was $81, for Autism – $44 and for Alzheimer’s – $88.  The same study showed that the average amount of money spent on research per person suffering form an Eating Disorder was $0.93. This is a mental illness that needs to stop being ignored.

Many people can’t comprehend why people suffering from an eating disorder “can’t just eat” or why they don’t see the sickly state their body is in. To understand that, one needs to realize that the mindset of someone suffering from an eating disorder is not one of someone just trying to look good. That may be how they describe their desired body. It may be how their disorder started, counting calories and restricting food to try to loose weight and slowly spiraling out of control. But a person suffering from an eating disorder truly feels powerless to the control the disorder has on their mind. It is the feeling of worthlessness and disgust that come from putting food in their mouth due to the thought that they should have had the self control and strength to resist the temptation. Not because they fear getting fat, but because at that point it is strictly a mind game equating self control with self worth, thinness with value.  The shame and solitude that comes from binging and purging, whether through vomiting or use of laxatives, because they know that what they are doing is wrong, but cannot help the suffocating anxiety and self loathing that fills them until they force it out.

To anyone currently suffering from an Eating Disorder, I urge you to seek help either through someone you know or by contacting someone here . It can be difficult to seek help, because you know that treatment will mean forcing yourself, or even being forced, to break from the obsessive rituals that currently define your life. There is the fear of loosing that control, that small bit of reassurance and happiness that you currently have. It seems impossible to have a positive relationship with food and yourself and that may cause you to resist entering treatment.

That is not the case. There are millions of people, myself included, who have proven that wrong. Getting past that initial hurdle is the hardest step, but the most important one on the way to recovery and happiness.