The Issue With Making Rihanna’s Weight Gain 'Newsworthy'


In the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around Rihanna’s seemingly newsworthy change in weight.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

But why is Rihanna’s weight – or anyone’s for that matter – the subject of a news story? How is that news? As someone in recovery for an eating disorder and a positive body image advocate, it concerns me — more than outrages me — that we still see an individual’s weight as newsworthy. Although some sites may think they have “good intentions,” it’s still sending a subliminal message to the people looking at these popular news websites.

Something important in ED recovery is diminishing and hopefully eliminating the role that weight plays in determining one’s self-worth. On my better days, I would say my body shape and the number on the scale does not say anything about how worthy I am of being loved or a measurement of my success, and really is no reflection of who I am as a person. I have worked hard to untangle the thoughts and feelings that have led me to tell myself I am only valuable if I look or eat a certain way, and headlines like these stir up the part in me that says, “I should be ashamed of myself if I gain weight.”

Many people in recovery from eating disorders can also become hyperaware of their weight, or create unlikely scenarios of what others may be thinking about their body. They may follow through on recovery-oriented actions, but still worry if others are judging them for the space they take up and the food that goes in their mouths. The reality is, most people are not paying attention to what you are eating or how your body looks because they are concerned about those things in regards to themselves. On the contrary, many of the comments I’ve received about the food I eat are more typically, “Wow, I wish I could eat X like you.” And the best response I have is, ‘There’s really no reason you can’t.”

However, headlines like these raise the volume on those voices in my head that tell me people really are looking at what I’m eating, what I weigh and if I look bigger or smaller. That my weight and overall appearance means more to them than who I am as a person. The connotations of the language used in these headlines paint weight gain as something to be ashamed of. The articles speculate that she “let herself go” when in reality, bodies fluctuate, peoples’ lifestyle changes and we are constantly changing inside and outside as human beings and nobody — even someone who is a celebrity like Rihanna — should be subjected to that kind of talk. Weight gain is never shameful.

Whether a person has an eating disorder or not, this message is an awful one to send. If people feel the need to report on her weight gain, I wish the headlines would read, “All Bodies Change, Look at Rihanna. It’s Normal.” Or, “Is Rihanna Going to Make Weight Fluctuation Normal?” or “Rihanna’s Change in Weight Proves That All Bodies Are Ever-Changing.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Lead image via Rihanna’s Facebook page 

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Breaking Up With My Scale During Eating Disorder Recovery


Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Hey Scale,

I refuse to start this letter with the traditional “dear,” because you are not dear to me any longer. The truth is, regardless of what I thought sometimes, you were never really dear to me. You were like words of approval from an abuser to a victim, because that is what you were — a tool my abuser, my eating disorder, used to manipulate me.

I thought the information you were giving me was not only reassurance I was fine, but a gold star saying I was doing great. You were like the sticker chart my parents used to get me to do chores, except instead of a chore completed it was a pound lost. It is symbolic, really.

You are sneaky, Scale, because you were a tool this disease used to manipulate me. What I know now is the lies you and my eating disorder both fed me could have killed me. Those lies blinded me to the reality I was getting sicker by the day and ever more entangled in the web this monster weaves.

You, Scale, are not a living thing. You have no brain or consciences or soul. You are pieces of metal and plastic, so I find it hard to be mad at you when the truth is I am the one who gave you all the power. But that is over. This is it. I’m taking my power back and I will find other ways of measuring my self-worth. Real ways of measuring the life in each day. Gone are your days of counting in pounds, in bones and in clothing sizes. I see the tricks. I can hear the lies, so your time of controlling my life is done and now we say goodbye.

Now is my time of embracing love, vulnerability and healing.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Pixabay photo via StillWorksImagery

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How My Partner and I Got Through an Unexpected Relapse in My Eating Disorder Recovery


Its no secret that eating disorders have the potential to make relationships that much more challenging. Unfortunately, there are even times when they sabotage the relationship completely.

Recovery is something I never thought would be part of my life, being that I have struggled with this illness for 12 years. However, recovery is now an active part of my life and I now have a voice that combats my eating disorder. Finding the motivation to start my recovery was probably the hardest thing out of all of this. I felt like I had no reason to live, no reason to get better, and no reason to stop any of my behaviors. Even though I knew I was hurting myself, I lived in a state of denial.

Then one day, I met an amazing man. He was my best friend for years and was always there for me when I couldn’t be there for myself. He saw all of the good in me that I was unable to see. He loved me when I didn’t love myself or think I deserved love. He became my motivation. He became my reason to get better and get rid of this eating disorder once and for all. Eventually, my motivation grew towards doing it for me. I believe in the beginning, any motivation is a good motivation. I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but his belief in me gave me hope.

Hope is what got me through recovery. I had hope for a future for the first time in my life.

