This article is adapted from the original blog.

Whenever a celebrity reveals or is "outed" for having an eating disorder, it gets a lot of coverage, whether you’re viewing hard news, national news, local news, or gossip sites.  Ask the average person, particularly under a certain age, to name an actress, singer, model or other famous person who has or had an eating disorder, and they can likely come up with half a dozen names.

It’s understandable that this sort of event makes the news, but the way in which it makes it, and the degree to which it is covered, is often just plain sad.  Prior to the rise of the internet, a story about a celebrity with an eating disorder would be a story with limited legs.  It would enter the news cycle via television, magazines, newspapers, and radio stations, and then it would leave.

Not only do the legs of the story walk around the earth now instead of just down the block or across town, they invite an enormous amount of coverage of the story from a ton of resources.  The source often wears a “Press” hat, but much of the story is editorial.  It is no longer a “just the facts” approach with this type of “reporting”; it’s an opportunity for the writer or website administrator to wrap it in their own slanted view and commentary. 

Internet Coverage

If you have ever read a story about a celebrity with an eating disorder, you know that there is an endless supply of websites that not only report such stories, they point and laugh.  They post pictures, old and new, of the celeb, pointing out just how darn fat they were in this picture, and how dang skinny they were in this one.  They try to pinpoint where things went wrong, taking on the role of both reporters AND armchair psychologists.  They offer conjecture about if it was because the person was dumped by another celebrity she was dating, or because a co-star on her tv show was thinner, or maybe it's just an attempt to grab the spotlight because she’s an attention whore. 

They guess and judge and point fingers, without an ounce of fact to back up any of it.  They post how much the celebrity in question weighs, when they are just pulling those numbers out of their bums.  They come up with lists of just how little the person ate each day, but they offer no evidence of how they know these specifics.

Then for the final kick in the pants, the websites offer up the Comments section, so that every Judge Judy with a keyboard or a smartphone can join in and kick someone when they are down.  People who would never say something cruel to the face of someone suffering from an eating disorder light up with the opportunity to anonymously call the celebrity names.  People who are just mean in general take delight in having yet another place to spew their venomous opinions, which they dress up as if they are facts. 

We are drowning in a world of 24/7 news, or “news”, to be more accurate.  There are innumerable websites that pretend to be what journalism used to be, but are really about as valid as the tabloids in a supermarket check-out line. We are also immersed in a worldwide web of sites that proudly displays their gossip banner, but still obviously take themselves quite seriously as “reporters”.  They believe that “We Broke the Story” is a tag that belongs on any post they put up, whether it’s that a celebrity went inpatient for anorexia or that one bought a cup of coffee three minutes ago.  They “report” things with a slant that is often cruel, and too often is swallowed up by an eager audience.

Evaluating Your Reaction

The next time another celebrity seeks treatment for an eating disorder, think about how you react.  People exposed to the headlines and the websites – particularly people who themselves are sick with an eating disorder – can ask themselves some questions before they dive into them:   

  • How do you think you will react to the story? 

  • Will you read every link you can get your virtual hands on, taking in the details with the assumption that they are factual? 

  • Will you share them with others? 

  • Will you use the pictures and the lurid details to trigger yourself? 

  • Will you compare your own size, or the size you perceive yourself to be, to this week’s featured celebrity, and hang your self-esteem on it? 

  • Will you feed the gossip monsters? 

  • Will you be part of the garbage, keeping these types of sites flush with viewers and ad revenue?

Will you instead say to yourself, “Enough.  Regardless of how I feel about this celebrity as a person, she is due her privacy.  I can read a simple version of the story on a more trustworthy source, such as CNN, but I will not swim in the polluted waters that are the online tabloid coverage sites that will dissect yet another ill celebrity like an alien on an autopsy table.  Not only is anyone suffering from an eating disorder allowed their dignity, I realize that my own dignity is at stake if I contribute to the dumbing down of journalism and partake in something that will only make me feel worse about myself.”

celebrities with eating disorders

The news coverage of celebrities with eating disorders is often questionable.  Are you adding to the misery, including your own, by engaging in it?