Eating Disorders and Disney Princesses (or I’m Too Fat To Be A Princess).

Disclosure: This has taken off in popularity in a way that I never expected. I am profoundly touched. However, in reading this, I realized that I was not originally clear in my message. This was never about Disney’s casting practices (as some people very rightly seemed to take away) but more about my own insecurities. I believe that writing is a living thing, so I have opted to edit this to reflect as such.

I have never particularly liked my body.
I have always particularly wanted to be a Disney Princess.

Keep both of these in mind, they become important later on.

Last summer, my boyfriend, Chris asked me casually if I might want to go to Disney World sometime. Roughly two weeks later, he surprised me with an invitation to tag along with his family on their trip this year. I was floored at the generosity, but even more excited when I found out that we’d be going during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party– the one time of the year that Disney allows grown-ups to wear costumes in the park.

Naturally, I was excited. Costumer problems.

We decided, after some debate, that we would do a group costume. Chris would be Lumiere, his brother would be Cogsworth, his mom Mrs. Potts and his dad would be Gaston. I would be Belle.

When I was a kid, Belle was always my favorite Disney Princess. She was the one who read books (just like me!) and people thought she was weird (just like me!) and wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere (just like me, cuz someday I’d be old enough to drive!). It’s cliche, I know. But I love that movie. I still remember falling asleep to the soundtrack and dancing around in the basement, pretending to be Belle.

I am not proud to admit that when Chris suggested the group costume, my first thought was not excitement, it was “But I’m too fat to be a princess. Will people take me seriously in the costume?”. Even after four years of being in recovery (with slips and trips and failures along the way), it is startling how fast my mind goes into Eating Disorder Brain whenever I’m confronted with dealing with my own size.

Disney’s requirements for playing Belle at Disney World are simple: be a decent actor, know your character, be between 5’4″ and 5’7″ and, most importantly, for the purposes of this story, fit a size 10 or smaller.

I am a size 12.

As such, my scumbag Eating Disorder Brain has a literal numerical value by which to compare my own body. According to “the numbers”, I don’t measure up. (Ha ha ha get it). My Eating Disorder Brain latched onto that number and that voice of self doubt in my head constantly told me that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t pretty enough, I was too big to be a princess. I wasn’t “right”.

I have been, over the course of my journey with an eating disorder, anywhere between a size 0 and a size 20. As I have gotten further into recovery, my body has settled into the range of a 12. I’m not particularly stoked about it, but I have found that trying to be much smaller results in the danger of relapse and any larger makes me, well, in danger of relapse. It’s a tightrope.

So we made the costumes. Over the course of three weeks, I meticulously built the costumes from scratch, drafting my own patterns, staying up late and sewing during spare moments between classes. About a week before we were slated to leave, I tried my costume on. It didn’t fit. It was about 4 inches too big in every direction. I was pissed– I’d spent a solid day building the dress, and it didn’t fit. I cried.

Chris looked at me and said “Maybe it’s time you reevaluate how you see yourself”. I hadn’t trusted my own measurements– I couldn’t possibly be THAT size. I added inches for safety because12118623_904267604074_8426076473956985471_ne I didn’t want to face the humiliation of putting on a too-small dress. Instead, I’d wasted a week of work because I couldn’t accept that might actually be the size written on the tape measure.

I fixed the dress (well, completely remade) and off we went. On the night of the event, I was convinced that the dress wasn’t going to fit, that I’d somehow gained 40 pounds on our trip, that I was going to break the zipper, that people would laugh at me. Eating Disorder Brain is an ugly thing. The dress fit.

All night, people kept stopping me. Frankly, I was surprised, since Chris had told me not to expect much attention since most everyone was going to be in costume. I’d expected maybe a couple smiles, but the minute we stepped out of our hotel room, kids were whispering and pointing.

Over the course of the night, about a dozen people stopped me for photos. Many more stopped me to ask if I worked at the park. Several people didn’t believe me when I told them I didn’t work there, one cast member approached me and told me I looked more like Belle than the Belles she works with.

One guy insisted that we track down a cast member who could connect us with the casting department. “Your entire outfit is your audition, you should be working here”. My Eating Disorder Brain whispered “They won’t hire me, I’m too fat”.

A group of parents came over and asked me to take a photo with their kids. I told them what the people at the gate had told me to say: “Just so you know, I’m not the REAL Belle, I’m just dressed like her tonight– the real Belle is somewhere else, you should try and find her tonight!” They took their pictures with me anyway. My Eating Disorder Brain wondered if I looked fat in the pictures.

Several of the moms pulled me aside and thanked me, they were relieved to have a picture with “Belle” (even a fake one) because their daughters had desperately wanted to meet her and they couldn’t afford the park hopper pass that would have taken them to the other park where the “real” Belle was appearing that day. My Eating Disorder Brain assured me I would never have groups of little girls hoping to take their picture with me.

What particularly frustrated me was I happened upon a (park official) Gaston, who was legitimately the worst actor I have ever seen. Not only did he barely know enough about the character to converse with the little girl who was interrogating him about his desire to murder the Beast, it was abundantly clear that he didn’t really care– he wearing the costume, therefore, he was the character and that was good enough.

