As women, it often feels like our attractiveness is the price we have to pay to occupy space and be socially acceptable. And in our culture, attractiveness is often synonymous with thinness, no matter the price. Yesterday during an emotional talk at SXSW, Kesha opened up about how an eating disorder nearly cost her her life–and yet, even at her sickest, was praised for her weight-loss.
“The sick thing is, I was starving, and people would say, ‘Wow, you look so great! You look fabulous! Keep doing what you’re doing!’ And little did they know, they were encouraging me to starve myself nearly to death. And that’s not OK,” Kesha said, according to Yahoo.
Like Kesha, I’ve also fought a serious eating disorder, and I must say that one of the most frustrating and vexing aspects of the whole experience has been anytime a person would praise my shrinking frame. Sure, from an outsider’s perspective, these types of comments may seem well-meaning based on how much we, as a society, value thinness and are trained to see weight loss of any kind as a wholly good, positive thing. But the truth is, we never know how or why a person loses weight, and it baffles me to understand why anyone would feel entitled to comment on it for any other reason other than pure concern because it can do more harm than good.
I don’t like to talk numbers because with eating disorders, weight is not always a reliable indicator of severity; weight changes are truly only a symptom of the disease. But at my lowest, I had lost a fourth of my body weight through extremely dangerous measures, and was very sick. Those close to me who knew what I was going through would continually express their concern over how ill I looked, while others, who had no idea, negatively reinforced my behaviors by complimenting my dramatic weight-loss. The message I was receiving was to keep doing what I was doing, even though it was at the expense of my health—and nearly my life.
“It can kill you. I almost died. I came very close—closer than I ever knew. By the time I got to rehab, they were surprised that I hadn’t had a stroke, because I wasn’t consuming enough of anything,” Kesha said. “I used to never want to talk about it. I was so embarrassed. It still hurts when I talk about it. But now I feel like I really want to talk about it, because I want to help people.”