How the Media Constantly Reinforces Eating Disorders

TW: Eating Disorders, Purging, Food, Calories, Rapid Weight Loss, ED Encouragement

It’s genuinely disturbing to me that, since entering recovery for my eating disorder, targetted adverts have gone the opposite way.

Usually, when you’re looking for something on the internet, internet cookies collect data to let advertisers know what to market to you. This makes sense – if someone is trying to buy a coffee maker, you will want to advertise more coffee makers on their social media feeds to tempt them to buy them.

But just two days after entering recovery, I saw my targetted advertisements change…

Before going into recovery, I wasn’t looking for anything specific, so I was being marketed Samyang Ramen, plushies, and everything Pokémon-related. But as soon as I started searching for Eating Disorder Counsellors, signs of bodily damage due to purging, and support groups in my area or online, I started seeing disturbing things popping up on my newsfeeds, on my Google Chrome homepage, and just in general.

Even when I went on Amazon, I got bombarded with adverts and suggestions of things I really shouldn’t be advertised as someone with an eating disorder.

A prime example of this happened just today; I went onto Amazon because I knew I needed a specific song for my radio show on Saturday. And as I scrolled on my front page, having a brain fog trying to remember how to get back to the Downloads Store, I found these two products in my “Recommended for You” section:

SPONSORED Products: Bad Breath spray and Laxatives.

Now, if I didn’t suffer from Bulimia or any eating disorder, this could look innocent. However, it seems like I might be worried about my oral hygiene, and I’ve bought into the idea that you need to detox your colon (you don’t).

But I do suffer from an eating disorder. And these are two products that someone in recovery – specifically early recovery – shouldn’t be looking at. Especially considering these are tools to support an eating disorder. After all, if you’re someone who purges – whether you have Bulimia or OSFED – you’ll know that your breath will forever smell like vomit, no matter how many times you brush your teeth, so a spray is something that is commonly used to cover up the smell.

And if you’re the type of person to purge in different ways than the classic, vomiting, then you’ll most likely use diuretics and laxatives – such as a colon detox product which is just a glorified laxative.

These products are still popping up on my feeds and only started after I started looking to go into recovery, which is beyond concerning. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; Capitalism doesn’t care about our health as long as it gets the money.

Sadly, advertisements for products aren’t the only issue for people with eating disorders. Every time a tabloid publishes clickbait detailing how to lose the weight fast, they’re always directed to people with an eating disorder or someone with an unhealthy body image view.

Social media platforms are one of the worst for doing this, and I think it’s about time that they correct their algorithms. Platforms like Twitter, for example, need to change this. They often boast about safeguarding and moderating their platforms to ensure they’re a comfortable and safe space for vulnerable people – while advertising unhealthy articles and products to people known for speaking about eating disorders.

The media needs to do better.

Please note that the Stay Queer server has closed down. However, The Butterfly Sanctuary server is recommended for anyone seeking support and community while dealing with an Eating Disorder.


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