I admire a mama with a side hustle. I really do. I think making extra money for your family is great. It can be hard to pay the bills these days, and let’s face it, kids are expensive. That being said, I do object to the practice of cold-calling strangers on the internet and trying to sell them on a diet.
I can be sitting here minding my own business, and a solicitation will slide into my email, Instagram DMs, or Facebook messages. Oh, look, it’s a stranger suggesting I go on a diet. That is exactly what happened to me recently: I received a pitch asking if I would like to promote a weight-loss product to my blog’s audience. And you know what? It was completely inappropriate.
You see, I am an eating disorder survivor. Am I willing to share the good news about a diet with the audience who found me because of the articles I wrote about my struggles with anorexia and bulimia? No way. That would be irresponsible and dangerous. I don’t know what my audience is struggling with, and when you send a cold pitch to a stranger online, you can’t possibly have a clue either.
I have spent too much time and energy supporting and advocating for eating disorder survivors to become a mouthpiece for the diet industry. I will not undo all that I have worked so hard to accomplish. For five years, I was sick and even ended up hospitalized at one point. It was terrible. Eating disorders are life-threatening diseases. I’m not the spokesperson (or customer) you are looking for. You picked the wrong girl.
When you offer someone a product, there is an implicit message that they need it. I mean, why would you sell someone something that they don’t need? At this point in my life, I can tell you that, no matter whether you think I’m height-weight proportionate, I don’t need to hear what you have to say. Screw that noise.
While I’m steady in my recovery, I most definitely don’t need a little voice whispering in my ear suggesting I go on a diet. It took all I had to silence the one that came stamped on my genes — first barely audible at the age of 11 and building in intensity until it was finally screaming into my soul at 16 when I could no longer fight it.
I don’t want to go back there, and every time some stranger tells me a diet would be good for me, it brings back all of the self-doubt. Maybe I do need a diet? Why else would this nice lady be offering me one? It raises questions I don’t have the emotional resources to handle some days.
As a recovered, stable former anorexic, I am the best-case scenario of the worst-case scenario in this situation. Think about it: How do you know the woman you are trying to sell your wares to isn’t actively struggling with one of these diseases? You can’t tell just by looking at us. Even those who are visibly overweight may be starving themselves, making themselves throw up, or abusing products that are hard on the body in pursuit of an unhealthy ideal. Is your side hustle worth jeopardizing someone else’s recovery? Why kick a sister when she’s down?
You see, when you try to put more food on your table, you might be taking food off of mine (or those of the girls I spent so much time with in group therapy). And I’m not just talking about taking their money in exchange for your product. I’m talking about you interfering with their much-needed recovery. You may be taking food off my table because you’re a stranger reinforcing an dangerous message that I’ve been trying to block out for years. That I don’t deserve to occupy this much space. That I shouldn’t take so much in. That I am too much. That my body is not acceptable.
Please understand that your product and the way you promote it is not suitable for all audiences. When you attempt to sell or market in a cold-call fashion, you could easily be pushing your diet products on people who may or may not already be slowly killing themselves with a restrictive diet.
You don’t want to do that.
The training your MLM gave you isn’t enough to teach you how to deal with the nutrition needs of a special population like eating disorder survivors. And even if you are legitimately concerned about the state of my waistline, your good intentions will not protect me from your damaging underlying message.
Really, I understand that everybody’s got to pay the bills. All I ask is that you be mindful when you are peddling your products. In the wrong hands, they may be dangerous, and you could be an accomplice to someone’s self-destruction.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I feel good about the way I’ve lived my life, supporting people who struggle with eating disorders. Thinking back on all the messages you might have sent to people in (or not in!) recovery, can you really say the same?