The “sick irony,” as Kesha puts it, is what when she was at her lowest point, people told her she looked her best.
When we see people who’ve lost weight recently, our gut reaction may be to compliment them on their “success.” Musician Kesha, who’s been in recovery from an eating disorder for several years, just made a valuable point in a piece for Teen Vogue: You can’t tell what mental health issues someone is struggling with based on how they look.
In her piece, Kesha speaks openly about her struggles with disordered eating and finding happiness despite overwhelming pressure to look a certain way. One of the most difficult parts of her journey, she says, has been the messaging about her body from social media users and the press. “It became a vicious cycle: When I compared myself to others, I would read more mean comments, which only fed my anxiety and depression,” she explains. “Seeing paparazzi photos of myself and the accompanying catty commentary fueled my eating disorder.”
Kesha adds that she would get positive attention when she lost weight due to her eating disorder and would receive negative press when she did the opposite. “The sick irony was that when I was at some of the lowest points in my life, I kept hearing how much better I looked,” she writes. “I knew I was destroying my body with my eating disorder, but the message I was getting was that I was doing great.”
Kesha’s far from alone in her experience with an eating disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates that 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from disordered eating. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate amongst any mental illness, and what’s more, many of them begin early: The National Eating Disorders Association reports that roughly 42 percent of girls ages six to eight wish they could be thinner, while one-half of teenage girls and a third of teenage boys are using weight control behaviors. Studies have also shown that there’s a correlation between disordered eating and consumption of media that glamorizes thinness.
Additionally, it’s common for people to respond positively to others losing weight, as it’s generally seen as a “good” thing — even though it’s not always positive. Kesha’s letter is a reminder that disordered eating or other health issues could be behind someone’s weight loss, and that it’s important to focus on attributes other than body shape or type.