OKLAHOMA – An eating disorder is something that’s usually kept behind closed doors. Teens don’t want their parents to know, and young adults often feel ashamed. But a new trend is opening the eyes of doctors and revealing the world of eating disorders many didn’t even know existed.
The trend is called Thinspo, short for thinspiration. The idea behind it is that through social media, women and men are able to inspire each other to get dangerously thin through the use of images and quotes. Doctors say this kind of behavior is anything but inspirational. They say it puts you one step away from death.
“This takes up every second of your day. Every breath you take. It’s always there. At the end of the day you don’t even want to look at yourself in the mirror,” said 23 year old Kaelin Fink. Kaelin was steps away from death. Moments away from giving it all up for beauty and control.
“You’d rather be dead than live with this eating disorder, this obsession to be thin. This obsession with looking the way other people think you should look,” she said.
These days what people think is beauty is shifting, from the celebrity that graces the cover of a magazine to faceless images of emaciated body parts on social media.
“The thing with thinspo is it takes on almost a religious aspect for these people where the images are viewed as good and eating at all is viewed as bad and sinful,” said eating disorder specialist Dr. Meghan Scears.
Dr. Scears treats patients obsessed with thinspo every day. She says the trend is frightening. There’s no oversight on social media and it’s destroying the lives of young women.
“It’s like a cult-like thing among these patients where they’re providing a lot of support for each other and encouraging each other,” Dr. Scears said.
Using social media like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr users inspire each other to lose weight and over-exercise to get hip bones that protrude, thighs that don’t touch or ribs that show through the skin.
Dr. Scears says, “The problem is the amount of restriction that they’re doing is beyond what could ever be considered healthy.”
In Fact, Dr. Scears says to get to this point it’s impossible not to be knocking on death’s door.
“People do die from these things everyday at a very high rate,” she said.
“I had no immune system left. I kept getting pneumonia. My hair started falling out,” said Kaelin.
Dr. Scears says the problem is the images women post are made to look beautiful. Their bodies appear to be glowing, they look sexy. But behind the pictures is a women who’s not happy, not healthy and whose brain has been seemingly rewired.
“I wouldn’t even say I was me. I feel like I had chains wrapped around my neck and was being dragged by the eating disorder,” Kaelin said.
To learn more about Kaelin’s struggle click here.
Kaelin says the only way to escape from her obsession was to seek help. Dr. Scears says if women don’t find ways to get away from thinspo, the only option is death.
“We try to encourage the girls to at least temporarily get off social media,” Dr. Scears said. “And that takes some convincing a lot of times.”
That’s because it’s a world the girls see as safe. A world where others think the same way they do. But Dr. Scears says it’s a world that needs to be stopped. It’s a world Kaelin prays every day she never has to go back to.
“If you are out there and you’re doing this you need to seek help. You just need to be comfortable in your own skin. You have to stop thinking you need to crawl out of it and into something else,” Kaelin said.
In 2011 Kaelin went into treatment in Tulsa for six months. She’s now been in recovery for more than a year. She says her body will never be the same. She is always sick. She says physically she feels like she’s 89 years old.
Dr. Meghan Scears is an eating disorder specialist at Living Hope Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Norman.