Meghan Trainor Part 1: what i think about her interview comments on “trying anorexia”

To those of you who aren’t entirely kept in the loop about this situation, Meghan Trainor has unceremoniously rattled some cages because she had made some comments about body positivity and anorexia in an interview with Entertainment Tonight which might not have been the most sensitive towards those struggling with eating disorders and body image issues. They say that pictures speak a thousand words, so in a nutshell, here was what went down:

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Question. Why would you “try” anorexia?

I agree with what Demi Lovato and many other angry individuals have had to say in response: that anorexia, or any other eating disorder for that matter, isn’t about strength. From this comment, Meghan glamorizes eating disorders such that eating disorders are something that require strength and willpower; something that not all people achieve; that only the strong, mighty and powerful will get because they have “what it takes” to get an eating disorder. In another strange perspective, the end goal is something that’s supposedly glamorous and worthy only of the strong. Like Thor and that unearthly hammer of his.

To those who took offense at Meghan’s comments. I understand. I really do.  When I read “tried being anorexic”, I was like ” What do you mean try anorexia. You can’t try anorexia. Anorexia is a lifestyle choice that SHOULDN’T be made at all in the first place. No one just wakes up one day and goes I think I should like to try surviving on 500 calories a day, weighing yourself obsessively and losing your hair and muscle mass? ” Anorexia can kill people. People can spend hours agonizing over whether an apple will make them gain weight, exercise excessively, weigh their food, cut out entire food groups and count calories. You don’t just try anorexia. It is not a dietary option. 

But then I thought, does she even know what it means to have anorexia? Where did she get her information from? Where does her current perceptions of anorexia and eating disorder come from?

She’s actually not the only one…

 You know, I myself made a silly comment once by saying something along the lines of “if you were strong enough to restrict your food intake, then you are strong enough to fight for eating disorder”. Clearly I didn’t know that the word “strength” was inappropriate in that particular context even though I myself was restricting and bingeing.  I thought I was helping others and frankly speaking, didn’t really think my words through because what was on the forefront of my mind was wanting to help somebody. Plus, I was just fresh into recovery myself. I didn’t understand what was happening with me, let along any other eating disorders for that matter.

You know what I think? I think that Meghan probably did have good intentions when she made that comment; intentions that just came out sounding wrong because she, like so many other people, just don’t fully understand what it means to have an eating disorder. They know that an eating disorder is awful, but just don’t know how ago about telling it to another person because they’ve never personally experienced it.

When I started becoming slightly more open about my eating disorder and relayed my experiences to some people, I’ve had some them tell me “Whoa, I can’t be like you, I’ve never really had the willpower to go on an extreme diet like that. Not strong enough”. Seriously. They likened going on an extreme diet to willpower and strength. But I didn’t get offended at that. How could I, when I knew that they really didn’t mean it because they don’t understand something they’ve never personally been through? Well sure you need willpower to go on a diet, but not willpower and strength for anorexia or other eating disorders for that matter. The outstanding difference between the former and the latter is that in the former, you can stop dieting anytime you want, and diets as we all know, are prone to failure. People go on diets almost all the time and they give up almost all the time as well. When they reach their goal, they either stop dieting, or maintain their goal weight by sustaining their diet but less than before. When they don’t reach their goal weight or lose motivation, they just give the diet & go back being happier than surviving on salads but hold the mayo thanks. But eating disorders? It can be addictive. You don’t just stop being anorexic like you stop dieting. Its more than the visceral. Its the mental. People with eating disorders tend to have distorted perceptions about their body. They believe their bodies to be wrong and ugly and needs to be changed. Its about control and perfectionism and the need to coform to a particular standard of beauty than it is about health. People can die from anorexia mind you.

Like many people, their understand of eating disorders come from the media: movies and Hollywood and the like. We read about celebrities struggling with anorexia and bulimia and other forms of disordered eating and we read their accounts of their ordeals and the changes their bodies go through. We read about Mary-Kate Olsen telling us her scary diet she was on & we’ve seen Nicole Richie’s skeletal frame in a bikini. On the surface, we know what involves and will list off things such as “severely underweight”, “think that they are severely overweight when they are actually very thin”, but many of us tend to take it at face value as opposed to truly grasping its meaning. Just like myself and my understanding of gambling addiction. I know the symptoms. I studied abnormal psychology and studied the DSM. I can tell you what is symptomatic of anxiety disorder, but I will not ever truly understand the impulse that comes with it. I won’t ever truly understand the anxieties they feel when they don’t gamble. I won’t ever fully understand why they break therir promise of not going gambling ever again. I won’t ever fully grasp their thought processes. I am not them, and they are not me.

One won’t ever fully understand the journey of another person, unless you are walking on the same path. 

That’s why Demi Lovato is a role model for so many people struggling with eating disorders, self harm and body image issues. She’s been there. She knows what we are going through. She can find words the things we don’t know how to express. But Meghan? Probably not so much. Which is why even though Meghan sings about body confidence, I’d rather turn to Demi because the girl gets me. And I her.

