Why Kim Kardashian’s Careless Anorexia Comment Matters
Body positivity activists and others are criticizing Kim Kardashian West for expressing joy at being called “anorexic” and “skinny” by her sisters, but was the reality star aware of the potentially negative impact of her remarks on those who struggle with eating disorders or could?
The controversial comments occurred during a series of Instagram story videos posted on Sunday between Kim, 37, and her sisters Khloe, 34, and Kendall Jenner, 22.
“I’m really concerned,” said Kendall. “I don’t think you’re eating. “You look so skinny.”
Kim then exclaims, “Oh, my God, thank you!”
“I’m down to 119 lbs,” the mom of three remarked, implying that the number was on the heavier side. “I will say when I take out my hair extensions I am less.”
“Your hair extensions, your a–, your tits, everything, they’re heavy, cause she’s f—— voluptuous,” Khloe said. “But she’s anorexic here [gestures to waist]. Her arms are like pin thin. They’re like my pinky.”
Throughout their exchanges, Kardashian West joyfully encourages her sister to keep the “compliments” coming. What she doesn’t know is that at least 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, and her reaction represents the body image issues that many face: they feel they are not skinny enough.
According to a report provided by Moju, 72 percent of Kardashian West’s followers are females, and 59 percent of those women are between the ages 13-24. The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that 90 percent of eating disorder cases involve women between the ages of 12 and 25.
While Kardashian West isn’t a parent to 59 percent of her followers, she is likely a role model to many of them. Social media intake plays a major role in self-esteem and body image, which can trigger or reinforce eating disorders. When stars like Kardashian West comment that looking like someone with an eating disorder is good thing, adolescents may think being unnaturally thin — 119 pounds, as she claims — is the ideal.
Eating disorders are not primarily about food; the problem lies deeper. According to Bulimia.com, “Young people often find themselves navigating a minefield of mixed social messages, unrealistic aspirations of physical perfection, and overwhelming economic, educational and family pressures.”
Eating disorders are a mental battle between you and your body. Food becomes the enemy and self-esteem plummets. Patients with anorexia experience a significant fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, and will severely restrict their calorie intake. They will constantly check themselves in mirrors and become intoxicated by numbers.
Anorexia and other eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Every 62 seconds a person dies from an eating disorder, and 1 in 5 women with anorexia die by suicide.
Kerrie McCue, a member of the eating disorder treatment community, has battled an eating disorder herself. “Eating disorders don’t discriminate,” McCue stresses. “Eating disorders are about the illusion of control– controlling food, body and pain.”
Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales both researched the relationship between time spent on Instagram and body image. The study examined 350 Australian and American women. The finding of the study revealed that even 30 minutes on the social media app can “make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance.”
According to eMarketer, 63 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds use Instagram daily, compared to 54 percent for Snapchat. It’s so easy for anyone, adults or adolescents, to get sucked into Instagram. Seeing tiny waisted, picture perfect women can be exhausting for anyone, but add in depression, anxiety and an eating disorder, and it is almost debilitating. When young people are continually consuming ‘thinspiration’s and ‘fitspo,’ the rhetoric sinks into their minds, driving the need to be skinny.
“We live in a disordered society, so disorder eating has become normalized,” said eating disorder dietician Bethany Wheeler. “A lot of behaviors that people engage in actually are disordered. We live in very weight-biased culture.”
Anorexia kills, and it doesn’t see color, race, gender or religion. When celebrities and other prominent people glamorize eating disorders or thinness, whether they realize it or not, young girls are listening.
Based on social media comments and feedback about Kardashian West’s remarks, she should know by now that her her statements were inappropriate or insensitive. Will she apologize or reframe her statement, clarifying her intention or meaning? To date, nothing more has been said.
Kim Kardashian being obsessed with her sisters telling her she’s so skinny she looks anorexic on her Instagram story makes me want to throw my phone into outer space
— Best Coast (@BestCoast) July 29, 2018
yo @KimKardashian “anorexic” isn’t a compliment. It’s a disease that ruins lives &kills. And btw “119lbs isn’t skinny” is a HORRIBLE message
— Celeste 🌞 (@CeleryNewsies) July 31, 2018
Writer for Hers Magazine. Poet. Lover of words. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.