Something to “Bitch” About

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Update from Meowser 02/19/2008: Bitch has now put the article up online; post re-edited to reflect that.

Note from Meowser: Post has been edited to correct spelling of Lily-Rygh Glen’s name.

As many of you are probably aware of by now, Bitch magazine has an article out in its current issue, by Lily-Rygh Glen, called “Big Trouble.” It’s about how people with binge-eating disorders allegedly are not welcome anywhere in the size-acceptance movement if they get help for their problem, because if those women get skinny by giving up their binges, they will make the rest of us look bad and we’d rather they ate themselves to death than actually got cured, because that’s the kind of cold mean douchenozzles we all are. (That’s honestly not too much of an exaggeration of how Glen portrays us.)

Probably the reason this hasn’t hadn’t been blogged about before much in the Fatosphere is because the article is was until now print-only, no link is was available (update: Link is now posted here). I haven’t gotten to it until now myself for the same reason (Bitch is published quarterly). So I went out and purchased the magazine so I could write about the article in question.

I know there are some people who think articles like this that exist solely for the purpose of baiting should be left alone to die the quiet death they deserve, and I can sympathize with that. But frankly, by now it’s gotten to the point where fat people reading this have started thinking “the movement” (as though size/fat acceptance was a monolith!) will snub them unless they claim to have struck that mythical perfect balance of loving salad and going to the gym without ever weighing or measuring themselves, and influential feminists like Amanda Marcotte are telling people that we SA/FA people are not to be trusted (despite being “right about most things”) because of what’s written here. And that, as far as I am concerned, is when flat-out scurrilous distortionfests like this need to be taken on.

Now, before I jump into my analysis, let me just say that I’ve loved myself some Bitch over the years and found them to be one of the more fat-friendly publications out there that you can actually purchase on a newsstand. They had a booth at the last Fat Girl Speaks, in June 2007, and unless there’s been a dramatic change in editorial policy since then, I have to believe that their intention in publishing this story was not to do in the FA/SA movement. I also understand that this magazine is known for “think” or opinion pieces, not investigative reporting, and so they likely felt Glen had no obligation to explore all sides of the issue, only her own impressions and experiences. Fair enough.

And I have no problem with anyone doing an analysis of how the FA/SA movement treats fat people seeking help for binge-eating disorder. It’s not a “taboo” subject to me at all. In fact, over at Shapely Prose just this past October (quite likely after Glen put her story to bed), Kate Harding did her usual wonderful analysis of this, and much lively, substantial discussion about it ensued amongst Shapelings. A few weeks before that, Rachel of the F-Word also did a great piece on EDs and fat acceptance. Yeah, it can be a sticky subject, especially since fat people have been so thoroughly linked in most people’s minds with “pathological” eating habits that some defensiveness is bound to result. And sure, there are individuals within the movement, no doubt, who are dismissive of the idea that anyone could ever be made fat by a binge-eating disorder, or who even doubt that BED exists, and want to silence anyone who wants to talk about her BED.

But then, there are also feminists who hate all men and would like to see every one of them legally mandated to wear their own genitalia as headgear. Do they represent the desires and opinions of most feminists, let alone the entire movement? Need you even ask?

So it is with this story. A good article could have been written about this subject, but not by someone who cares only about money and publishing credit and does not care who she harms in the process of writing about this topic she not only knows precious little about, but doesn’t even want to know any more about, lest her opportunity for career advancement using our fat backs as a springboard be blown to greasy little bits.

Serious charges, I know. But consider the following.

Glen bases her “size acceptance people want to silence people with binge-eating disorders” thesis solely on this: The testimonials of two pseudonymous friends (who could just as well have been invented by Glen out of whole cloth) who say that speaking up about wanting treatment for their BED either would get them “kicked out of the movement” or already had; an article on the NAAFA Web site allegedly promoting intuitive eating as a cure-all for BED; and a quote from a “prominent radical fat activist” who “declined to be named or quoted” for the story, which blamed all eating disorders on dieting.

That’s it. That’s all she’s got. No one is interviewed by name; the only person in the story who is even quoted by name is eating-disorders therapist Deb Burgard, and those quotes are taken from promotional materials for a NAAFA conference, not an interview. Again, I know this is not meant to be an in-depth investigative piece, but for Mo’Nique’s sake, hasn’t Glen even heard of the Fatosphere (see sidebar, if you’re new here), or any of the dozens of individual blogs in it (including the Fatosphere’s godfather, Big Fat Blog, which has been around for almost eight years now)? Does she not know that just over the past year, an entire fat-acceptance subculture has sprung up on the Web and that even apart from the Kate Harding piece mentioned earlier, the subject of BED was tackled in detail (just for starters) here, here, and here, well in advance of when this story came out, and nobody — either in the posts themselves or in comments — was dismissed or made fun of or “kicked out of the movement.” (And need I mention I’d rather get my eyelids chewed off by jellyfish on the hot sand than ever see or hear that phrase or anything like it ever again?) Not in any way, shape, or form.

