Anne Marie Sengillo at 150 pounds, left, and at 90 pounds, right. (Photo: Reddit/The Chive)
Imagine if you used the Internet to find support for recovering from your eating disorder, and help inspire others to overcome theirs. Now, imagine that photos of you at your most sick were used in an article on “amazing” weight loss transformations.
That’s exactly what happened to Anne Marie Sengillo of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Here’s the cover of the “amazing” weight loss transformations story in which Sengillo’s photos are a part of. (Photo: The Chive)
She tells Yahoo Health that she first learned from a concerned reader that the photos she posted of herself showing her experience with anorexia on Reddit had been republished — without her permission — on a website named The Chive, touted to detail “funny photos and videos.” The 27-year-old says she was shocked that the site only showed photos of her beginning weight at 150 pounds and her anorexic weight at 93 pounds in a positively spun story about weight loss transformations — not eating disorders.
Sengillo had posted a full album of photos documenting her path to recovery on Reddit. The album showed her going from 150 pounds to 70, 90, 110, 95, 105, 113, and 120 pounds.
“I was really mad because my whole reason for putting the pictures out there was to show, like, ‘Hey, there’s recovery, and relapse, but you can still get better,’” she tells Yahoo Health. “And they took all of that way. It made me physically sick because it upset me so much.”
She posted her collection of pictures on Reddit to show her path to health, hoping to inspire others with eating disorders to show them they can also get better. She suffered with anorexia for seven years after her father’s death but has been in recovery since 2013.
The Chive has since issued an online apology to Sengillo. While she says she is appreciative, she notes at that point the story containing her photos had already been shared more than 2,000 times. Yahoo Health contacted The Chive for comment but did not receive a response at press time.
Anorexia is a serious eating disorder, characterized by deliberate self-starvation with weight loss and a persistent fear of weight gain, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders has an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Sengillo’s story “underscores the dangers of our culture’s glorification of thinness,” Claire Mysko, director of programs for the National Eating Disorders Association, tells Yahoo Health. “There is a widespread assumption that weight loss pictures are positive and motivational, and that the drive for thinness is always [a] healthy one. In fact, as Anne Marie’s experience clearly indicates, that drive can be life-threatening.”
A person’s physical and emotional health cannot be judged by body size, she adds. “People with eating disorders are routinely complimented — ‘Oh, you look great. Have you lost weight?’ — which sadly validates their behavior and can further entrench their illness,” she says. “Thinner bodies aren’t necessarily healthier bodies. And when a company chooses an image of illness as the ideal, that should be a wake-up call that this before/after weight loss imagery can be toxic for everyone.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237.