Have you heard about the Adam Richman instagram debacle? My understanding from the various media sources including a report from the blogger who first responded to Adam, is that Richman, the formerly chubby host of Man v. Food, posted a proud selfie of himself after losing somewhere between 50 and 70 pounds (accounts vary).
Nothing wrong with that. Except that he used the hashtag “thinspiration.”
My first attempt at writing about this had me summarizing what happened based on the media reports. I figure you are capable of following the links, including the links within the articles if you need to, without my spending paragraphs summarizing everything. I have two…. issues.
It’s possible he didn’t know what thinspiration meant. A lot of what happened has been taken down so what is left is sadly out of context but at least some accounts say he didn’t know what it meant.
It’s certainly not a new term. I ran across pro-anorexia, pro-bulimia “thinspiration” websites back around 2001. I had a Geocities website and I was link hoping and wham. Suddenly I found myself on a page with photos of skeletally thin, emaciated little girls with commentary about how this one was too fat and this other was thinspiration. Girls posting pictures of themselves pointing out tiny little thighs and calling themselves and each other fat. It was shocking. And scary. And because I came from that world, kind of enticing.
I spent years eating less than 300 calories per day and exercising like mad countered by periods of binging and purging. I lost some weight but never that much and there is still a part of me, deep inside, that thinks 70 pounds would be the ideal weight for me. There’s a part that remains jealous of those skeletal little girls, even though the adult part knows how horrible that disease is. So yes, thinspiration is a trigger word for me.
It’s not just the scary-thin photos that get tagged with thinspiration, it’s the normal sized and fat photos that get tagged as ugly and disgusting that hurt me. Do I already feel ugly and disgusting? Yes I do. Do I fear the thinspiration folks because I know that they’re looking at me as ugly and disgusting? Yes.
And no, I don’t entirely believe Richman didn’t know what the word meant. It’s possible, I don’t know. But thinspiration has recently been in the news because many of the big social media sites are banning thinspiration blogs and sites. It’s been talked about the past few years with regard to the overly-thin runway models. But it’s possible and I’m really trying hard not to judge him.
It sounds, from some of his responses and apologies, that he has body image issues. Good for him for losing some weight and being healthier. Perhaps he is overly sensitive to comments he might see as being weight-centric. But his responses were way over the top. What’s sad is that none of his responses or apologies really show that he gets that he hurt people. He says it. He’s incredibly sorry now – now that his new show has been delayed indefinitely. It does not feel genuine. I’m not sure at this point that it could feel genuine, no matter what he says or really feels. That’s not entirely his fault. Those trigger words are not easily taken back. And that’s probably at least a little unfair.
He commented somewhere that in the real world, people have a fight and they apologize and it’s over – and on the internet that’s not possible. “It becomes a blog.” I’m not sure in the real world that this fight would have worked that way. If I were his real life friend and he called me the vile names he called this person online – and if he told me to slit my wrists and that no one would miss me?? Well, I might accept his apology and try to stay his friend but I would never, never trust him again. If I was his real life friend watching this fight happen online, I would find myself wondering what he really thought about me – since I agree that the thinspiration hashtag was inappropriate. Do you think he would listen to a real life friend?
I don’t know. The whole thing makes me sad. Sad both for him, who may have destroyed his career (and I used to enjoy his shows) and sad for all of us, fat, thin or somewhere in between, who are still judging our worth based on how we look.