(And I’m sure my readers will be kind enough to let me know if I’ve overlooked any other relevant articles on the subject that came out before the Bitch piece figures to have been filed.)

And really, we all know that much of the material on NAAFA’s Web site (much of which consists of reproductions of old NAAFA pamphlets) hasn’t been updated practically since Bush’s dad was President, and even NAAFA knows that’s a problem (see discussion connected with linked post for input from members of NAAFA). They have the memo, Lily-Rygh. My question is, did you even try talking to anyone over there? I mean, a live person? They don’t bite, honest. They talk to everyone, they even participate in all those “fat people are all lazy gluttons, cue the headless fatty b-roll” stories that wallpaper the Paid Media, just to give an opposing viewpoint. So why would they consider this story, and only this story, off limits to participate in, especially since Bitch has a long-standing reputation for fat friendliness? It just doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

Anyway, what Glen is claiming about that NAAFA site article on eating disorders is that “NAAFA is willing to risk the physical and psychological well-being of individual fat people in order to protect fat people as a class from charges that they are unhealthy.” Gee, they sound like terrible people, all right, the worst ever. What did they say that was so outrageous? The offending sentences in this article, to Glen’s mind, are these:

“Compulsive overeating” is another term that has been used to denote binge-eating. It implies that the binge-eating has a psychological cause (i.e., compulsion); however, there is little evidence to support this notion for most fat people who binge-eat.

Leaving aside somewhat inelegant phrasing, what the NAAFA brochure is actually saying is what FA/SA people have been saying since time immemorial (or at least since the Fat Underground): Most fat people who binge do so because they are coming off a diet, not because they have an organic binge-eating disorder. That’s most, mind you — not all. What Glen doesn’t mention, because it would torpedo her entire argument, is that a few paragraphs down from there, it also says this:

If you suspect you have an eating disorder, and you have been on a weight reduction diet or have been maintaining a weight lower than that which is natural for you, you may [emphasis Meowser’s] be able to recover from your eating disorder simply by stopping the weight-reduction efforts…Some people need additional help from professional therapists or support groups; it is important to select a treatment that does not encourage restrictive dieting.

I dunno, dude, if you read that passage as “if giving up dieting didn’t cure your bingeing, fuck you and the ice cream truck you rode in on, we’d rather see you choke to death on your 96th consecutive donut than get outside help for your BED because then you might lose weight and that would suck for us,” I think the priority purchase of a pair of non-shit-colored reading glasses might be in order.

And quite possibly this might provide some sort of clue as to why there is no fresh material from NAAFA here. As pleasant and accommodating as they might try to be over there, making your first approach to them with the fat-acceptance equivalent of, “Why do you hate America, newborn babies and cute little puppies?? Why?? WHYYYYY?” might, just might, tip them off that you are not very credible even as an informed adversary. Not that I know for sure that that’s what went down, of course. But Occam’s razor sure do slice in that direction, don’t it?

Oh, and that “radical fat acceptance activist” who was quoted as saying, “Not every diet turns into an eating disorder, but every eating disorder begins with a diet”? The activist is, of course, none other than Marilyn Wann; I recognized those words immediately from her book Fat!So?, a 1998 compilation of her zine pieces from the previous 5 years and of course, essential reading for every FA/SA person (or hell, maybe for everyone on the planet). Since this is a commercially published work, Glen had a perfect right to name Marilyn as being attached to this quote; why the coyness about Marilyn’s identity? My cat-nose strongly suspects the following: Lily-Rygh Glen, who thinks she knows everything there is to know about fat acceptance, did not know about Marilyn’s book or zine at all, and instead got the quote secondhand.

That Marilyn, according to Glen, “refused to be quoted” for this story (which apparently didn’t stop Glen from quoting her anyway, but never mind) makes my little pink nose twitch even more. Marilyn is, as most of you probably know, not exactly what you’d call microphone-shy. And I don’t know about you, but if someone wanted to write about something I said almost fifteen years ago and invited me to elaborate on it to see if I still felt that way, whether I’d learned anything new, etc., I’d be on it like a Persian on Kitty Hooch, especially for a magazine like Bitch. If Marilyn did decline this particular interview, I would think there would have to be a damn good reason for it — such as, perhaps, sensing early on that this particular author was out to perform a hatchet job and wasn’t interested in any new information that might interfere with that?

Anyway, “every eating disorder begins with a diet” may be a slight oversimplification, but it’s a lot less of one than the standard line we’re fed constantly by the Paid Media, which is that every single one of us fatasses binges like Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor and is lying through our fructose-atrophied choppers about it. Why is Glen not far more outraged by that meme, which stretches around the globe for miles over and over and over again, than by what Marilyn said, or what’s in the “offending” NAAFA brochure, which have been read by only a tiny number of people by comparison?

