Last night, Kim Kardashian West posted an Instagram story of her sisters, Khloé Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, hanging out before their appearance at a charity poker game and talking about Kim's body.
"I'm really concerned, I don't think you're eating, you look so skinny," Kendall says.
"What!? Oh my god, thank you," Kim replies.
For four or five clips, Kim fishes for compliments about her weight from her sisters. Khloé adds that she "looks like a walking FaceTune doll," and says that Kim's diet must consist of celery, lettuce, and oxygen. Then, Khloé says that Kim's waist is "anorexic," and her arms are pin-thin.
The whole conversation is a massive bummer, especially given than just last month Kim received backlash for promoting an appetite-suppressing lollipop on Instagram. People on Twitter responded pretty strongly to this Instagram story, too. One person wrote, "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 space." Others noted that it's not a compliment to call someone anorexic, and said the Kardashians' comments were damaging to viewers.
To joke about [anorexia] in any respect is not only wrong but really harmful and dangerous — especially when Kim has so many followers, and many are young, impressionable girls.
Kristina Saffran, co-founder and executive director of Project HEAL
For starters, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, says Kristina Saffran, co-founder and executive director of Project HEAL, a non-profit organisation that offers recovery support for people suffering from eating disorders. Beat estimate that there are over 1.6 million people in the UK suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed eating disorders and 0.9% of American women suffer from anorexia in their lifetime; the diseases is also three times higher among women than it is among men. "To joke about [anorexia] in any respect is not only wrong but really harmful and dangerous — especially when Kim has so many followers, and many are young, impressionable girls," Saffran says. There's no telling how many people saw Kim's Instagram story (probably millions), but the way she and her sisters talk about their bodies and flippantly throw around the word "anorexic" could definitely be triggering for some people who struggle with eating disorders.
Whenever you come across depictions of eating disorders in the media (whether it's a fictional representation on TV or a "real" situation on Instagram) and you find it triggering, there are a few things you can do to help you cope. First, it's always helpful to talk to someone, either a friend, family member, or person at a hotline, Saffran says. Often when people are faced with a trigger, their first reaction is to isolate or shut down. "Some people are like, It's not that big of a deal, I don't want to cause issues," she says. "But saying something to somebody is often enough to get it off your chest."
Also, remember that you don't have to watch anything if you don't want to. Of course this is tricky when you stumble across an Instagram story and aren't expecting it, but it's worth it to keep in mind that you can always close out of the app. Kim has a huge platform, but clearly she's not thinking about the potential harm she's causing with it. "[Kim] needs to be responsible as a public figure and a role model," Saffran says. Better yet, you might want to consider following some other body-positive accounts on Instagram that have a better message for you, she says. (Project Heal has a great account, to start.)
Ultimately, if this particular Instagram story isn't sitting well with you, honour your feelings and know that they are valid. One of the most harmful misconceptions about eating disorders is that people with them are underweight, Saffran says. The reality is that you can't tell when someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them, but clearly if Kim doesn't realise this then other people likely don't, either. "These are super harmful ideas to be thrown around and [they are] exacerbated by the fact that she has so many followers who look up to her and this can have a harmful impact on them," she says.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please call Beat on 0808 801 0677. Support and information is available 365 days a year.