A few years ago, as April Fools Day approached, a girl I was at school with posted on facebook arguing the case against making 'I'm pregnant!' jokes. It didn't change any of my behaviours- it's probably been 10+ years since I'd have been inclined to post something along those lines- but it did change why I'd not post one. Before Chloe had written her facebook post, I found the jokes to be not really funny. No big deal, just not all that funny. After Chloe posted, I was more aware of how the posts could make somebody else feel. Her argument was that you don't know which of your facebook friends are suffering with infertility or after miscarriage or infant loss. You never know who is fighting a war that you seemingly are making light of. I'd never really thought about it because, well, it's not really something that's touched my life. I can't tell you how it might make somebody feel without having somebody who really understands the situation explain it to me.
As I'm sure some people dread the same, exhausted jokes being dragged out for April Fools, I dread January. The whole month. Everything that month seems to represent. I dread the implication that the person you were in December needs a complete change, I dread the implication that the way to change that person is to lose weight and I dreaddreaddread the implication that the weight loss needs to be documented all over social media.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that me having had an eating disorder means you shouldn't change yourself or lose weight or be proud of the fact. That's none of my business. All I'm saying is be aware. Be aware that often eating disorders are extremely competitive. Be aware that your comments can trigger a disproportionate reaction in a person that may last far longer than your own diet. For example, I hear someone has lost 5lbs and, even in recovery, I have a sudden, obsessive need to lose 6. I panic that the person posting either has or will go onto develop an eating disorder. And again, my competitive side emerges- I was 'the most ill' for a while and I still don't really know how to be anything else. These are things that aren't easy to admit, because admitting them doesn't paint me in the best light. But this is what eating disorders do.
(Actually, as I type, an ad break has just come on the tele and the first advert is for a weight loss plan that I happen to know- I told you, EDs can be competitive and I'm very up-to-date on fad diets- forces the body into starvation mode. And so it begins.)
It's all well and good for me to be saying this, from my position both in recovery and as somebody who is out of the fridge (it's the ED version of coming out of the closet, I've decided). Eating disorders are secretive by nature and so in a lot of cases you'll not be aware of all the people with EDs within your social media circles. If you're reading this and think that I'm your only friend who has/has had an eating disorder, I can pretty much guarantee that you're wrong. Most people with EDs are not underweight. Most people don't feel comfortable being open about it. But that doesn't mean they don't hurt and won't be hurt by you extensively documenting your weight loss.
Be safe, be well, be aware. If you want to lose weight, do it safely. Watch out for obsessive symptoms in yourself. Be aware of how your words may affect somebody else. Make it a happy new year :).