C'mon people. Really? Another problematic movie about bodies and eating? I'm disappointed in the creators and supporters of the upcoming Netflix show "Insatiable." They should -- and maybe even do -- know better.
We've seen this kind of thing before: magazines with weight loss tips, "The Biggest Loser," infomercials about glamorized detox teas and diet pills, other movies like "To the Bone" that continue the narrative that people who have eating disorders are always white young women with evident anorexia, you name it. That's part of the problem: we've already seen this, many times before.
And it's not helpful, either.
I'll save my rants about "To the Bone" for another article, but let's talk about how, by solely a trailer, we know that "Insatiable" will be problematic.
As far as the plot line, "Insatiable" is about an attractive, young white girl named Patty who is punched in the jaw and has to get her jaw wired shut; because of this, she can't open her mouth to eat, and loses a bunch of weight (or more accurately, a fat suit).
After this, Patty takes her revenge on characters who've bullied her about her weight. After becoming thin, she arguably feels empowered, confident, and strong. Her life, whether or not is explicitly said, looks better, in some ways. She's essentially bullying other people, but that's not what the point seems to be -- the point the show is trying to make seems to be that once we are thin, we are powerful, confident, and strong.
Your Fat Queer Friend often writes about what it's like to be fat in a fatphobic society. She details her dissatisfaction with the premise of "Insatiable" and pointed out how it reflects everyday life.
In one of her articles, she discusses how she realized that many fat characters are created by and casted by thin people in fat suits. Thin creators are saying that fat people always live a life in which they are mocked, inferior, awkward and hopeless. They create these characters as a way of saying that they somehow avoided this lifestyle by outsmarting fatness, that they are far different and far better. As she lists out in another article, the scope of better, more accurate stories about fat people is, no pun intended, wide.
The truth is, eating and enjoying different kinds of food is not "letting yourself go." Restricting your food will not give you empowerment. The more you give into those voices in your head that encourage what is, at its core, disordered eating, and the more power you give it, the more you let it control and limit you and your happiness. By allowing yourself to be who you are and listen to your body without questioning it, the bigger and fuller your life becomes. You grow into and learn about and embrace yourself.
In college, I realized more and more what my true purpose is and what my happiness can center on: advocacy, empathy, leadership, friendship, late night adventures, and so much more. In addition, I'm realizing I have more power and autonomy over my relationships and body that I think. I'm allowed to say no; I'm allowed to do what's best for me.
"Insatiable," however, keeps our society in the present, and in that, takes us backwards. We know better than this. Food is not the enemy. Fat is not a bad word -- merely a descriptor; we can not "feel fat." We can be happy and healthy at any size, and not understanding that -- or being fatphobic-- can be deadly. Power does not come from giving power to the disordered voices inside our heads. Restriction does not give us more, by any means.
Fatphobia can be easily disguised as well, like in this movie, so we must remain cognizant in our discussions and thinking. An example might be becoming upset or feeling jipped because you didn't find out someone you're meeting up with from a dating website is fat until you've actually met with them. You may say and think it's not a problem, but also feel displeased at the person for not showing that in his or her profile -- that's fatphobia. That's a way of saying "if you were at a weight that's thinner or attractive to me, I wouldn't mind or notice or call attention. But since you're fat, I mind, because even though I say that's okay with me, it isn't totally, because it bothers me. You should've told me because I might have swiped the other way."
I'm not saying I'm completely free of fatphobia -- when it's been ingrained so hard into us, it's hard to get away from. When feelings of fatphobia arise, though, we have to correct ourselves and remind ourselves of the Health at Every Size movement.
If you've read my articles before, you've read about the Health at Every Size movement. However, other than linking articles, I haven't discussed it. I want to clear up a few things about what this movement entails.
HAES does not mean that all people are healthy at all weights. It doesn't mean stereotypically "healthy" activities and foods aren't "healthy." HAES is not an excuse or an idea with no basis in fact or science.
HAES is a combination of four tenets: accepting your size; trusting your body and its signals, whether that be fullness, hunger, or a craving; adopting healthy lifestyle habits for not only your body but also your mind, incorporating listening to your body, finding joy in some kind of movement, and figuring out what foods with more nutritional value taste good to you, realizing there is also plenty of room for foods that may not have as many nutrients but taste good; and lastly, embracing size diversity, or in other words, that every body is different and has different needs. This is why not everyone who is fat is also "insatiable," which is part of the problem with this show's name.
If you're looking for another definition of what "normal eating" is, check out Ellyn Satter, a therapist and dietician, who has an amazing definition.
I think it's important to note that no matter where you are on the spectrum of healthy eating to disordered eating, this Netflix show can still be detrimental and not worth watching. Even if we believe in HAES or feel comfortable in our bodies and eating habits, it can still be damaging to see how it seems like Patty's new world can be possible and good and healthy when it's not.
With movies, TV shows, and even books, entering that fictional world is terribly easy -- and terribly inaccurate. McCall Dempsey is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Southern Smash. She travels to college campuses and lets students smash scales, among other self-love activities that defy numbers as a definition of worth. She has told her story of dealing with and recovering from an eating disorder many times, and often discusses how someone's life and appearance may seem "perfect" on the outside, but on the inside, they are enduring so much turmoil, unhappiness and health problems. This is the truth we have to remind ourselves.
One of the most helpful quotes for me says this: "We must not mourn for the bodies we once had. They were weak, empty, broken, all together incompatible with the sizes of our souls, the volume of our dreams, and the abundance of our beauty. Deprived of the love we felt we, ourselves, did not deserve, the reflected the pain inside. But we are healing now and learning not only to love our bodies but also the incredible person who lives within. So when you look in the mirror don't cry for the [person] you no longer see. Celebrate the [person] you are today, because my God, [you] are beautiful. [You] are finally free."
The need to stop these shows from airing and the need to encourage healthy body image is crucial, and tangible steps and information are available. The petition to stop this show has been circulating around Facebook -- you can find it (and please sign it) here -- and controversy about its fat-shaming nature is abound. The premise of this TV show, if put into only a few words, is fat = bad and thin = good. I see no valid debate against that as the premise. However, the creator of and an actress in "Insatiable" fight back by stating their intentions for this show.
The creator of Insatiable, Lauren Gussis, argues against the fat-shaming claims, saying that Patty's story mimics her own. Actress Alyssa Milano argues that the show doesn't shame Patty, but portrays the damaging nature of fat-shaming.
However, when I hear statements like those, I feel that it always comes down to this: we have to share our story responsibly.
The National Eating Disorders Association provides several suggestions in how to portray a public story responsibly, including omitting "tips and tricks," watching out for the appearance ideal, emphasizing the seriousness of disordered eating, underscoring the fact that body image is an issue dealt with by people of all demographics, and providing a resource list.
While these components and others may not hit "Insatiable" on the head, they do recognize that we have to talk about the serious impacts of "quick and easy" weight loss, the idea that we need to stop saying fat is always bad and thin is always good, and the importance of introducing intersectionality into these discussions, recognizing that not only white women deal with these issues. With what I know so far about "Insatiable," I believe that Gussis and Milano are neglecting the most important questions: what is this show telling people about fat bodies? Quick weight loss? The demographic that deals with weight troubles and body image?
If you or a friend are struggling with disordered eating or body image, feel free to check out www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or consider attending an Embody Carolina training found here: https://www.embodycarolina.com/upcoming-trainings..... You are not alone and your experience is valid!