But he fit the costume, so he got the job. My Eating Disorder Brain told me “see? It’s not about your talent, it’s about your size”.

Later, two little girls bum-rushed me, hugged me around the waist and yelled “OHMYGOSHITSBELLEYOUARESOPRETTYCANWETAKEYOURPICTURE?” I told them my Official Disney Rules Statement within earshot of two Disney cast members. One of them looked at me in confusion and said “I thought you worked here!”. The little girls got their picture, their dad shook his head at me and said “If you don’t work here, they are doing a terrible job in casting”. My Eating Disorder Brain whispered “Size 10”.

20151020_224116My favorite moment came when we went to go take a picture at the Be Our Guest restaurant. We watched several people ask to go inside for photos, and they were granted access. When we asked, the cast member out front paused and apologetically explained that we couldn’t go inside– our costumes were too good and he didn’t want people to have the impression that “official” actors were visiting to do meet and greets. He took our picture outside for us…..sort of. (Potato camera is a potato).

It’s stupid, I know. And probably not even worth a blog entry.

But there’s something important, I think, about recognizing the damage that Eating Disorder Brain can do, even when I am eating healthily and maintaining recovery.

But I am, still, a size 12.

Not everyone has Eating Disorder Brain, but I am fairly certain most of us struggle with self-doubt. How can we ever be the Disney Princess when Disney tells us that only women size 0-10 can be the princess?

I have considered many times trying to lose enough weight to meet the requirements and showing up an an audition, just to say I did. Just to see what happens. Maybe I’d get the job, maybe my nose would be too weird for them and they would say “thanks but no thanks”. I don’t know.

Disney says that Belle has to be a size 10. That’s fine, and their right as the owners of her image. But what I learned is that number doesn’t magically make someone a princess. I’m not calling for some massive political movement, or really even change. I am the size I am, and that is okay. Disney says that to be a princess, you have to be not the size I am. And I suppose that is okay.

But a couple of nights ago, I felt beautiful. That is not often the case.
No little girls pointed and said “she’s too fat”.
Instead, a couple of nights ago, little girls stopped me in my tracks and begged to take my picture.
A couple of nights ago, I was a Disney Princess, size 12 and all.

Not many people talk about the recovery end of Eating Disorders as something ongoing. Most people think that it is a “go to rehab and you’re cured” type thing. And that’s not the case. Every day, I struggle with that gnawing, shitty voice inside my head that tells me that I’m too fat, not good enough, not pretty enough– recovery is learning to ignore that voice, to silence it, to find ways to remind yourself that you are worthy. And it sucks. Because even in truly magical moments, being at Disney World, dressed as a character I have admired my whole life, feeling beautiful and strong and confident and excited with a man I love more than anything in the world and his incredible family, that voice still tried to tell me that I wasn’t good enough, I could never be a princess.

And I suppose, at the very least, on one night in October, I proved that voice wrong.
12022351_904265972344_5733442358973646850_o

An Edit:

I am honored that this post resonated with so many people, and so many people have shared it among their friends.

Somehow, through one of those shares, this got posted on the internet in a public forum. Thank you to whoever shared it, I am happy that you thought it was worthy of the Internet’s attention as a whole.

However, a bunch of people have jumped on the bandwagon and started criticizing me, saying that “I feel entitled to the job” and that “just because a few kids liked my costume, I think I deserve to work there”. That is assuredly not the point. My point is that just because Disney has mandated that their princesses are a certain size, everyone has the right to feel beautiful. Everyone has the right to feel entitled to the space they fill. Everyone, of any size, has the right to feel respected and included and valued. I often fail at many of these.

Disney can hire whoever they want.

What I hoped to do was start a conversation regarding the self-doubts that many people feel regarding body image and the pressure to be a certain size. I think I have done that, to the best of my small ability. My experience is my own, and I can only speak for myself. Do I think my costume was balls awesome? Yes. And I will admit to being proud of it. But this isn’t about getting a job at Disney. I’m not asking for a job.

What I’m asking is for the people who read this to consider how many times their self-doubts negate the truth. How many times are you told “you look beautiful” and wave it off? How many times have you looked in the mirror and only seen imperfections? How many compliments do you reject as flattery, not truth? It’s not about the job, or the costume or really, even about being a “princess”. It’s about learning to accept myself–ourselves– as we are. It’s about recognizing the beauty and humanity that others see, even when we are too clouded with our own self-doubts to see it ourselves.

Love yourself. You are beautiful.

Catie out.

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8 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful, and like many other people, reading this helps me as I struggle with my weight and self-image. Thank you for posting this and sharing so much of yourself.

