A Letter to “The View”: I Do Not Enjoy My Eating Disorder

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015

To the hosts of ABC’s The View,

On the Nov. 19 episode of The View, while discussing Donald Trump’s alleged weight loss, Joy Behar remarked that while backstage the hosts had debated whether it’s better to become anorexic or bulimic.

Co-host Michelle Collins asked the crowd, “What do you girls think?” before promptly answering, “Definitely bulimic. You get to enjoy the meal.”

The View

Joy Behar
(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

An apology of sorts followed, with Candace Cameron Bure reassuring viewers that the discussion was meant in jest, and that she, as a recovered bulimic, was empathetic.

“I think I can joke about it because I’ve been there,” she said.

I’ve also been there, and I, too, sometimes joke about eating disorders. In fact, many of us who are in treatment or in recovery joke with one another about the absurd situation we’ve found ourselves in—locked up in treatment facilities being monitored like preschoolers, constantly sharing how this insane episode in our lives is making us feel. Humor is how we cope with the gravity of it all. Without it, we’d go mad.

We’re not unique in this. It is common and even healthy to make light of heavy topics to bear them more easily. And every marginalized group has had to endure being the punch line of a callous joke at one point or another. (I’m Polish, I’m a woman, and I’m a recovering anorexic—I could make a coffee table book with all that has been said to me “in jest.”)”

My concern isn’t about eliminating humor so as to avoid ever causing offense. It’s about the line you crossed yesterday.

Granted, we’ve all crossed that line, whether innocently or carelessly. The PC voice in our head occasionally glitches. But it’s one thing to exchange backstage banter and something else entirely to broadcast those “jokes” on stage to millions of viewers—of whom, statistically, as many as 300,000 may be suffering from an eating disorder.

So, here’s the problem with what you said. Eating disorders are as lethal as they are misunderstood. An estimated 30 million Americans are afflicted, and the mortality rate is as high as 20%, making them the deadliest mental illness. These illnesses are alarmingly prevalent, and they are affecting younger children than ever.

Your comments (or, more accurately, your attitudes) on The View are certainly not helping reverse that trend. To casually wonder which eating disorder is “preferable” is to suggest that someone actually has a choice in developing one. It reinforces the idea that eating disorders are about dieting and weight loss. It communicates to vulnerable young women and men, girls and boys that these illnesses are no big deal; everyone’s doing it.

Eating disorders are not choices. They are not diets. And they do not allow for any enjoyment whatsoever.

There is nothing enjoyable about watching your hair fall out in clumps. It’s not fun to seek warmth for your uninsulated bones by sitting in direct sunlight on a 90-degree day in the middle of July and still not feel warm. There is nothing attractive about waking up on the kitchen floor surrounded by the remnants of your binge. There is no levity in being locked up in a hospital, separated from your loved ones, to undergo the indignity of force feeding and relearning how to nourish yourself.

The ViewNo one enjoys the funerals of those who don’t survive the battle.

This is 2015, and the nation is finally talking about mental health, mental illness, and stigmatization. We are on the brink of major changes that would improve the lives of millions. In this environment, we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to statements like yours on The View.

In writing this, I can tolerate being thought of as persnickety or overly sensitive about “my cause,” so long as it keeps mental health topics in the news and pressure on the decision-makers. Change begins with individual conversations—which is why I am calling out The View.

I hope you will reflect on some of these ideas and consider offering a more sincere apology. Perhaps you will even invite eating disorder patients and survivors onto your show to talk about what really goes on with these illnesses and how we can help those suffering.

Sincerely, one of those 30 million,
Joanna


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