And no, intuitive eating is not, as Glen accuses the NAAFA flyer of saying, an “easy-peasy” cure-all for everyone who binges. Saying everyone who stops dieting will stop bingeing is just as simplistic as saying that everyone who uses the StairMaster will stop panting when they climb hills. Nothing works for everybody. But I can’t emphasize enough that many of us trot out the “demand feeding cured my bingeing” line because we don’t know what else to tell people who are suffering. It’s not that I don’t want to see people make peace with food. It’s not that I want them to stay out of control so they can stay as fat as possible. Of course not. But I also can’t in good conscience refer them to OA or to “traditional” ED therapies which emphasize weight loss as the ultimate trophy of recovery — not because it might work for them and make me look like an ugly loser while they pull out the waistbands of their old size 30 jeans to reveal the New Beautiful Them, but because I was there, I tried those things, and they only managed to trigger me even worse than when I came in. Intuitive eating is the only thing that ever worked to get me on a cycle of eat-when-hungry-stop-when-comfortably-full, so that’s usually what I talk about when someone brings up the subject.

But I also said on one of the comment threads at Kate’s place that I’d love to see people for whom IE was not an answer for their bingeing or compulsive overeating band together, perhaps on their own blog, to offer each other self-help from a Health at Every Size perspective — i.e. starting with the idea that BED or CED sucks because it makes you feel like crap, not because it makes you look like crap. In the absence of much in the way of real help being available for people who feel intractably “out of control” with food, self-help might actually be the only way for most of these folks to go unless they luck into a fantastic therapist or meatspace support group. While I certainly don’t think weight loss is something that needs preventing by any means necessary, I really feel that making significant weight loss the standard for whether or not you’ve “recovered” is a bad idea; I would hate to see a BED/CED sufferer decide she’s doing it “wrong” simply because the scale tells her so, even if she feels personally comfortable and at ease with her new way of eating. And many people with BED/CED have dieted so much over the course of their lifetimes and trashed their metabolisms so badly in the process that they might not experience much in the way of weight loss as a result of recovery.

That’s absolutely not the same thing as saying, “If you get thin as a result of your ED recovery, screw you and your little dog too.” And if you are reading this and you actually are the kind of person who would belittle someone’s ED, or tell someone they shouldn’t pursue recovery because it could lead to them getting thin(ner), kindly go get stuffed, because you are giving us all a bad name. (Not that I think any of FatFu’s regular readers are in this camp; I know y’all are smarter than that.) Only an idiot makes “getting and staying fat at all costs” the standard for whether someone is really a size/fat-acceptance person or not. (Besides, I know of quite a few “bona fide” fat-acceptance advocates who couldn’t get fat themselves if they tried.) I don’t expect anyone to KMOOTM if I eventually happen to return to my baseline weight following the discontinuation of antidepressants, and I wouldn’t let them KMO, anyway. There is no Supreme Arbiter of who is “in” and “out” anyway; if one SA group (or blog) is a poor fit for you, there are many others.

But much like our Vice President, Lily-Rygh Glen doesn’t do nuance, so there’s no reason she would feel the need to take in any of this even if the opportunity were offered her. After all, the author ID at the bottom of the story states, “As a result of the backlash to this article, she no longer considers herself part of the fat acceptance movement.” (Zuh? How could there have been “backlash” before the story was ever read by anyone?) Color me utterly unconvinced that she was ever really “one of us,” even peripherally.

Anyway, Bitch is sure to welcome LTEs on this story, so if the urge strikes, here’s where to send ’em:

Bitch Magazine
4930 NE 29th Ave.
Portland, OR 97211

Note: I plan to inform Marilyn Wann, Deb Burgard, and the folks at NAAFA about this blog post. I hope they will participate in the discussion here and give us further insight.

Posted in etc.. 41 Comments »

41 Responses to “Something to “Bitch” About”

  1. Alexandra Erin Says:

    That’s it, you’re out of the movement.

  2. dyspeptic Says:

    Oh, very, very well done! Thank you! There are so many more useful things Bitch could have used those column inches on.

    Just to throw a little more gas on the fire, here, I have to say that the whole concept of disordered eating is wacky in a society which cultivates such purposeful ignorance of nutrition. Our (whole population) ignorance of nutrition is astonishing. Safe to say that anything in US gov’t or MSM material is 99% or more propaganda designed to make us feel bad about our eating so we’ll be ripe targets for the next ad we see. Urge anyone who wants science based info to look at the World Health Organization site. Knowledge is power.

  3. littlem Says:

    “If you get thin as a result of your ED recovery, screw you and your little dog too.”

    Well, it’s not like I haven’t heard that. From SA activists, that is. So I certainly appreciate what you said that followed it.

    And I think staying on message about that would be very much appreciated, particularly given the fact that “thin” is always relative. (It – the “staying on message” thing – seems to work pretty well for the folks that hire Roger Ailes.)

