Sam Dylan Finch 🍓 @samdylanfinch Mental health & chronic conditions @Healthline. 🌱 Very earnest, very gay nerd. 🌈♿ Apr. 09, 2019 5 min read

"Personal wellness habits." Right! One meal per weekday, not eating on the weekends... 🤔

We need to talk about the ways in which content like this glamorizes disordered eating.

Let's unpack this, with a little help from our friends at @Healthline. 🧵 

Some personal context: I am, in simple terms, a queer man with anorexia. Despite battling with an eating disorder for over 15 years, I wasn't diagnosed until age 27.

Articles like these are exactly why it took so long.

Our culture does a bang-up job of normalizing disordered eating and repackaging it as "wellness." Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illnesses, and the fact that they can so seamlessly masquerade as "health" makes them even more dangerous.

There are a variety of EDs, but some of the unifying features include restricting food intake, purging behaviors (which can include overexercising), and an obsession with food and/or one's body. 💡 

If that sounds sort of murky, that's because it is sometimes. The truth is, most of us have engaged in disordered eating at some point in our lives, simply because restricting (diets), purging (detox teas or laxatives, anyone?), and excessive fitness are so often encouraged.

I'm not a clinician, so I can't diagnose Jack Dorsey. But what I do see, as someone with anorexia and as someone who works in public health? So. Many. Red. Flags.

For one, there are claims in this article that what Jack is doing is "fasting." But that's not what this is. This is starvation.

Fasting, if we're talking about it from a health "benefits" standpoint (which is controversial enough), is supposed to be very short-term, balanced out by days in which you increase intake, involve MILD exercise (it's not safe), and requires a LOT of supplements.

It's something that a medical professional should be overseeing very closely, with a definitive start and end point. Because it's DANGEROUS. And even then, fasting is risky and questionable behavior.

That's not what Jack is doing. This is daily, indefinite restriction and starvation. He still exercises regularly (and it's not mild). He isn't supplementing properly at all, it's unsupervised. The benefits touted in this article? Weight loss and "increased focus."

Part of the reason why this behavior is applauded, beyond diet culture being rubbish, is that Jack is a man. He doesn't fit the typical image of what we imagine EDs to look like.

@fyeahmfabello did a fabulous @healthline piece breaking down stereotypes: 

The reality is, prolonged starvation accompanied by exercise (as well as tactics to distract from hunger cues, like ice baths and saunas) is not health. It's not wellness. There are no benefits. None. No matter what that article claims or what Jack does? It's dangerous.

When I descended into my anorexia, I was applauded, too. My "self-control" was considered admirable. My one meal per day was "disciplined." Everything I did to starve myself was socially-sanctioned and encouraged.

For over a decade, no one knew I was sick. And this is common for disordered eating, because it can disguise itself as "healthy eating."

@brittanyladin did an incredible article on how her orthorexia was invisible to those around her for that reason: 

The reality is, it doesn't matter how successful someone is. It doesn't matter what buzzwords — "clean," "fast," "stoicism," whatever — you're using.

Jack appeared on a weight loss podcast to promote starvation. And @CNBC presented it as "wellness."

Jack is not a dietician. He's not a nutritionist. He's not an expert of any kind. And pointing to prolonged restriction and suggesting it's key to his success, and not a red flag that presents exactly like an eating disorder? Is grossly irresponsible.

People die from restriction like this. They get dizzy and fall, sustaining injuries, some of which can be fatal. They become malnourished. They agitate other mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Food is our fuel. Restriction is NOT WELLNESS.

And it's SO common for successful, driven, perfectionistic folks to develop eating disorders! It's a way of exercising control. It's a way of numbing out when there's excessive pressure and demands placed on you.

As a coping tool? It makes sense. But that doesn't mean it's safe.

A lot of folks will look at this and say, "Well, who's to say he won't change his diet up and eat again?" That's the thing — eating disorders are inflexible and damaging.

It disrupts hunger cues, impacts brain matter and circuitry. Recovery is HARD. 

Brains are malleable! Restricting over indefinite periods alters your brain, strengthening the hold that disordered patterns like these can have over a person.

It's not as simple as "you can stop whenever you want." And even so, your body will then have to repair itself.

Packaging starvation up as "wellness" and as aspirational is deadly. It's self-harm that we've assigned a moralistic value to, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it's still self-harm.

What I want to know is if the folks at @CNBC would tell their loved ones to stop eating on the weekends, cut down to one "meal" (if that) per weekday, walk to work, take ice baths, and REMAIN STANDING at work all day... for their "health." With no concern whatsoever.

Because somehow I doubt that would get an enthusiastic, unquestioning endorsement, rather than a gut feeling of "hm, is that safe?" I know diet culture is a hell of a drug, but STILL. How does that sound remotely safe? How do you justify calling that WELLNESS?

Jack is in his process. I don't know him personally, so I can't speak to his journey specifically. But I can say that, as someone who works in health media and is in recovery from a deadly eating disorder, normalizing restriction like this is why EDs are pervasive and invisible.

It's all the more insidious because Jack is a man. Men absolutely do live with eating disorders, and they're even less recognizable because this kind of "stoicism" is expected from men. The numbness, restraint, control — most won't recognize it as anything but ambition.

But when we applaud these disordered behaviors, the impact is undeniable. We are enabling and endorsing disordered eating. And when media platforms do so? They legitimize it further. And they proliferate the myths and misunderstandings that allow EDs to masquerade as "health."

And whether or not he "looks sick" (I certainly didn't — still have anorexia), whether or not he "seems fine"? It doesn't change the fact that what is being described is dangerous, and if true, is doing serious harm to his body that NO ONE should be encouraging.

And calling them "wellness hacks"?

Spare me.

So for the love of all that is good, if you're going to publish about someone's "diet"? It had better be an honest account of ALL the risks involved. It better not be disordered eating wrapped up in a shiny, fashionable, aspirational package.

Be honest. Or don't publish at all.

You can follow @samdylanfinch.


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