I had an unusual experience today on the subway. I was waiting for about 10 minutes for a train in a heat wave that I’m sure every corner of the world has already heard about. I was carrying two grocery bags, literally dripping with sweat, and looking like a person does when they are carrying grocery bags in a 100° subway station. When I get on the train a man offers a promotional flyer and says, “You should read this.” I say, “No thank you,” to which the man responds by literally throwing the paper at me. I let it fall to the ground, and I notice the logo on the card says “EAT Campaign” and “Beauty Extinct”. I was mildly curious as to why this man singled me out on this car to be the recipient of this message, so when I got above ground I quickly googled it on my phone. The campaign is fighting eating disorders, excessive dieting, and “how beauty is lost”.

He describes beauty loss as the negative effect of not eating enough and how your physical appearance changes due to a lack of nutrients, such as thinning hair or bad skin.
Needless to say, being singled out as the target for this campaign, in a car where I was far from the only young woman, made me feel sort of icky. I have read through his website and believe in everything he is campaigning for. I have no objections to his message and think this is the kind of thing that people do need to see. What my problem with all this is is he singled ME out on this train, and then looked devastated when I left the paper on the floor.

On the website there is a picture of the founder and I’m fairly certain it’s the man I encountered on the train. This is editorializing for sure, but I imagine he saw me standing there, looking skinny, pale, and exhausted, and decided that I needed to hear his message. So this is my message to that man:

You don’t know me. By choosing me as the recipient of this message you’re essentially saying that I fit the physical bill for that “beauty lost” concept, and that is kind of hurtful. I actually am struggling with my health; I am currently anaemic and it has nothing to do with dieting or starving myself. There are many conditions that can lead to that loss of beauty you describe, and assuming that because of my gender, age and physical build that I am anywhere close to starving myself is unfair. I certainly don’t feel that I am “beauty wasted,” as your website puts it. Keep on fightin’ that good fight, but leave women whose circumstances you don’t know alone. Never target a single person.

I by no means feel that there were any bad intentions in this exchange, but he made me feel worse about my physical appearance being effected by my health, over which I have little control, than I already did. It certainly made me think, which I suppose is part of the goal, but making me a little more resentful of the body I should be nurturing back to health is far from it.


9 thoughts on “Beauty

  1. […] a subway rider purporting to offer help to those suffering from eating disorders. Problem is, Liz isn’t suffering from an eating disorder and the experience wounded her. Assumptions: Dangerous […]

  2. Marsha Calhoun says:

    When did we stop realizing (and teaching our children) that uninvited personal remarks are very, very rude? (The only exception is a genuine compliment, offered without expectation of any particular response, and I’m open to seeing that concept challenged if anyone has a reason.)

  3. isidore says:

    Hmmm. I took a look at the website, and I think you are perhaps giving him too much leeway because of his anti-anorexia message. According to the front page of the website, he thinks young women should fight anorexia not because it is damaging to your health, but because it will give you “cankles” and “cellulite” and so on. Aren’t these the same bull**** beauty standards the media promotes which are shown to lead to anorexia? I’m not surprised he made you feel bad, because his main campaign approach seems to be trying to make anorexic girls feel ugly. His intentions may be good, but frankly his message sucks.

  4. WendyB says:

    The lunatics one encounters on the subway….

  5. Oh my goodness. I’m utterly freaked out by this website–as though keeping one’s beauty is the reason to recover from an eating disorder! And to single you out as having an ED when he doesn’t know you, only that you’re female, young, and slender, utterly runs counter to any responsible ED intervention/treatment I’ve ever heard of. Frankly, this guy seems like a weirdo fetishist to me. “Save Demi Lovato”–criminy, she saved herself by going into rehab! She doesn’t need your book! /rant

  6. En Bouton says:

    I’m sorry that that man made hurtful assumptions about you and aired them in public. Even if you did have an eating disorder, that would still have been inappropriate and rude.

    I also feel that railing against eating disorders because of “beauty loss” implies some very messed-up priorities.

  7. Sharon says:

    Please do not allow this creep to make you feel different about yourself. Like you noted he does not know what is going on in your life. But the question really to ask is why do people use negative comments in hope of a positive outcome. I personally have never understood that concept. I pray that your health and well being continues to improve.

  8. […] Liz had a strange experience on a subway involving a man who wanted her to buy his eating-disorder recovery book.  It was strange for two reasons: one, he assumed she had an eating disorder based on appearance alone, and two, he seems to have based most of his opposition to eating disorders on the fact that they cause you to have bad skin, give you cankles, and make you “grow a pouch like a kangaroo that is filled with fluid” – basically, if you don’t eat right, you will become ugly instead of pretty.  Hence the (somewhat alarmist) to the title of his book, “Beauty: Extinct.”  Either he believes the risk to physical attractiveness is reason enough to recover from an ED, or he’s using appearance-based scare tactics to try to get his readers to eat right.  Huh.  Neither approach seems to me to be at all constructive.  We won’t even get into the fact that he approached Liz because he apparently thought she looked like she had an ED – that speaks for itself. […]

  9. elizabethbiro says:

    Thank you to everyone who commented for reminding me to think rationally, not emotionally. I so desperately wanted to make sense of this experience that i blindly believed that this man was trying to help me in a way, however inappropriate it may have been. Your comments made me reassess this man’s message and you are totally right – Messed up priorities. I hope he doesn’t offend other women in this way and if he does, I hope this post and your comments make it to thier computer screens as well. Thank you to Sally at and Jessica and Laura at for sharing my post. Awesome women, It’s nice to hear from you all.

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