Content Warning: This article discusses disordered eating.
A few years ago, I reached rock bottom with my self-esteem. I hated myself and fixed all that hate on my body – if I just lose weight, I’ll be happy. If I just get to a size eight, I’ll be attractive to others. It’s an experience so many of us go through, because we exist in a world that for a long time rejected all body shapes except a select few, and while it’s great to see the tide turning, we’re not exactly out of the woods yet .
Back then, I saw food as the enemy. On the outside, I seemed fine. Internally, I hated myself for eating, or was left hungry because I’d eat too little.
That year I hit rock bottom I committed, in the worst way, to a crash diet so revoltingly unhealthy it left me depleted of not just energy, but personality. I was a shell of a person but I was also finally losing the weight I’d struggled so hard to lose.
For what, though? I had nothing to give. I was more unhappy at my smallest size than I’d ever been. Reaching a goal weight just made it even more apparent that the issue was with my self-hate, not my body. Eventually – after a LOT of therapy – I slowly started to find some kind of body acceptance. Not neutrality, as much as I’d love to be able to say it. But at least finding a bit more self-love to counter all that self-hate.
I now know I was suffering from disordered eating. “Disordered eating involves a range of eating behaviors, including chronic restrained eating, compulsive eating and habitual dieting,” explains the psychologist Kayla Steele. “These behaviors are considered to be obsessive, irregular or chaotic, and can lead to fatigue, depression, malnutrition and cognitive difficulties, which have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.”
The thing is, disordered eating issues don’t just go away. I am always teetering on the edge. ALWAYS. Break ups, job losses, anything negative and I turn to controlling food as a way to feel control over my life. Fighting that negative talk is a daily battle, as anyone who has experienced it will know.
And then there’s diet culture.
I thought we’d left diet culture behind in 2022, but apparently, I was wrong – because here we have Kim Kardashian gushing about losing weight in just three weeks to fit into a dress.
ICYMI, Kim Kardashian went to the With Gala in Marilyn Monroe‘s Mr President dress, the one she wore to sing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy back in the 1962. US Vogue exclusively interviewed Kim to discuss her prep, which involved a lengthy discussion about crash dieting because the original dress, which was unable to be altered, didn’t fit.
“I wanted to cry tears of joy when [the zip] went up, ”Kim says in the interview. While Kim stresses that she “didn’t starve” herself, her diet and exercise routine – which is documented in detail – is toxic as hell.
“This kind of rhetoric is harmful and potentially dangerous, given what we know about the negative impact of disordered eating on physical and mental wellbeing, and its role as a precursor for developing an eating disorder,” says Steele, adding that Kim’s influence socially comes into play here, too.
I don’t love Kim talking about losing weight for a dress in the first place, but I absolutely hate that she explained how she did it. If there’s one thing you Google relentlessly when you’re struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating, it’s quick-fix diets. They’re always unhealthy, and they’re always focused on losing weight rapidly. So having one shoved in your face by a popular fashion title is highly triggering.
This isn’t just on Kim. In fact I’d argue it’s less on Kim than it is on US Vogue. They chose to ask these questions and publish the answers. Look, I don’t agree with Kim crash dieting to transform her body so she can fit an old dress, when she could have just paid homage to it with a replica that could be altered. But that’s her choice – the bigger issue here is that we’re championing it, talking about it, making it the focus.
That’s what’s so fucking toxic – that all these people, including myself, who have battled with diet culture and body image had to see headlines splashed around about Kim’s drastic weight loss, and read about her specific crash diet. That we have Kim fitting into a dress presented as a fucking badge of honor. Why are we even TALKING ABOUT THE DIET AT ALL? Kim could have just worn the dress and none of us would have known the lengths she went to wear it, and honestly we’d all be better off for it.
There will always be triggers for me, and in many ways I just have to learn to push a lot of them because food is everywhere, and the way people discuss diets and their bodies has a long way to go. I’ve been called out for triggering others with how I’ve talked about my body and people’s bodies, too. We all have a lot to learn in this space. But I just feel, at this point in history, that we can do better than championing crash diets at the very least, you know?
Melissa Mason is a freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram.