By Julia Gumm
On April 24th, Penn State student Torri Singer began a petition on Change.org to “restrict use of thinspiration language and hashtags circulating the twittersphere.” If you are blessed enough to not know what thinspiration (also known as “thinspo”) is, let me fill you in. Thinspo is an assortment of tips, tricks, diaries and photos all geared to inspire the reader to forgo eating like a normal human being in favor of attaining anorexic-style slimness. Many online thinspiration presences are blatant in their pro-disordered attitudes (known as pro-ana (anorexia) or pro-mia (bulimia) to those in the know). More alarming though, is the thinspiration that poses as reasonable weight loss advice, but is nothing more than an how-to on starvation and image-obsessed behavior.
While I applaud the intentions of folks like Ms. Singer who seek to end the acceptance that thinspo has found online, I think it’s useful to recall the wise words of Richard Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” In that spirit, I thought I’d try a fun little exercise. I looked up some of the most ridiculous thinspo tips I could find, and decided to rewrite them. I used the same guilt tactics, but with healthy eating and body image as the goal I’m gonna shame these suckers into. (Warning: If you suffer from an eating disorder, the following statements may be triggering.)
1.) “When you get hungry, think of all the people who made fun of you in high school.”
Hey, you know that guy who made fun of you in high school for being chubby? Looks like 11th grade was his peak, because now he’s balding and growing a beer gut. He was a jackass then and a jackass now, and if you’re not having lunch today because of some jackass from high school who probably doesn’t even remember your name, welp, you’re verging on jackass yourself. Chow down, friend. Here, have a cookie.
2.) “Starve off the parts you don’t need. They’re ugly and drag you down.”
Crash dieting, limited calories and starvation might seem like great ways to slim down your thighs, but alas, the body is not so selective. When you don’t feed yourself enough, you will eventually digest your own organs like the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. And guess what kid, you need them. Here, have a cookie.
3.) “Use volumizing shampoos and conditioners to hide hair loss”
Hair and nail growth slow down a ton when there aren’t enough calories in the storehouse to keep ‘em healthy and strong. Nothing short of a wig is gonna help you there. Oh, I mean a wig or eating enough. Here, have a cookie.
4.) “Fat is dirty and hangs on your bones like a parasite”
This obsession you have with attaining a perfectly slim figure hangs on your life like a parasite. It is quite literally eating you alive. Here, have a cookie.
5.) “Thin people look good in any kind of clothes.”
6.) “You’ll be able to move as gracefully and skillfully as a spider.”
Uh, spiders are creepy. Who the hell wants to be like a spider? Here, have a cookie.
7.) “Brush your teeth constantly so you won’t be able to eat afterwards.”
Not only does restricted food intake leach the teeth and bones of vital minerals, but if you’re also drinking caffeine or barfing up your meals, your teeth are really about to hit the skids. You may think that brushing your teeth is a cunning way to deter yourself from eating, but in the weak state your chompers are already in, all that brushing can be too abrasive. You might as well hit the Polident sale at your local drugstore now, cuz you gon’ need it! Here, have a cookie.
8.) “Pick one food for the day, like an apple. Slice it into fours. That way you can have one piece for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner, with one leftover as a snack.”
Eat whatever you feel like all day, so long as you have breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack. Just a hint, you don’t actually feel like eating a single apple. I’m on to you. Here, have a cookie.
9.) “I want to be so light a helium balloon could carry me away and lift me into the clouds.”
Aspiring to be so slight that a tall wind could knock you over shows a serious lack of self-esteem. You were born to be here, you deserve to be here, be here. Stand your ground and claim some space for yourself. Don’t let yourself simply float away. Here, have a cookie.
When you don’t eat enough, your blood pressure drops, your circulation gets crappy and your nails thin out, which can lead to a ghastly bluish hue on your fingertips. The cure for this is a club sandwich. Or here, have a cookie.
11.) “Get as much fiber into your diet as you can, while cutting fat and calories.”
When on a reduced calorie diet, the metabolism slows down to a crawl, no matter how much green tea you’re pounding (I told you I was onto you). When your metabolism slows down, digestion slows down, so now food is traveling through your intestines at a snail’s pace, which can lead to constipation. A slow moving colon with a bunch of fiber added to it can cause even worse of a back up and may contribute to long-term digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome! Yay! So eating all that fat burning celery and all those low-cal veggies seems great on one level, but on another, you’re gonna mess up your GI tract something awful. But that’s ok, because between that and the dentures, you’re making great time towards destination geriatric land! Here, have a cookie.
12.) “Eat tissues or toilet paper to fill your stomach up instead of food. It’s what the runway models do.”
Perhaps we need to put instructions on packages of toilet paper, because there is an epidemic of very skinny people who are applying it to the wrong end of the GI tract. Experts think this may be due to impaired brain function caused by lack of proper nutrition. Here, have a cookie.
13.) “Like a plant, the body can be trained to exist on nothing.”
Plants make sugar from energy taken in by the sun. You are not an autotroph. You cannot do that. You have to eat to exist. Here, have a cookie.
There is nothing less attractive to truly sexy people than a person who can’t relax and enjoy a great meal. This one time I picked up a really hot guy in a bar because he was impressed that I was devouring a whole rack of ribs. Self-confidence is sexy, and confident people follow their appetites and enjoy themselves. Here, have a cookie.
15.) “When you are hungry, just think of how much better your life will be when you’re thin enough.”
An eating disorder, like many other obsessions, is a device employed by people who are dramatically unhappy with themselves and their lives. If they can stay focused on the goal of “finally” being thin, they can keep happiness off on the horizon, something they’re still working towards. It frees them from the real work of accepting themselves and enjoying life now. What they aren’t seeing is that being thin can’t make anyone truly happy. Once they discover that, they are likely to set the goal post deeper and deeper into more dangerous, extreme territory as a means of acquiring “perfection.” Here, have a cookie.
In all seriousness, if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, there is help available. Go to nationaleatingdisorders.org to find a support group or therapist near you. And don’t forget to have a cookie. And breakfast, lunch and dinner.