Boris Johnson recently announced his new method of tackling obesity: forcing large food chains to include calories in their menus. I believe this new procedure will cause more harm than good and here’s why. Calorie counting is nearly always an unhealthy habit, especially for the 1.25-3.4 million people in the UK suffering from eating disorders. Amidst these plans, social media undoubtedly adds fuel to the fire. Many virtual platforms have become covert breeding grounds for unhealthy advice when it comes to young people who are vulnerable to the diet culture.
Glamourising eating disorders causes eating disorders
When I developed an eating disorder between the ages of 14 and 15, I was exposed to triggering content on apps like Tumblr, which I easily accessed through dangerous hashtags such as #proana #thinspo #meanspo, promoting anorexia. Accounts with photos of underweight women, accounts which documented weight loss journeys, and accounts that encouraged restricted eating were promoted on my feed.
I now ask myself, why is content like this accessible on apps designed for teenagers?
SIDE NOTE: Diets can be a harmless, successful and positive experience for many people, but dieting is not something a younger person should be encouraged to do.
As a child, I grew up conscious of my weight so dieting wasn’t uncommon, neither was detoxing and only drinking weight loss smoothies which I’d found recipes for online all day, even when I was told I should eat proper food. My eating disorder became harmful when apps like Tumblr made me restrict my food intake to a point where I was losing weight very quickly. I didn’t let myself weigh over 100 pounds, and when I did, my eating habits grew worse. The glamourised images of slim women with flat stomachs and a thigh gap was what I became.
When does the unhealthy body obsession stop?
You can’t just stop there. After developing unhealthy eating habits, you can’t just go back to the way you were. However skinny I was, I couldn’t see it and I didn’t think anyone else could either. In fact, it wasn’t until me and my friend were looking at my photos from a year ago, where we pointed out how underweight I was, that I learned other people had been questioning her about my sudden weight loss. I was weak to the point that I was always tired and depressed. I went through days of school eating nothing at all, then going home and eating as little dinner as I could get away with. When my mum started to worry about how much weight I’d lost, she tried to pull me out of it. I remember having a late detention at school because my mum refused to let me leave the house one morning until I finished a small croissant — a task that felt horrifically difficult if not impossible at the time. She also threatened to take me to the hospital and we spent many dinners arguing.
When is enough really enough?
Before I developed an eating disorder, people made remarks about my weight. After I developed my eating disorder, people still made remarks about my weight. So when do you win? You can’t. After recovery I realised that no one would really say they missed how skinny I was. No one would miss how little energy I had or how many people I had pushed away because they were trying to help me. Learning to love myself has been one of the hardest journeys I’ve taken, and perversely social media has actually played a big part in this. I do not condemn social media, only the triggering content that sits their like ripened fruit for the picking, and the fact that any teenager or young adult can have unlimited access regardless of their vulnerabilities. After all, there’s no eligibility test one has to take before certain content becomes available.
My experience has taught me that eating disorders are not glamorous, no matter how aesthetically appealing social media portrays them to be. Eating disorders aren’t skinny white girls with depression. Eating disorders are people of any gender, any age, any race and any size. Eating disorders aren’t just starving yourself until you’re skinny, it’s much, much more than this.
Don’t let young people believe anorexia is an aesthetic aim. People lose their lives to the illness. I cannot stress the importance of preventing other young girls (and boys) from being affected by harmful, negligent content at the click of a button. It’s not as fun as it looks, not when your life revolves around your body dysmorphia.