A Letter to My Eating Disorder in Anticipation of New York Fashion Week

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Christian Vierig/Getty Images

We meet again, New York Fashion Week. You look a little different this year—a bit shorter, but nevertheless hectic, demanding, and stressful. I have had a love/hate relationship over the years with NYFW, but now that I'm well into my 30s, I figure it's time I untangle some of the complicated (read: destructive) emotions I've had towards what is supposed to be, put simply, an industry trade show.

It's not you, New York Fashion Week. It's my eating disorder, which was most definitely not caused by the fashion calendar; but not helped either. All those disordered behaviors, thoughts, and sounds get louder for me during fashion week, and for the many editors, photographers, designers, models, PR pros, event managers, and assistants struggling with what is a prevalent disease within our industry.

In some forms of eating disorder treatment, you are encouraged to think of your disorder as a toxic friend or significant other that you must break up with. So this, in effect, is my break-up letter with my disordered eating and distorted thinking during the bi-annual New York Fashion Weeks.

Dear Eating Disorder,

I have depended on you for decades to get me through stressful times, and fashion month, regardless of the season, is undoubtedly one of those times. I love using you as an excuse to test myself to see how far I can go, or measure myself against other people—especially the other women—that I work with.

I pledge this New York Fashion Week to check all of that behavior, using the following tactics:

When I see someone I haven't seen in a long time (you know, that back-to-school feeling), I promise to think twice before making any comments about his or her appearance. Instead, I will ask questions about what they did, saw, or explored recently.

If someone seated next to me comments on someone else's weight, I will either change the conversation or pointedly explain why talking about other people's bodies is a dangerous thing to do, especially as we enter a new season with new silhouettes.

When I find myself in a cab or on the subway with a friend who won't stop talking about his or her diet, I will change the direction of the conversation away from diet, food, or body. There are so many more interesting things to talk about other than you, Eating Disorder.

I will take three deep breaths anytime someone equates skipping a meal with working hard or being more efficient. I will fight against you to keep to my meal plan and eat three full meals (yes, lunch during fashion week) a day. I will ignore people who say things like, "You're so lucky you have time to eat today," or "I honestly am so much more awake when I don't eat until dinner." Food is fuel. Any other way of thinking about it is a lie.

I will reach out to friends when I'm struggling, eat a granola bar when I'm edgy, and use the Headspace app when you are getting too noisy. Oh, and one more thing, Eating Disorder? I will look at the clothes. And remember why I love fashion so much. I will read the show notes and learn about the inspiration behind the collections. I will pay attention to every sequin, every feather, every stitch. Because in case you forgot, Eating Disorder, this is New York Fashion Week. It's not about you at all.

The Chain

The Chain is a New York-based nonprofit that provides peer support for women working in the fashion and entertainment industries who are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder.

The Chain was founded in December 2017 by Christina Grasso and Ruthie Friedlander, both in recovery from anorexia, after they encountered a need for a support network that addresses the challenges in eating disorder recovery unique to the fashion and entertainment industries.

The Chain aims to create a safe place for this population to share their experiences and gain insight through conversation, support, and community building. The Chain is peer-led and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Learn more about The Chain here.

Next up: All the Clothes I Loved and Lost When I Weight Restored