So back to Meghan

Neither you nor I know Meghan personally. I don’t know the extent of her disordered eating or the extent to which she attempted eating disorder. As of now I do know she doesn’t completely understand the complexities of eating disorders as much as other people who’ve struggled with it for years, who’ve read up lots about it, who’ve shared their personal stories, who know how to speak about it & approach sensitive issues because they’ve been speaking about it for a long time to others. Miss Trainor’s been on the scene a few good months and I don’t know this for sure, I highly suspect that she wasn’t fully prepared for this interview and probably might not have bargained on sharing a lot of details about her personal life, including the “trying out anorexia” bit. So in all honesty, she probably just should have just kept quiet about EDs because she clearly isn’t sufficiently educated about eating disorders to make a comment. I mean its pretty straightforward. If you know nada about an issue, then don’t comment on it, or throw in a disclaimer: “I don’t claim to know much about eating disorders” or ” I’ve never had an eating disorder so if my comments offend anybody, forgive me.” etc. Communication skills, girl. Communication.

So why is she getting so much flak when she’s not the only one?

For the record, Meghan isn’t the only celebrity who actually said she tried being anorexic:

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That’s right people that’s Kat Dennings.

She’s our feisty Max Black in 2 Broke Girls and she herself had said that she had “tried being anorexic for 4 hours” before needing some bagels in her interview with Philadelphia back in 08’ which you can read here. I tried Googling to see I there was the same kind of public outcry that Meghan is now receiving, but I didn’t. No blog posts, none on message boards. Her’s quotes been immortalized on Pinterst and Tumblr though. So why Meghan and not Kat? Why didn’t anyone glitter bomb and throw roaches at her? I don’t really know. My guess is back in 2008, she wasn’t a very well known celebrity, and campaigns for body positivity and eating disorder weren’t the rage and nobody really paid any attention to mental health and body love. That is until celebrities started singing about it. Mary Lambert and Selena Gomez and Colbie Caillat and John Legend and Nicki Minaj all started singing about being beautiful and embracing your beauty and curves and all your imperfections. Only then did the world start paying more attention to self-love and our distorted perceptions of beauty.

Meghan sung a song about body positivity which has gotten super popular and she’s got many people loving her right now. She’s a media figure. A public role model for everyone everywhere. Her songs are playing everywhere. On the radio, in the supermarkets, even in my gym. Everyone’s just listening to what she has to say. And sing too. Her words are in the spotlight and because of her role as a celebrity, this means whatever she discusses and sings will be scrutinized and/or taken as inspiration. My own momma herself called me stupid for getting an eating disorder and commented that only stupid girls get eating disorders because they only care about themselves, but since she’s not a global media icon, her words went unnoticed except by me. So unlike my mum, Meghan has to be extra careful and sensitive about the things she says and sings about because everyone is listening.

So what now?

Well I don’t really know what now, but based on the comments I’ve read on message boards, blogs, Twitter & Instagram, you have people who continue seeing her as a role model, people who request that she retract her statement & issue an apology for her comments, & also people who just don’t care about her. My opinion? Like I said, she probably shouldn’t have said anything about eating disorders to begin with since she hasn’t a clue about the intricacies of eating disorders. But let’s also throw in some sympthaty and think about the fact that she was affected enough to actually not want to not eat to lose weight. She’s similar to many of us who are struggling with body image issues and eating disorders. She just hasn’t a clue how to go about discussing it. So I suppose an apology or a clarification would be sufficient to appease our angry souls. We want her to admit she’s been careless with her remarks and promise to never cast eating disorders in such a casual “oh let’s give this a shot its like a challenge” manner. You know, when I’m told, or hear of comments about body image and/or eating disorders that are just a little misguided, I post something like this:

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Yeah so follow me on Instagram too ? 😀 😀 

 So, maybe Meghan could do just that. Selena Gomez does it. When the media glamorizes eating disorders or focuses on unrealistic beauty standards, she tweets informational things or posts motivational messages on Instagram. Awareness & education are key, ladies and gentlemen. In the mealtimes, hating on Meghan won’t really do anything really. Sure, you can boycott her music but let’s give just a teeny bit more time and see how her approach to issues body image and eating disorders to develop. People make offhand comments without meaning to so all right I do think it’d be appropriate that she issue an apology; a clarification of sorts to explain herself because after all, she still is somewhat glamorizing eating disorders and making them out to be a fad diet with no negative repercussions.

If she continues making the same crazy remarks of anorexia as some diet fad, then by all means, I’ll join you in sending her cockroaches in her mailbox and glitter bombing her. You and I are aware of it, but we can’t be sure of other women, men & young adolescents and children who are unfamiliar with eating disorders & eventually end up thinking that eating disorders as “something that you can try”, only to find out that “trying” to eat ice and vegetables was just what it took to set the path for more disordered eating in the future. Meghan, honey, if you ever read this, and the other blog posts out there discussing this, you might want to do something about it.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know.

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