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Until a few days ago, I had never heard of a “thinspiration” blog. Common sense told me that I probably wouldn’t like it, as the combined words “thin” and “inspiration” do not make me feel warm and fuzzy when discussing women’s empowerment. Nevertheless, I clicked through a few of these sites to figure out why women would find them interesting.

What I found was disturbing.

There were thousands of photos depicting rail thin white women (and even black ones too) looking at themselves in the mirror and sucking in their stomachs to see their ribs. My first reaction was, “Wait, is this a campaign against eating disorders?” But then I read each site summary and noticed that just about every site owner said they wanted to emulate these women. Some were survivors of eating disorders and wanted to lose weight the “right” way this time. Others simply wanted to be thin. But it was in this moment that I truly had an epiphany about the power of media and its impact on young women’s psyches.

One thinspiration blogger wrote, “I’m not anorexic anymore, but I still live the lifestyle. Technically I’m EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). I gained enough weight to put my BMI at a healthy level about 2 years ago. But then I got overweight (165 lbs.) Now I’m trying to lose weight again…I want to be 96 pounds. That’s my goal. I’m 17 years old and I am 5’3″.”

I read her statement once. I read it again, and again, and again. I shook my head. I read it again. And then, I finally acknowledged that I had read it correctly. I stared off into space in disbelief.

Other thinspiration bloggers were no better. And one black thinspiration blogger’s site even touted, “Not All Black Girls Want To Be Chunky.” Site names ranged from “Dreams of Skeletons” to “Hoping for Beautiful,” but I saw nothing beautiful about them. Even for those that claimed to be inspiration for people struggling through weight loss, the truth is that the majority of women were not built to look rail thin, pale, and blonde.

Needless to say, these sites are sending the wrong message.

But perhaps, I’m mistaken. There are survivors of eating disorders that find these sites helpful as reminders of what’s unhealthy, abnormal, and unattainable. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones in control of the intent and messaging behind these sites. And I’m not even sure if these sites are helpful or just a potential trap into relapse. Wouldn’t it be more productive to gather inspiration from health sites discussing eating disorders and weight loss in a conscious way?

Images are powerful. They tell stories, reinforce ideologies, elicit emotions, and reflect different facets of humanity. The images populating “thinspiration” blogs tell tragic stories, reinforce disturbing ideologies, elicit vulnerability, and reflect one body type of humanity. There’s nothing positive or inspiring about these sites. And it’s safe to say that they’re overwhelmingly destructive.

What do you think of “thinspiration” blogs? Have you ever battled an eating disorder and frequented these sites? Share your story. Speak on it.

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  • B

    @Fuzzy Turtle: great comment! You are definitely right (it’s not all southern black men, and maybe my use of skinny black girl does IMPLY that I see myself as an anomaly amongst black women when really I’m not). It really is hard sometimes not to see one’s own culture (as a woman or black person) through the eyes of others, when one’s culture has always been under such negative scrutiny. Thanks!

  • E.M.S.

    I think thinspiration exists on different levels, what you have to be concerned about are the extremes. The ultimate goal should be health, not the ability to turn sideways, stick out your tongue and look like a zipper.

    And let’s not forget, being too thin is just as unhealthy as being too overweight.

    I often see images of women who are in shape, who are toned, but not runway model thin, and THOSE are the women that inspire me to take care of my body. I’m actually healthy as a horse, but I do wish to lose maybe 15lbs, just for my own health. I’ve always loved my body, but I still believe I can make a slight improvement.