    “every eating disorder begins with a diet”

    Anecdatally, in this culture, I’ve never observed one that didn’t.

  4. Cara Says:

    I’m working through BED that I’ve had since adolescence, and rather than feeling unwelcome or antagonised by FA / SA, I feel supported. And here’s why.

    At times in my life where I *wasn’t* eating in a disordered fashion (either through eating waaaay past comfort for non-hunger related reasons or through restricting waaaay past comfort for diet reasons), my body weight was roughly 225. I felt strong, healthy, and – paradoxically – ashamed of being so ‘fat’.

    That shame isn’t the sole genesis of my eating disorder, but it sure goes a long way in promoting the cycle. HAES, FA / SA have alleviated that sense of shame and given me one less stick to beat myself with as I’m trying to get healthy, and get past a painful dysfunction.

    I’m not going to lie – I’m flat-out envious of people who HAVE mastered intuitive eating / love the gym appropriately but so far, I’ve never felt like those people want to hide me behind a (very large) wall someplace to somehow mask the fact that as well as there being a wide range of natural, healthy body weights, there are also people who are larger than their set point through an eating disorder. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times Kate Harding and others at Shapely Prose have mentioned that fact, and not in a snarky way.

    Hope this all makes sense – I’m badly undercaffinated. But in short version: YES to everything you said, here.

  5. pennylane Says:

    Thanks for writing this. The article was a little confusing for me because I found the fatosphere via ED sites and, of course, a number of people in the FA movement have/are recovering from EDs. I think it is a complicated issue because so many assume that people who are fat–especially obese–are obviously binging or eating compulsively when that is rarely the case, or the overeating is the symptom of something else (the metabolic effects of dieting or anxiety/depression, etc.). It is important to distinguish between different populations but that is no reason to believe that all of these groups cannot co-exist peacefully, particularly since the primary message of FA is that people deserve dignity regardless of their body.

    Anyway, having had treatment for eating disorders I’ve never had gaining/losing weight as a measure of my recovery. It was always about changing behaviors. And FA seems to have a pretty consistent message that is not about the behavior of individuals but about a society that encourages self-destructive behaviors by rewarding some and punishing others based on purely aesthetic judgments. I know there may be some people who would not want to include those with eating disorders, or dieters, or those who have had gastric bypass or whatever but I would say those are in the minority and those discussions have been out in the open. I would not be troubled with this article overall if it had not so grossly misrepresented the majority of views expressed in the movement and if there were more representations of the FA movement out there. As it is, I feel like it opens the door for people like Amanda Marcotte to make statements like she did if only because there are so few representations of the movement in the media.

  6. Denise Says:

    Thanks for this, Meowser. I am fairly new to SA and am a Shapely Prose addict, so I was pretty taken aback when I read the article in Bitch. I was like, “Huh? But the SA folks seem so, well, accepting.” In fact, what I keep coming across in the Fatosphere is the idea that all human beings of all sizes deserve respect, regardless of how they got to the size they’re at. So I’m glad you’ve taken the time to respond to the Bitch article in such a kick-ass manner. And I hope you send this post to Bitch and that they publish it in their letters column!

  7. deeleigh Says:

    I would really love to see a link to someone, anyone, in the size acceptance movement who wants to exclude compulsive overeaters. I’ve seen people with EDs say that they “don’t feel welcome” in the movement, but the only reason for it that I can see is that EDs aren’t a universal experience. There are fat people who practice HAES and talk about it. There are people in FA who are willing to say “I don’t binge eat, and I never have.” Somehow, talking about having had a different experience is seen as exclusionary.

    Sometimes I think that deep down, some of the binge eaters think that the non-binge eaters are lying. It’s sort of a double stage two thing. First, an unsupported belief that because people with different experiences are out there talking about them, that those people won’t welcome their participation and viewpoints. Second (in some cases) a suspicion that all fat people have the same history of binge eating, and the ones who say “I have the same type of lifestyle as my health conscious thin friends” could not possibly be telling the truth.

  8. Lindsay Says:

    Meowzer, did you ever know that you’re my hero? You are SO the fucking wind beneath my wings.

  9. fillyjonk Says:

    Meowser, are you actively seeking publication in any way? Because I suggest you do. Not necessarily for this piece specifically, but in general.

    Also, you might be interested in Lesley’s post on this article at, which incidentally should maybe go on the feed, Fu, if you’re listening. (I’m so dependent on the feed that I rarely read anything that’s not on it, even good stuff.)

  10. Debra Says:

    I dunno, dude, if you read that passage as “if giving up dieting didn’t
    cure your bingeing, fuck you and the ice cream truck you rode in on, we’d rather
    see you choke to death on your 96th consecutive donut than get outside help for
    your BED because then you might lose weight and that would suck for us,” I think
    the priority purchase of a pair of non-shit-colored reading glasses might be in

    So incredibly funny, but also so sadly true that many people hear this. Thank you for writing such a wonderful riposte to an article that by all accounts was high on sensationalism and low on research.

