February 22 to 28 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. We’ll be sharing information about this important issue throughout the week, from what to do if you or a friend is suffering from an eating disorder to how to love your body just the way it is! Be sure to check out all of our content here.
“Men want thin women. It’s just a fact.”
So says a recent article published on Thought Catalog titled “I Love My Eating Disorder,” written by an anonymous female author.
This particular article threw me for a loop. As a writer, I’ve never been afraid to tackle taboo topics, as I believe that they deserve to be covered just as much as—perhaps more than—most of the other things we read about and see on the news. Eating disorders are one of those taboo topics, falling in the same realm as the shameful problems this country has with weight; whether those issues stem from the obesity epidemic or how the media portrays “average” women who are actually tall, leggy and impossibly skinny. Writers shouldn’t be afraid of stepping on toes to avoid dancing around sensitive issues.
As a man, however, particularly one who has friends and family who have suffered and continue to suffer from eating disorders, I was taken aback by the issue. How would I cover the subject appropriately? Moreover, how would I do so without offending the very friends I want to help? I pondered this issue for hours, and I wrote a handful of drafts that in some way or another accurately displayed my feelings on the topic.
“I love my eating disorder.”
I’ll be honest; I didn’t think such a thing was possible. The author of the Thought Catalog article, though anonymous, made points both good and bad. She compares embracing her eating disorder to people who drink or smoke on a regular basis—after all, consuming alcohol and tobacco are both unhealthy and potentially deadly. Those people make a choice to actively destroy their bodies, so why shouldn’t she be allowed to do the same?
“An eating disorder might be ‘bad’ but is it really worse than being fat? Than being alone? Than hating myself?”
She places “bad” in quotations, as if to imply that there’s some conspiracy behind the danger of eating disorders.
Her logic is slightly flawed. Yes, eating disorders are bad, just like being obese is bad. However, I think it could be argued that embracing an eating disorder is dangerously close to hating yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “You must love yourself before others can love you.” Having an eating disorder is participating in the active destruction of your body.
After reading and re-reading the article, I’ll admit I became somewhat flustered. Not only was this woman refusing to seek help for something that could very well kill her, she was acknowledging its danger at the same time. She knows her disorder is unhealthy, but…
The author believes that in order to “have a great job and a great boyfriend, you have to be hot.” And how does this author become hot? By becoming totally submissive to her disorder.
I can’t say I blame her for thinking this way, even if it does make me want to set my laptop on fire and throw it out the window. Popular media have a history of trying to pass off size-zero models as “the norm,” when the average dress size of the American woman falls somewhere between 12 and 14, and only 5 percent of American women have the body types that are shown most often in television and advertising. As I said above, this country has a massive problem with how weight is both portrayed and perceived.
But even then, I think I was most thrown off by the blog she linked to as “fact.”
The author said near the start of her piece, “Men want thin women. It’s just a fact.” Her facts are flawed beyond comprehension, especially considering that her so-called “facts” link back to a blog post written by a 34-year-old blogger and pick-up artist. The post is titled “8 Things American Women Must Do To Make Themselves More Attractive For Men,” and after opening the link, I was repulsed.
The items in this list ranged from American women needing to “lose the god damn weight,” “talk 80% less” (a point that was aptly paired with a picture portraying a man slapping a woman while shouting, “SHUT THE F*CK UP B*TCH!!”) and “stop self-mutilating” (having tattoos and piercings). The author of the Thought Catalog piece linked to this sexist, dismissive, misogynistic trash and called it fact. By doing so, she completely discounts the opinions of millions of men around the world and instead chooses the opinion of a failed pick-up artist to declare as “fact.”
Let me make this very clear: We all have preferences. We all find certain things more attractive than others, and we all look for certain attributes in potential partners. These preferences, however, do not—should not—discount the other positive attributes and beauty of other people. One man’s opinion, mine included, hardly stands for that of an entire demographic.
The simple fact is that men want different things, and in my research I discovered that most men are looking for a “healthy” size. The common denominator is that men find themselves attracted to realistic women, as opposed to women who are sickly skinny or morbidly obese. The consensus was that “healthy” and “skinny” are hardly the same thing. If a woman is naturally thin, so be it… as long as she’s healthy.
Different men want different things, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a man who is attracted to a woman who is dangerously skinny.
Eating disorders are not healthy, and this is something even the author admits to—she simply refuses to seek help for something that may very well kill her.
The author does get at least one thing right, though, saying, “Being a woman today is about guarding the control you have over your own life.” That much is true, but she contradicts that statement by allowing her eating disorder—and her desire to become more attractive to men—to take control of her life, and that is truly unfortunate.
Should the author of that article or any person suffering from an eating disorder be reading this article, I implore you to seek help from friends, family or professionals. I promise you that there is so much more to beauty and self-worth than anything physical, and the men of this world (myself included) do not define those parameters.
Think you might be suffering from an eating disorder? The National Eating Disorders Association has a free and confidential screening to help you determine next steps. If you’re looking for more information, be sure to call the NEDA helpline. Looking for ways to help spread the word? Find out how you can get involved on your campus.