And then I relapsed. And then it felt like all my hope went out the window. My boyfriend and I started fighting because of course he was worried and hurt that I had taken a step backwards. He had lost hope as well. What were we to do?

I knew what I needed to do, even though I was scared. I soon realized my hope was not gone. I knew this relapse was something I could learn from. Why? Because recovery is a journey. I knew that just like everything in life, you can’t learn unless you make mistakes somewhere along the road. I reminded myself I would be OK because I had done this before. I had gotten myself out of that dark place before, so of course I would be able to do it again. I had to bring out my confidence in myself again and remind myself of why I started this journey in the first place.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

I believe communication is so important in eating disorder recovery, for any relationship. If I didn’t tell my boyfriend I had relapsed, I would never had seen his reaction, and therefore may have not taken the situation so seriously. If I had never told him, he wouldn’t have been there to support me, continue to push and believe in me.

Relapse is not a bad thing and you should never punish yourself for it, and neither should your partner. Communicating your struggles and asking for help is the best thing you can do during recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Adriana Velasquez.

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What I Hear When You Say I'm Doing Well in My Eating Disorder Recovery


Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

I saw my psychiatrist this afternoon, and he said the dreaded words: “You’re doing well.”

I felt my heart skip a beat, my chest tightened, my stomach coiled in knots. No. No. No. No. No.

There is nothing harder for me to hear in recovery than hearing I am doing well. It doesn’t make sense, I know. Wouldn’t I want to be told I’m succeeding and making progress in recovery? The truth is, it feels awful because recovering from an eating disorder isn’t a victorious process. It is agonizingly painful and terrifying.

Every day, I second-guess the food I put into my body. I look in the mirror and mourn the body I once had. I regret the choice to recover. I feel the weight of my eating disorder’s lies pushing against me like the seat of a roller coaster. I can’t breathe, it feels so wrong.

My eating disorder is lying await in the shadows, and perks up when you mention my progress. It starts whispering in my ear, “You’re fat. You failed. Doing well means no one cares about you anymore. You’re disgusting. You need to stop eating. You need to lose weight.”

After giving into the voices for so long, it is hard for me to stop listening to them as I change my direction towards recovery. It feels… wrong, because I am going against every single thing I’ve ever known for the past seven years. The calorie counting, the restricting, the weighing, the lying, the exercising… that is “normal” to me. That is success.

This recovery stuff? It feels like failure because it means I’m choosing something other than the eating disorder. And there is a part of me that is terrified of giving up that part of my life.

So when people tell me I’m doing well, it hits me that I’m giving up my safety blanket: my eating disorder. I shake with the regret of ever letting myself gain the weight back, ever letting myself eat that Mexican dinner out with friends, ever letting myself stop the running and the hiding and the crying.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

Well, I still cry. It’s just for different reasons, now.

I run an Instagram account and regularly get messages saying I’m an inspiration, and I’m doing so well in my recovery. I wish I could read these things and feel proud. Instead, I just feel lost. I feel broken. My identity of starvation and weight loss is gone. My new identity is monumentally different, and that scares me beyond belief.

I want to be well, but I don’t want to feel the pain that is in the process of getting there. I crave recovery, but I crave my eating disorder too, and the battle is one I fight with all of the strength I have inside of me. The only reason I’m “doing well” is because I am putting myself through pain. People sometimes don’t realize that this doesn’t feel good, this recovery thing. It feels awful.

I trust that one day, I will hear I’m doing well and I will smile. Today, however, is not that day. All I can manage in this moment is to take a second to distance myself from the urges to just show him I’m not doing well, not doing well at all.

I don’t have to prove my eating disorder anymore. I don’t have to prove anything.

So I sit here at Panera, with my latte in hand, typing this story, so I don’t have to sit with the shame of this alone anymore. I write it out so I can get it out, so I can share my story, so I can touch another person, so we all realize we are never alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via jakkapan21

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The Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter as a Mom in Eating Disorder Recovery


My daughter is not even 2 years old. The things she cares about the most are her favorite kid’s show, “Goldie and Bear,” her Flintstone’s multivitamin and feeding her cat. She is happiest outside, will say hello to absolutely anyone (over and over and over again until she is acknowledged) and has a laugh that is the sweetest sound I have ever heard. While she currently has few cares in the world (except for when she is hungry), there will always be this voice in the back of my head, reminding me that while there are many other factors involved in mental illness, research supports that at the very least, there a genetic predisposition towards disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), depression, addiction, anorexia, bulimia, etc. The list goes on.

When I think about my own experiences with mental illness and my daughter in the same sentence, I get the breath knocked out of me. I would do absolutely anything to protect her from all of that and more. But the truth of the matter is, her DNA is half mine, therefore she may be more likely to develop one or more of the lovely labels doctors have given me. It terrifies me that someday, my baby might look in the mirror and hate, be ashamed of and punish the person looking back at her. I also know if someone had given my own parents a guide on “How to Prevent Your Daughter from Developing an Eating Disorder,” they would have followed it to the letter. Unfortunately, there is no such book, and it seems that the number of people struggling with eating disorders is increasing. I have met more and more women who are trapped in the “religion of thin,” enslaved to the voices in their heads, and slowly wasting away physically, mentally and emotionally.

I know I cannot prevent life from happening to my daughter. I cannot control her life any more than I can control my own. I cannot make all her decisions for her — especially later on — and I cannot filter every single thing she sees, hears, experiences, feels, etc. It’s just not possible. However, I want to know I did what I could to use my own experiences and knowledge to her advantage. I want to be diligent in teaching her she is not a body, she has a body. I want her to know that while she is absolutely beautiful, she is more than her appearance. I want her to know without a doubt in her mind that she is strong, capable, loved and never, ever alone. I want her to learn that it is OK to have emotions and to feel them, that thoughts and emotions are just thoughts and emotions.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

So how do I go about doing all that? Well, first I take a deep breath and remind myself I am human and am going to mess up. It is important, however, that when I do mess up, I talk to my daughter about it so that she knows making mistakes is not the end of the world, especially when we learn from them.

A therapist once said to me, “Falling is inevitable. It’s not ‘if I fall’, but ‘when I fall, how do I fall gracefully?’” Someone also once told me the first thing they teach stunt performers is how to fall. They have to learn how to fall so they do not seriously injure themselves. There is a good way to fall and a not so good way to fall.

Secondly, I have to be very aware of the things I say and the messages I communicate to my little girl. I have to think about what I am saying, how I am saying it and how it would be perceived by a child who takes everything I say as absolute truth (for the time being). This is probably one of the most difficult things as a parent to do, but in my opinion, one of the most important. If we are not intentional in the way we speak to our children, we will unintentionally and unknowingly cause damage that might take years to heal, if at all. I am going to tell you about the biggest example of words that both my husband and myself have been trying to use differently with our daughter.

These words came up one day when I was sorting through all her adorable little baby clothes, packing away what was in good condition, throwing away what was unrecognizable. She was watching me and pointing at the clothes, recognizing they were hers. Immediately, I went to comment back to her with, “You’re too big for these, Mia.” when suddenly it hit me. Why am I telling my child that she is too big for something? Why am I feeding her the very lie that spins in torturous fashion through my own head? You are too big. Now don’t get all defensive on me with, like “Oh, that means something different to little kids than to adults.” I understand this is very common terminology. I am not condemning anyone for saying it, and I will not be slapping anyone who says it to my child. I still slip and say it myself sometimes.

I just got this sinking feeling when I thought about it. When you put the “too” in front of the adjective, according to the dictionary, it means: “to a higher degree than is desirable, permissible, or possible; excessively.” So when we say something or someone is “too” anything, we are essentially saying it’s wrong. It doesn’t fit. It’s not right. Follow? So why in the world was I going to tell Mia the exact same thing my eating disorder tells me…that I am not right, that there is something not right about me, that I am too big.

The truth of the matter is, those clothes were too small for Mia. Her shoes get to be too small. Her bouncy seat became too small. The clothes and shoes and baby things, all the objects in this equation — those are the things that are not right. These things are no longer sufficient for my child to use. In this equation, the object is what needs to change. So, why do we say that the child is too big? The child is exactly the right size. The child’s size changes, but it is the size they are supposed to be. What becomes irrelevant, no longer sufficient, unneeded in the equation of why something doesn’t fit, is not the child. Do we expect the child to change their size to fit the toy or the clothes? No! The thing that we change is the clothing, the objects that are only functional for timely size and purpose. The clothes are dispensable. Not the child.

I know it seems silly and like I am overanalyzing one small little detail. I am very aware that just by telling Mia her clothes are too small for her when they do not fit her does not cure anything by any means. However, the point is, the message that kids hear from our mouths as adults and parents, can sound a lot different if that message is one that the child internalizes, holds onto and replays for themselves over and over and over again.

I want to continue to simply get to know my daughter. The better I know who she is the more easily I can spot who she is not. My friends and family knew something was wrong because I was not the person they knew when I was sick. Mental Illness is an illness of the mind. If someone is being a different person than they were yesterday, I believe there is a pretty darn good chance something changed in their mind. I want to be committed to getting to know my daughter, her strengths and weaknesses, her dreams and her fears, her likes and dislikes, all the things that make up Mia, so that if, God forbid, she starts to struggle, I will see it sooner rather than later. Early detection saves lives. Believe me.

So, just to wrap it up here and summarize.