  11. Heather AKA Epiphany Alone Says:

    I found your post very vindicating – thank you. As a shapeling still struggling with her BED, I can’t tell you how good it feels to hear someone say just because you’re not losing weight doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

    I would hope that SA would still love and accept me if I wasn’t 183 lbs and a size 16.

  12. Thorn Says:

    Thank you so much for this.

    I am also relatively new to FA/SA, and was really perplexed by this article in Bitch. As Denise mentioned, I was so puzzled by it, simply because it is such an enormous departure from my own experience with the FA/SA community.

    Thank you so much for this analysis, and for the reminder about Bitch’s letters policy. I think I will take a few moments out to write them about that article.

  13. Bitch Article Redux. « A Flight of Ideas Says:

    […] I want to say thanks to Meowser and Fat Fu for the blog that responds to the recent article in Bitch Magazine about people with eating disorders not being […]

  14. Ro Says:

    I am new to the truly active FA/SA movement, and come from a family with a long history of dieting and fat guilt. I am also a third generation nurse. When I was a teenager I blew out my metabolism with fad diets that escalated into anorexia, which finally culminated in a bleeding ulcer my Junior year of HS. I was still a “healthy looking” 140 when I was forced to stop starving myself.

    My metabolism never recovered from it; I still forget to eat or skip meals, particularly if I am busy, distracted or depressed, and I have some sort of undiagnosed metabolic syndrome because of it, weighing in generally about 325. I’m trying to be a good soldier and eat regular balanced meals. Through the years I have never lost more than about 10# from anything, and healthy eating with exercise just firms me up and my body snuggles down into the same weight range. Apparently, this is who I am.

    If it weren’t for the prejudice, particularly as I face it from others in the healthcare community and my own doctors, I think I’d be fine. The hassle is the constant drone of “we’re only concerned about your health” that comes at you from all sides. Dammit, I’m a nurse. I’d know if I was abusing my body, and I’m not… anymore. Not since I quit dieting.

    This article brings up the smelly rumors from the populus that there are fat lovers who force feed their paramours, or encourage the BED in order to keep them fat. I’ve heard of this, but can’t imagine it would be any but a very sick and minor population, some sort of D/s relationship with food involved. Nor can I imagine, after meeting some of the wonderful people “in the movement” and cruising the sites all these years, that anyone would reject a person for losing weight. That’s preposterous. What they *might* be rejected for would be developing a prejudicial attitude, that “born again” miasma that follows the nonsmoker and the newly proselytized MLM member.

    Personally, I don’t care if someone gets thin. I just hope they don’t think themselves morally superior for it.

  15. JeanC Says:

    As someone who has been involved in the online SA/FA community since the Goddess knows when, I can say I have NEVER run into anyone being unaccepting of people with eating disorders.

  16. Deb Burgard Says:

    Hello, you wonderful folks,

    Thanks so much for your insightful take on the “Big Trouble” article. Lily-Rhyg Glen and I spent over an hour talking on the phone for this article, and I tried to give her plenty of examples of the work done within HAES and FA/SA to address the eating disorder issue. She seemed more hopeful. She then sent me (in advance) just the final paragraphs mentioning me (which remained the same in the published article). I wrote to her that I didn’t feel it was at all accurate to portray me as “finally” allowed to say something, or to portray my “stereotype management” workshop as addressing the alleged defensiveness of fat activists toward people with eating disorders. I repeated that eating disorders have been addressed from the beginning of the movement, that I have been honored that my voice has been appreciated all along, and that whatever is happening for her seems to be a still-mysterious dynamic that I really wish she would be make more explicit. I told her that I didn’t want her to use quotes from me that would support distortions. But she has not responded since then.

    In spite of the frustration over the process of the article, I think what we have seen in the reaction to it is that we are open to the general concern that there are ways our message is construed in some way that could discourage people. In my neck of the woods, we have been talking about “poster child syndrome” for awhile now, which comes up when people feel pressure to disprove the fat stereotype. Every time someone gets diagnosed with a supposedly fat-related ailment, or compares herself to the “fat people don’t eat differently from thin people” argument and thinks, “but I do eat more than my thin friends,” there is a double shame of being a “loser” in the eyes of the conventional culture, and being a poor exemplar of HAES too. This does not serve anyone, of course.

    I think the idea of a blog where people would discuss the issues is fantastic, and since I am more of the listserv generation, I can also suggest starting a Yahoo Group something like, “Poster Child Blues” or ?? whatever seems catchy. Let me know what y’all think. I think we should just get on with the process of doing something constructive – people have spent a lot of hours trying to decode the angst in the article, and we may never have any concrete answers. Maybe it can just serve the purpose of jumpstarting some more explicit outreach to people who don’t know we consider them members of the family too.