  2. This is more important that I think most people realize. I frequent a Facebook page that reposts Disney fandom confessions, and quite a lot of them concern girls trying out to be “friends of princesses” (code for cast members who are hired to play that princess in the parks). These girls are very literally dying to get into this business, writing confessions about how they sob over being the wrong height, how they’ve developed eating disorders, or how they’re considering plastic surgery in order to better fit the requirements. It’s frustrating to read, and I now wonder how many of these girls also end up with “eating disorder brain.”
    I’m glad that you got to go to Disney, and that your cosplay was a big hit. It’s kind of crappy that they wouldn’t let you into a restaurant because your cosplays were “too good,” but I suppose as Lumiere says “cie la vie.”

  3. This honestly made me cry. In a good way I swear. It hit me so deeply. The part about making it to big I often wear clothes that are swimming on me because im too scared to try on something smaller and have it not fit. Also the part where you added we often negate compliments is so true we often are so focused on the faults we see we can’t see the beauty that is also there. I love this.

  4. I saw this blog post on Reddit, and after reading it, I felt I absolutely had to comment.

    One of my hobbies is cosplay. I love dressing up and pretending to be different people. I enjoy working hard on my costumes.
    I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy it! I go to conventions. I put lots of work into my costumes.

    Problem is, i’m immensely insecure.
    I don’t have a diagnosed eating disorder but I have a binge eating problem and, like a lot of girls struggling with body issues I often go between periods of starving myself and eating everything in site until I feel sick, and then some more. I’m pretty heavy myself. I’m an Australian size 16.
    I always feel bad wearing my costumes. What if i’m too fat? I don’t look enough like the character. I’m just a fat piece of shit. People will laugh at me, wonder why someone as fat as me thought they could pull this off.

    I spent ages working on this one costume that I wore a couple weeks ago at a con, and will be wearing again at a (much bigger!) upcoming convention. The main part of the costume was a jumpsuit. One that wasn’t quite baggy enough. You could see my belly fat through it quite clearly, it was obvious I was overweight.
    I felt awful. But I wore it anyway; this was something I had been looking forward to for ages!

    While I was there, I couldn’t help but try to cover my fat rolls that became even more obvious whenever I sat down.
    Looking at pictures of me after, I looked so fat and unattractive…

    But at the convention, I had so much fun. So many people asked for photos! I got a ton of compliments on my costume. I even almost ended up in a video! (I contacted the guy who recorded it later on, it turned out when he got the footage on the day I was there most of it turned out really bad because of lighting, so he had to reshoot it the next day. Of course, I wasn’t there!).

    I’m daunted about the upcoming convention, the one that is a Very Big Deal. I’m worried my costume won’t be good enough, that i’ll look too fat.
    But more than anything i’m excited. The last one turned out so well. Nobody laughed at me or called me names. In fact, I intentionally made a fool out of myself at one point, and had the time of my life!

    I just thought I should share my experience because yours reminded me so much of mine. I felt like I had been there.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and just so you know – your costume looks incredible and I am immensely envious of your handiwork!

  5. Beautifully written, Catie. You’ve always been badass in my eyes (I used to envy you at Ambrose because you seemed so awesome and funny and I was a freshmen just trying to not be awkward), and this whole post just proves that you are one badass human being. Keep being you and inspiring others. And thank you for the reminder to love myself.

  6. Oh, the lies our ED brains say. I’ve been a 4-14 and have “stalled” in the middle after a few years of stress. It breathes in the life and steals it away from me. The way my hands nonchalantly skim the bumpy parts and lumpy parts and my ED brain says things I will not say in public, to anyone, anywhere. But they yell those words at me and remind me I am never enough.

    When I was in therapy (oddly, not for ED), we had to draw our body outline as we thought it looked. Then, someone traced our actual outline. All the outlines from 20 or so of us were hung in a room and, with our counselor, we chose which one was ours.

    I chose the outline of someone who weighed about 30 pounds more than me. My counselor showed me my actual outline.

    “THERE IS NO WAY THAT IS ME.”

    And even now, I remember looking at the scale and it being 20…25 pounds less than where I am currently at. I remember it being 20…25 pounds more than where I’m currently at. It has such power over me.

    When Tim and I started dating, I had two scales (because, you know, in case one malfunctioned). I usually hid the second scale when I wasn’t using it, because what crazy person has TWO scale? I forgot. Tim saw it. He asked. I confessed. I talked him into letting me keep one, even though he saw how unhealthy it caused my brain to think.

    No kidding, yesterday after weighing myself (daily, or three times a day, whatever), I realized I was ready to destroy it. Not just throw it in the dumpster. DESTROY THE SON OF A.

    I told Tim this morning.

    Maybe this is the beginning of a healing.

    Tim shared your post with me, and I asked him to read it all the way through. Thank you for communicating so well ED brain. I will save my choice words for it in my own subconscious.

  7. My niese is into frozen, which is jolly good i guess. But everytime I see her engaged in something frozen related I get this sinking feeling of despair. Why should my niese, a four year old little girl, look up to these women who more than anything resembles pixies, not humans made by flesh and blood? I myself do blame Disney for again and again picturing the stunning beauty for us to marvel at. These women do not exists, and if they did I would not know what to do with them. So, if my niese was a coupple of years older I probably would thell her to give a good fuck about Elsa and Anna, and join us other mortals. For now I settle with getting her hooked on Lion King.

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