When I opened Instagram Thursday morning, I was met with a barrage of posts about a trailer for the new Netflix show Insatiable. I scrolled through the captions with horror. This can’t be real, I thought. This can’t be real.
Another TV show portraying that weight loss leads to complete transformation? A TV show marketed at young girls in a world where we know eating disorders remain the deadliest mental illness? A thin woman portraying a fat woman wearing a freaking fat suit?!
In the name of self-care, I put off watching the trailer. But curiosity got the best of me, and I watched it that evening.
The trailer for Insatiable begins with Patty (post-Disney starlet Debby Ryan, fat-suited and CGI’d), a miserable-looking young woman glaring at the mirror and being bullied relentlessly in a high school hallway as “Fatty Patty.” But Patty gets punched in the face, leading to doctors wiring her jaw shut for a summer. As she says in a voiceover: “Having my jaw wired shut lost me more than just my summer vacation.” She loses a significant amount of weight over her jaw-shut summer, and returns to school thin, “hot,” and ready for revenge.
It’s sexist. It’s fatphobic. It’s unrealistic. And it’s deeply harmful.
A few months ago, eating disorder recovery and body-positive advocate Dani Adriana required jaw surgery herself, and was met with vitriol at her consultation appointment. She wrote on Instagram: “[I] had double jaw surgery for teeth alignment and was told by my jaw surgeon ‘it’s a shame we don’t wire jaws anymore you could afford to not eat for a while.’” Dani – who did not once mention weight loss – was told someone wished to shut her jaw because of their own fatphobia.
Dani is one of many writers, activists, and social media personalities who spoke up about her eating disorder recovery when stating the harmfulness of Insatiable. I guess I’m one, too.
For many years, I also believed that thinness was the solution to my happiness.
I wasn’t bullied in high school – and I wasn’t fat, either, as much as my budding disordered mind shouted that I was. But I bought into the myth that there was a thinner, flat-stomached girl inside of me waiting to come out and thrive if I just “accidentally” forgot my lunch in my car one more time.
Lexie Manion, a mental health blogger, responded to the trailer on her Instagram. She told me: “ This depiction we often see presented by diet culture shames fat people. We need to collectively learn that shame never instigates change… People are people — not butterflies in cocoons that have been demonized by those who refuse to understand there is more to someone than what they look like.”
This is directly referencing the trailer, where the “new” hot Patty looks at her classmates and muses, “Now I could be the former fatty who turned into a brain, or an athlete, or a princess.” As if being fat is a whole identity — as if thinness is a requisite to have a personality, interests, a life. If losing weight changes how you exist socially, it’s because we live in a society that treats thinner people more kindly.
Bringing me to another myth: the willpower this show falsely associates with “not eating” for a whole summer is not a nutritional reality. I spoke to my friend Amber Terschak, who is in eating disorder recovery and completing her master’s in dietetics.
“This is a completely inaccurate depiction of someone who ‘wired their jaw shut,’” she said. “They show Patty as having clear skin, full hair, exorbitant energy, and a sharp mind. However, anyone who goes this such a drastic weight loss is going to most likely show signs of malnutrition, [such as] hair loss, brittle nails, dull skin, fatigue, and brain fog.”
Anyone who restricts their eating this significantly, regardless of body size, would feel these physical and mental consequences. And even much more mild restriction could lead to dieting, which is not only often unsuccessful but is also the biggest risk factor for the development of an eating disorder.
This morning, I bought a croissant with my iced coffee when I went to write this piece at a coffee shop.
And even two years into recovery, my eating disorder had a field day. Like many, I’m both in a small body and a body that’s bigger than it used to be. People are looking at you, my brain said. What makes you think you deserve to eat this in public?!
It still takes a minute to recenter.
So sign a petition. Post about it. Refuse to watch it. Speak up against diet culture, especially as a smaller-bodied ally.
Teen girls deserve better. Fat people deserve better. We all do.
If you are struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association is a great resource. Visit here: https://www.nationaleati