  17. Robin Says:

    I am brand spankin’ new to the FA movement, and I have no real knowledge of ED’s other than my own experiences. I did want to express something, though, my ED didn’t start as a diet, so much as depression. In high school, I had what I thought was extra weight, I was 5’0″ and weighed 125, which, because I saw all my friends around me who were taller and weighed less, I considred myself gargantuan. But I refused to diet. I danced, instead. Then, in my senior year, I became extremely depressed and stopped eating. And I lost weight for the first time in my life, at my most saddest and pathetic, I weighed 106, could fit into a size 6 (I wore a 9/10 most of HS) and I was amazed. And I liked the attention. But I was depressed and sad. Fast forward 2 years later and I had gained the weight back as my depression ebbed. Not because I was binge eating, but because I started eating again. Then I got pregnant and I ballooned up to 190. I was put on my first diet by my doctor after my first pregnancy. And I got pregnant again…. balooned up again. My marriage broke up, I got depressd. Stopped eating… and went down to 150. Remarried, got out of depression, started eating, went up to 230. Then I learned of the Atkins diet and lost weight again (but mostly because I didn’t eat, not because of the lack of carbs, I pretty much new that not eating was the only way I was going to lose weight by this time) went down to 175. THEN, I got pregnant and gained all of the weight I’d lost on that crappy diet and then some. I nursed for 13 months and still didn’t lose weight like they say you can… I now fluctuate between 250 and 275. Do I binge eat? No. I couldn’t if I tried. But I do stop eating.

    So, although I have dieted once or twice, my DE did not start with a diet. It started with depression and the “cure” I thought it gave me in my weight problem that I thought I had, but that I didn’t have, until I stopped eating.

    Just a perspective I wanted to give. Anecdotal at best and in no way is meant to dissuade anyone from believing that most ED’s start with a diet.

  18. Robin Says:

    LOL… I just reread that post and it made absolutely no sense!

    Just call me NEW at this and ignore my post. 🙂

  19. Shannon Says:

    I skimmed that article at the newsstand and was astonished. Is this person serious? I’m no journalist but that was incredibly shoddy “reporting”.

    I love this entry.

  20. kateharding Says:

    I love you for writing this. And I do not currently have the brain to say anything else, but I wanted you to know that.

  21. fatfu Says:

    Holy God, another AWESOME post, Meowser. And I’m so happy you’re countering this article so forcefully.

    When I first heard about fat acceptance it was incredibly hard for me to get past caricatures like this – which are every bit as as extravagant and pernicious as those made of feminism. I’m tickled you made the analogy. Because it’s just rich that an article in a feminist magazine would use the same tactics against f.a. with which feminism has for so long been maligned.

    Is the relationship between ED’s, fat and fat acceptance complex? Unbelievably. And yes, there are ideologies and ideologues to contend with as in any group. But there is no space I can think of that is so accommodating and open to diversity not just in body size, but in body image, eating and one’s relationship with food. I can’t think of another space where one can even start these same kinds of conversations – where the first priority isn’t assumed to be “how can we be thin?” or “how can we eat better?” or “how can we be normal?” or “how can we be fixed?” – but simply – how can we find the best way to live well – for ourselves? How can we find the best way to make decisions for ourselves, in a world that presumes to decide these issues for us?

    But while I think f.a. offers incredible blessings to someone dealing with an eating disorder, it’s not completely without problems. You’re going to run into people in f.a. who have spent their entire lives being told their eating must be disordered purely because of their size and who are working against those stereotypes. It’s a set-up for misunderstandings, friction and yes, serious insensitivity at times.

    Like you, I doubt that anybody ever was, would be or even could be “kicked out” of f.a. for talking about an eating disorder – in fact I’m pretty sure most people in f.a. would consider such a scenario a total catastrophe. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have felt that way to some people. I read the NAAFA quote like you do – I hear the “most” and “may” loud and clear. But maybe if I had an ED those paragraphs would still feel silencing, like I was being elided and ignored. And maybe that’s where some of this article is coming from.

    We do need to learn to use language that recognizes and speaks to people with eating disorders more explicitly. Not because I think there’s any “conspiracy” to silence people with ED’s. But to minimize misunderstandings and be more precise and overtly inclusive. I certainly have been guilty of making generalizations that neglect eating disorders. But I’ve also I’ve been called on it by people within f.a. each time.

  22. Meowser Says:

    Everyone, thank you so much!

    No worries, Robin, you made your point just fine the first time.

    And Deb, special thanks to you for giving us further insight into what went on during the interview process.

  23. bbwdating Says:

    Thank you meowser for posting this blog.

  24. Rachel Says:

    Meowser, you don’t post often, but when you do, it’s well worth the wait. I had heard rumblings about this piece before it went to print, and have been anticipating it since. As a journalist myself, I find it to be shoddy, irresponsible, and incompetent. Really, I had expected Bitch to have higher standards than this.

