Originally posted here, at Phillymag.com @ Be Well Philly
It’s nothing new to hear about celebrities battling eating disorders and models looking unhealthily thin, but now it looks as though an unlikely television network just might be poking fun at the illness affecting many actresses, even some of their own.
The Disney Channel is receiving heat after actress/singer Demi Lovato, who got her start on Disney, criticized the network on Twitter last month for not only making fun of eating disorders in its programming but also for employing too-skinny stars in shows geared toward a young audience.
During a 2010 episode in Disney’s Shake It Up, a character joked, “I could just eat you up—well, if I ate.” And in another program So Random, a different character alluded to not eating to keep in shape.
Lovato, who quit her Disney show Sonny with a Chance to enter rehab last year for bulimia and bipolar disorder, fired back. “I find it really funny how a company can lose one of their actress’ from the pressures of an EATING DISORDER and yet still make joke about that very disease,” she tweeted.
“And is it just me or are the actress’ getting THINNER AND THINNER.… I miss the days of RAVEN, and LIZZIE MCGUIRE,” the singer added.
The Disney Channel’s media relations account quickly tweeted in response to Lovato: “we hear you & are pulling both episodes as quickly as possible and revaluating them … It’s NEVER our intention to make light of eating disorders!”
While I applaud Disney for quickly addressing the issue, a television network that knowingly brings in a young, impressionable audience, should been more cautious about air such ignorant jokes.
A 2010 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warned doctors that eating disorders are on the rise in children, citing an analysis that found in the past decade, hospitalization of children under 12 (yes, 12) for eating disorders more than doubled. So your 10-year-old glued to the television screen could actually be affected by these kinds of off-hand comments.
A Twitter apology isn’t going enough to usher change, of course. Maybe if Disney and other networks promoted a healthy body image, other media would follow in their footsteps. With February as National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, the timing could be just perfect.