Know you’re not perfect and make sure your kids know that too. Know that the words you speak to kids are not necessarily heard exactly as they are spoken. Choose your words thoughtfully and wisely. And really, remember what matters and what doesn’t. The person matters more than the object, so communicate that. Your child is exactly as they are meant to be, so communicate that. Get to know your kids. They’re people too. They want someone to talk to, someone to trust, someone to count on… you know, a relationship? But just like you have to be intentional in romantic relationships and friendships (they take work people!), you have to take the time to put the effort into loving and knowing your kids. And simply knowing your kids, goes a long way.

Again, I just want to emphasize that while my husband and I are trying very hard to be intentional about avoiding the phrase “too big,” or comments about size really in general, I am by no means judging anyone who chooses to speak that way, or condemn anyone who speaks to my daughter that way. It is my responsibility as her parent, however, to look at the little things I can do to put her at an advantage against a disease that tries to tell people they are the problem. I can tell her every day that while there will be many different voices in her life that say she is too big, too small, too slow, too emotional, too much of whatever it is, that she is not too much or too little of anything. The truth is, she is good enough just as she is.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Tanja Heffner.

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The Moment I Realized the Number on the Scale Was Meaningless to Me


In her book, “Life Without Ed,” Jenni Schaefer shares a personification of her eating disorder, whom she aptly names, “Ed.” She compares Ed’s tendencies to those of an abusive ex or someone of the sort. I found it so eye-opening and relatable that I shared it with two school counselors and a psychiatrist. I even bought a copy for my parents. Schafer’s book changed my perspective on my eating disorder and helped me greatly in making progress towards recovery — for a time.

Eventually, I ditched the book. I pride myself on my organization, but I’ll admit it got lost among a deep sea of textbooks and research articles. I became increasingly engaged with graduating and transitioning to Indiana, and slowly, unconsciously, turned back to my Ed. I allowed him the power to guide my thoughts and my self-hatred once again.

However, there’s one part of my recovery to which I was always loyal. I stayed far from a weighing scale once I became committed to getting better. Sometimes I tried to find excuses to get out of counseling sessions, and often avoided the food diary I was supposed to keep — but I never weighed myself. I had multiple opportunities, too. There are scales at the gym, in the student health center and I even had one at home for a while until I gave it to a friend when it began to exacerbate my unhealthy habits.

Any time I needed to report how much I weighed, I became increasingly prouder to say I had no idea. I went two years without having a clue as to what that number might be. That ended a couple of weeks ago during, what I am happy to report was, one of the most fun trips I took in 2017.

A group of friends and I decided to try zip lining in a cavern. It was incredible. There were various sections and lines, one of which led directly into “Hell” (the ground was decorated with fake burning coal and paper fires) and it was almost always too dark to see the next platform. Our tour guides were hilarious and one of our fellow zippers made some of the funniest anti-University of Kentucky basketball jokes I’ve ever heard. I guess it helped that we were in Louisville.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

It’s not weird to think that I almost missed out on all of this. I’ve been in plenty of situations when my self-hate and constant comparisons have taken me out of a situation mentally and left me feeling empty and detached. I have cried during my own birthday dinners, turned down hiking and rafting invitations I really wanted to accept and felt void of emotion in a group of my closest friends. I know my anxiety is not my fault, but I am starting to see the ways in which I react to it are my responsibility and are under my control, to an extent.

Rewind one hour and we had just arrived at the zip lining facility. We signed waivers, showed our IDs and spent five dollars trying to figure out a locker that was only supposed to cost us 50 cents.

Then, we were weighed.

Upon the employee’s request, I stepped on a scale for the first time in years, but was relieved to find I couldn’t see the number. She wrote it down on a paper hidden from my view, and then moved on to the next member of our group. The problem came when she realized that she was missing a signature. She called my friend over and as she presented the paper to be signed, I saw a row of numbers scrawled across the top. I couldn’t help myself — I searched for mine.

I found it. And I was disappointed.

It was not the number I wanted to see. I waited for the feelings of failure to come.

I was shocked I didn’t feel those things.

I went to the bathroom to collect my thoughts and found myself able to see the number in my head and then simply — let it go. No, I didn’t forget it. I know it now and am still a bit resentful at the fact that I gained so much of the weight back. But in the past, this would have derailed my entire day. The 6 a.m. wake up time. The two hour drive to Louisville. It would all have been for nothing.

This experience helped me realize I hadn’t been approaching the number on the scale in the best way for my recovery. I wasn’t free of the hold the scale had on me, I was simply avoiding it. I’d quickly avert my gaze anytime I saw a weighing machine and, even now, they make me uncomfortable. Maybe they will for some time longer. But what has been most freeing is finally coming face to face with the number and seeing it for what it truly is: meaningless.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Achmad Nur Imansyah.

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