Kim Kardashian West isn't necessarily the epitome body positivity and health (appetite suppressant lollipops, anyone?)— and now she's drawing criticism from fans for reacting in a positive way to comments that she's "really skinny" and looks "anorexic."
.@KimKardashian via Instagram Stories. pic.twitter.com/b9JnSGJIZwJuly 29, 2018
"I'm really concerned, I don't think you're eating," Kendall, told Kim. "You look so skinny," she added—to Kim's delight (she actually shrieked, saying "thank you").
.@KimKardashian via Instagram Stories. #2 pic.twitter.com/QoTcaKvfrsJuly 29, 2018
Khloe chimed in, too, saying, "I've never seen a human being look as good. You are a walking Face Tune doll." (FYI: Face Tune is a photo editing app.)
Kendall interrupted again, telling Kim her purse was as tiny as her. "Oh my god, the compliments!" exclaimed Kim, who later told her sisters that she's "not that skinny," saying she's down to 119 pounds (less with her hair extensions, she said).
.@KimKardashian via Instagram Stories. #7 pic.twitter.com/6x5eDyeURGJuly 29, 2018
Clearly, all of this talk is incredibly insensitive—and possibly even damaging to those who have or are currently struggling with body issues and eating disorders. And fans (er, former fans?) were quick to tell Kim exactly how hurtful her negative body talk was:
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 spaceJuly 29, 2018
Someone just messaged me & said to check out Kim Kardashian’s insta stories, I did & can’t get over what I’ve seen. Kim K has clearly lost weight & her sisters are saying she looks anorexic to which Kim replied “thank you” THANK YOU!!!! Are you serious? 🤬 Absolutely gobsmacked!July 30, 2018
.@KimKardashian: When I was told I looked anorexic, I WAS anorexic. I hated myself. I hated my body. Unfortunately and inexplicably, there are people who look up to and admire you. Please do better for them.July 30, 2018
"Compliments on weight loss can be and are often problematic," says Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). "We hear from many people—in fact most people who have struggled with eating disorders—have cited experiences where they have lost weight and been complimented, and this serves as fuel for their eating disorder. It’s tough in a culture where weight loss is lauded and there’s an assumption that weight loss is always a good thing."
Many people on social media referred to Kim's comments as "triggering"—and they're not wrong. According to NEDA, a "trigger" is "defined as something that sets off cravings in recovering individuals."
Those "triggers" can come in many forms, per NEDA, specifically while "recovering within a cultural climate of unhealthy attitudes towards food and exercise"—like hearing Kim's sister compliment her thinness, and her responding with joy.
"Another piece of this that’s concerning is the fact that the term 'anorexic' and the reference to anorexia [is used in a positive way]," says Mysko, who notes that
30 million Americans will struggle with eating disorders at some point in their lives. "It’s a serious, life-threatening illness. It has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis, so to frame it in the context of a compliment is really quite concerning."
Mysko says the fact that Kim mentioned a specific weight—particularly the fact that she seemed to use it as an argument that she isn't anorexic (and may even be on the heavier side)—is also worrisome.
"If you have any tendency toward eating disorders, seeing a number of, 'this is how much I weigh,' it triggers an idea that, 'Well, this is what this person has, so I’m going to try to get lower than that,' or, 'I'm not that sick because I’m not there.'"
Furthermore, you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder by knowing their weight alone.
"People of all sizes struggle with eating disorders," says Mysko. "There is a stereotypical picture of someone who’s extremely underweight, and some people get to that point. Most people who have eating disorders, you wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at them that they’re struggling. So the idea of [Kim] using a number as a justification that she doesn't have an eating disorder—I’m certainly not implying that she has an eating disorder, but it’s a problematic claim."
Of course, Kim isn't the only person to use language that is potentially triggering. While she, Khloe, and Kendall's conversation is extreme—especially because they use the term "anorexic"—problematic language is basically impossible to avoid (and sometimes you might even find yourself using this type of language without even realizing it because it's become so normal).
"We’re so used to saying, 'Oh, I’ve been so good this week,' or, 'Oh, I shouldn’t have this much sugar,'" says Mysko. "That’s actually what I found to be very encouraging about the pushback on this," says Mysko. "People are starting to recognize that, 'Hey, maybe this kind of talk is maybe not so healthy and maybe kind of toxic.' ... It’s all about challenging the conversations that happen that most people don’t even take note of."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Assocation's helpline is available as a resource at (800) 931-2237. The NEDA also provides other resources and links for help and support, like screening tools and treatment providers.
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