    If the writer had bothered to do any sort of research at all, she would have found sites like mine that focus almost exclusively on eating disorders and fat acceptance. Not once have I ever promoted any of the false and misleading ideas she writes of in her article and nor has any of the other popular sites I know of that address these issues.

    But then again, doing a simple Google search seems to be too arduous for this so-called “reporter.”

  25. Quick news hits » Says:

    […] that calls itself journalism published in this quarter’s Bitch magazine. Read Meowser’s thoughtful and highly critical analysis of the article “Big Trouble: Are eating disorders the lavender menace of the fat acceptance […]

  26. kdplaskon Says:

    Thank you for a considerate and rational analysis of this article. I support BA/SA/FA in my life and my relationships. I would be be classed as ‘normal’ sized at 145-150 and 5’6″. Twenty-five years ago, though, I was bulemic and during those years, I gained 40 pounds. The weight gain, of course, helped to create a self-sustaining loop that kept me in the binge/purge cycle for several years. When I sought help for and began recovering from my ED, I lost the weight I gained while suffering ED behavior.

    So, not only may someone who seeks help for BED or any ED lose weight, but I am proof that someone suffering a binge/purge ED may gain rather than lose weight. Once, my ED behavior stopped, my weight normalized. Except for a slight upward shift of 6-10 lbs. when I stopped smoking ten years ago, my weight has been stable now for 20+ years.

    My ED therapist back in the 80’s gave me several rules for eating, I’ve tried to follow them ever since.

    Eat only when you’re hungry
    Stop when you’re done
    Eat exactly what you want

    As well:
    It’s OK to be ED right now
    It’s OK to not be ED now and in the future

    The trick to all of it was to stop letting guilt about my ‘shameful’ ED behavior keep me participating in it. As well, I had to relearn what hunger, satisfaction and choice meant. I was then and remain a member of the Science Fiction community. During the 80s, many conventions held Fat, Feminism and Fandom panels on which I participated as Eating Disordered. Being public and open about my condition was a great help in recovering, because at the worst, I felt so ashamed of my behavior. Allowing myself to not only be ED, but to tell people that I was ED helped to free me from the boundaries my ED put on my life.

    Until recently, I had some issues about looking at the number on the scale, but since I started working out regularly that fear is passing. Knowing that I am in good physical condition allows me to let the number be a number. I was actually pleased to find that when I suddenly dropped 5-6 pounds last year, I was concerned and frightened. I began to make sure I was eating regularly as I forget to eat when I get busy, and I was working out a lot around then.

    In closing, I believe that it is important that people suffering from any form of ED be welcomed and encouraged to talk about their condition, how it affects their lives and the steps they are taking to recover a more normalized relationship to food. Some may lose weight, some may gain weight, but all will be healthier from treating food as the means to sustain their bodies and minds and not as an enemy to be battled.

  27. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    What do you mean, you can gain weight when you’re bulemic? Don’t you know that calories in/calories out means weight loss for everyone? It’s as simple as that.*

    Seriously, though, I’m happy you overcame your bulemia; that must be one horrible thing to go through.

    *Results not typical.

  28. Rachel Says:

    I think this article also brings up another fallacy many have: that if they just contain and control their eating disorder, they’ll naturally lose weight and become thin. It doesn’t always work that way. I actually gained weight after I went into recovery from my eating disorder and it wasn’t from shoveling Twinkies down my mouth. I eat healthy foods and am at a healthy weight – for once in my life. That healthy weight just so happens to be fat.

  29. peggynature Says:

    Just to clarify: when you mention IE (as in Intuitive Eating), is this basically synonymous with demand feeding, ala Hirschmann and Munter? I know there are several approaches out there, some more structured than others.

    I, personally, had more luck with a more structured approach to eating than flat-out demand feeding — and I also find that sometimes people in fat acceptance don’t want to hear that, because anything smacking of ‘structure’ is immediately interpreted as ‘diet’ (and registered dietitians are all evil Jenny Craig spawns, naturally.) I take issue with this reaction because I am a fat person who is also a nutrition student working in clinical nutrition, with an eye to becoming a registered dietitian — and the way I recovered from a bad dieting attempt and the reactive overeating it produced (even five years out from the diet, incidentally) was to see a RD trained in Ellyn Satter’s methods (“Treating the Dieting Casualty.”) Sometimes I feel a bit unwelcome.

    Anyhow, it’s true: there is a dearth of conclusive knowledge about eating disorders out there, especially BED. And the treatments that do exist, do not seem to work for enough people.

    I always have felt rather at home with the eating disorders movement, as a fat acceptance advocate, because we often share the same size-neutral, HAES philosophies, and the belief that objectifying women and parsing up bodies into status symbols is harmful to society. I think that to purposely exclude eating disordered people, and discussion about eating disorders, from our movement would be folly.

    It’s true that some people in fat acceptance (and I would probably think of these people as inexperienced or misguided) might have a visceral reaction against being lumped in with eating disorders. But I certainly don’t feel that way, and I don’t think the majority of us do.

