Community Magazine

On Michelle Bridges; Why She Should Never Be a Role Model for Recovery

By Survivingana @survivingana

I read this article in the SMH and was totally horrified by Michelle Bridges complete lack of awareness of the true nature of eating disorders. She is not a good role model nor an advocate for anything to do with eating disorders. Her comments only muddy the waters, give permission to ‘eat healthy, small meals’ and to calorie count. What a pity household names like this cannot be more accountable. The post below comes from a wonderful friend I have met along this way – she expresses it so well how Michelle should leave areas like this alone. Often the best advocates and role models are those who have suffered from an eating disorder illness.

Michelle Bridges has become a household name in recent years, not for her efforts to support the health of our nation, but by building a multimillion dollar industry focused on fat shaming and body insecurities, ultimately fuelling and enabling the development of eating disorders, a mental illness driven by body shame and weight obsession.

In a recent article on Sydney Morning Herald, Bridges highlights the horrifically high mortality rates of eating disorders in Australia, which are in desperate need of intervention. She addresses the devastatingly underreported nature of eating disorders and expresses her concern for this suffering.

However, the article by Bridges holds no sincerity about her concerns for eating disorders, and she has no ground in voicing her opinion in this field. It is important to consider that her success stems from her range of diet books and weight loss interventions, and she is a trainer, not a psychologist or doctor trained in eating disorders. In fact, many sufferers of eating disorders consult the Michelle Bridges cookbook and workout regime to fuel their obsession and gain ideas as to how to lose more weight, as fast as possible.

While Bridges may be concerned about the mortality rates but, she then uses the article to justify her own obsessive eating and kilo joule counting behaviours, and to promote a ‘healthy recipe’, from her own book – The No Excuses Cookbook.

“I’m a kilojoule counter. I watch my weight closely because I like to (rephrase that – have to) carefully control my physique, as it’s part of my job.”

Bridges is highlighting and justifying food restriction behaviours in a way that reinforces the shame in society for not doing these things. She has to count kilojoules, she HAS to work out obsessively in order to maintain her toned physique. This is the same physique she forces her participants on the Biggest Loser to aim for; this is what her admirers look up to. By promoting diet restriction and excessive amounts of exercise, Bridges continues to reinforce that her body shape is the ideal; she reinforces societal expectations that people should work towards a certain shape if they wish to feel accepted by society.

In the Biggest Loser, Bridges encourages participants to engage in an incredibly strict weight loss regime that consists of intense workouts and minimal kilo joule intake, often shaming and abusing them if they break the regime, shouting in their face or insulting them. Shaming them for eating, or for not working hard enough, for not being good enough or not losing enough weight.

For someone suffering from an eating disorder, this is exactly how their disorder functions. Shaming the sufferer for eating. Screaming that they’re not good enough, putting them down when they haven’t lost enough weight and shattering their self worth for not looking like the perfectly toned model we see in everyday media and advertising.

The Butterfly Foundation vehemently state they do not support Michelle Bridges’ message, and they continue to provide positive and motivational options for eating disorder recovery. However, the Butterfly Foundation stated on Twitter today that:

“A PT can improve #health and wellbeing. Is it fair to say it’s #society who uses positive tools in #punishing ways?”

However when Michelle Bridges’ approach is to use these tools in punishing ways, she is suggesting that ‘punishing ways’ are appropriate, and these societal norms are reinforced.

It is offensive that Bridges drops a name such as the Butterfly Foundation to justify her attempt at sincerity, blurring the line between who is fighting for our lives and who is fighting for our money.

I strongly agree that we need greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders, however we need this to be sincere and legitimate support from those who aren’t contradicting the recovery process by making money through others’ body insecurities.

Groups like the Butterfly Foundation need to stand up to weight loss bullies who gain a veneer of legitimacy by voicing support for such foundations. We need groups like the Butterfly Foundation to stand up and make a noise against people like Michelle Bridges and programs like the Biggest Loser.

If Michelle Bridges has intentions to support the treatment of Eating disorders, she first needs to release an apology and work to remove all of her previous work, cook books, and diet programs. I don’t see an ounce of sincerity in her words and I’m offended that SMH gave her ground for this article to be released.

Butterfly foundation do amazing advocacy and support work for those with an eating disorder and if you or someone you know are struggling and need support, you can contact them on 1800 EDHOPE.

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