No, Fathers, Anorexia Is Not Preferable to Obesity

A Twitter poll with over 160,000 responses shows most dads would rather their daughters risk starving to death than be fat

August 2, 2023 1:34 pm
A woman's feet on a bathroom scale
Why are we trying to decide whether anorexia or obesity is "worse" for women?
Universal Images Group via Getty

Twitter is always a cesspool, but today, because we live in hell, users of the social media platform were greeted with two especially triggering trending topics: “Anorexia” and “Obesity.” It turns out those two conditions are trending because of a poll by Tristan Tate — influencer, brother of Andrew Tate and alleged sex trafficker — asking fathers whether they’d rather their daughter struggle with starving herself or being too heavy.

“Fathers, Would you rather your daughter struggle with anorexia or obesity?” Tate wrote. “(Of course the answer is neither. But if you had to choose) settle an argument.”

As you might’ve guessed, given Tate’s target audience and society writ large’s long-standing insistence that women and girls be impossibly thin, at the time of this writing, anorexia is winning, with 54.5% of the vote compared to obesity’s 45.5%. And the replies to the original tweet are a nightmare: “i’m not a father but as a future mother one day , i would choose anorexia,” one woman replied. “it’s alot easier to gain weight then it is to lose it so if i absolutely has to make that decision. that would be my choice.”

“Anorexia, need only to fix the mind and beliefs, which is more easily doable. Obesity need to fix the mind and the body while at huge health risks,” another commenter wrote. (Hear that, anorexics? Just fix your brain! Easy!)

“For everyone claiming that ‘obesity is much easier to fix’ … why are there so many obese people?” one asked. “The reality doesn’t match this take.”

The answer to that bone-headed question, of course, is that so many of the anorexic people are dead. Obviously no one would wish any health condition or body image issue on their daughter, but anorexia is objectively worse than obesity — it kills you faster, and it’s got the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Up to one-fifth of anorexia patients eventually die of the disorder. It’s such an awful, painful disease that some terminal anorexia patients are currently fighting for the right to choose death over continuing to fight it.

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It’s not, as so many people on Twitter seem to think, simply a matter of waking up one day and deciding you’re going to start eating again. Obesity is closely linked to depression — how could it not be, when people who suffer from it must also deal with weight discrimination and shame on a daily basis? — but it is not a mental illness itself. There are plenty of overweight and obese people who don’t have any underlying psychological issues; anorexia nervosa, on the other hand, is a horrific psychiatric disorder that often results in patients being put on feeding tubes against their will because they still think they’re fat and refuse to eat.

And yet, the fathers who responded to Tate’s poll would rather their daughters be skinny and saddled with a miserable mental illness than fat and happy. Who cares if she’s suicidal, as long as she’s still hot, right fellas?

Furthermore, why are we specifically asking about “daughters” here, as if women are the only ones who struggle with body image or disordered eating? Is the implication here that sons are acceptable at any size while daughters aren’t, or is it just that we’re not supposed to care as much when their physical appearance deviates from the norm? It’s estimated that between 10% and 25% of all anorexia patients are male; to think of it as a disorder that primarily afflicts bullied teenage girls is irresponsible, dangerous and flat-out wrong.

So please, dads, don’t cross your fingers for an anorexic child, regardless of gender, over an obese one — and maybe do a little self-interrogation to figure out why you’d rather take a higher risk of having to plan their funeral than helping them navigate a few extra pounds.

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