  30. Meowser Says:

    Peggynature, I had in mind more the Munter/Roth/Orbach approach to “demand feeding,” but certainly there are multiple kinds. Like I said, there’s nothing that’s going to work for everyone, and if you have an approach that works for you that’s different from mine, great.

    Since “not compulsively overeating” is conflated in so many people’s minds with “sticking to a restrictive weightloss regime and agreeing to be constantly hungry,” and therefore all fat people are presumed by many to be ipso facto “compulsive overeaters” (when our behavior would not be considered “compulsive” at all in a thin person), I can understand a certain amount of hostility to the idea of “fat=eating disordered.” That’s true only inasfar as almost every woman in this culture is encouraged to practice disordered eating to a certain degree and it’s almost impossible to grow up female in the West and not think your appetites are shameful and bad, and doubly so if you’re outside the cultural body ideal.

    But no, I would never say that if you felt better “structuring” your eating in some way, “you’re not one of us.” Look, as we age, the more likely it is that most of us will eventually have some kind of medically-related food restriction, fat or not, and that can take multiple forms. (I’ll probably do a post about this eventually.) So I’m not prepared to say that only people who eat whatever they want, whenever they want, and don’t have any restrictions are “legit” — that would make me look pretty stupid if I had to have my gallbladder out and had to restrict fatty food afterwards, for example.

  31. Rio Iriri Says:

    Where’ve ya been? RITE MOAR DAMMIT! 🙂

  32. Meowser Says:

    Rio, did you catch my guest post on Shakesville a couple of days ago about the (now blissfully defunct) Mississippi no-fatties-in-restaurants bill? I didn’t cross post it here because it was something Liss specifically requested I write about, but here’s linky if you’re interested.

  33. Strength in numbers » Says:

    […] In a recent Bitch magazine article, Lily Rygh-Glen claims eating disorders to be the “lavender menace” of the fat acceptance movement. Her contention is that those in the fat acceptance movement feel threatened by people with binge-eating disorders, because if these people give up those binges, they’ll naturally lose weight and make the rest of us look bad. For a good deconstruction of this poorly written article, see Meowser’s take on it. […]

  34. Stacy Says:

    The article is up for comment at bitch magazine – I’d love to see some posts there to counter it!

  35. vesta44 Says:

    I posted a comment after reading the article. I can see some of her points, but like I said there, I haven’t seen anyone excluded from FA because of an eating disorder. I know there are probably some FA activists who don’t want to acknowledge that fat people have EDs. Their reasoning probably goes along the line of “Give the fat haters confirmation that all fat people binge”, because you know the fat haters are going to take it that if one fat person binges, then we all do, that’s why we’re fat. Talk about willful ignorance/stupidity/bigotry. Ignoring EDs and/or sweeping them under the rug doesn’t advance anything and sure isn’t helping anyone with an ED think about getting help for it. We need to talk about it, and from what I’ve been reading on quite a few blogs, we are talking about it. This is good, the article was bad, in so many ways, as Meowser said.

  36. m Says:

    I’m really sad to read that Bitch one of my fave magazines even if I find it hard to get copies here in the UK has printed this misguided article. Can I just chime in that not all intutive eating progammes are the same Overcoming Overeating by Hirshamann and Munter is quite different from Geneen Roth having a strong feminist basis. Orbach despite being ‘feminist’ harbours in my opinion a strong anti fat bias.

  37. lovemeformexox Says:

    I’m sorry for being totally off topic, but I was just wondering if you could add my site ( to the fatosphere feed? Sorry for asking in a comment here, but I wasn’t sure how else to ask ^^;. Thank you 🙂

  38. J Watson Says:

    My eating disorder did not start with a diet. One day 20 years ago I started stuffing myself with junk food and I couldn’t stop. I got so disgusted with myself that I went to the bathroom and threw it all up.

    I gain weight when I’m feeling depressed because I medicate myself with a lot of food. When things in my life are going well my weight seems to stabilize. I appreciate all of the blogs in the fatosphere because they lead me to information on BED and now I’m getting help for it.

  39. X Says:

    In response to your comment that Glen bases her thesis on “The testimonials of two pseudonymous friends (who could just as well have been invented by Glen out of whole cloth)…”

    I know Lily personally, and what’s hilarious is that at least one of the two subjects of the article actually IS somewhat fabricated! Lily recently changed her name from Susan, and I am completely positive that the Susan in the article is actually her former self. Their stories are identical. “Susan’s” is really just Lily, and her deceptive journalism is so transparent it’s laughable. Here is someone with a personal vendetta and I’m amazed that Bitch couldn’t see that.

  40. yep Says:

    Ditto what X said. It was shocking to me that she didn’t even bother to change her own name in the context of her fabrication. Sketchy.

  41. Says:

    i think you are right Yep

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: