With our society’s current weight loss obsessions and the rising popularity of dieting, it may be difficult to believe that there are actually people who want to get fatter. But there are. And there is a disturbing trend called “feederism” that has people focusing on eating and actively putting on pounds. Calling themselves “gainers” or “feedees,” some women love to gain weight. So much weight, in fact, that they sometimes fantasize about becoming the largest person in the room. Beyond simply promoting a love of food, these men and women are actively trying to gain weight, to the detriment of their health.
As one such support group for this type of body-sabotaging, Fantasy Feeder, says, “You know that you’re not as fit as you probably should be, and you know all the health risks associated with being overweight, but you consider it a small price to pay compared to the pleasure you get from being so fat.” They go on to say, “Regularly you will stand in front of a mirror and admire your well fattened body, squeezing your fat rolls to feel how thick they have become, and lifting your belly to see how heavy it is.”
No one knows how many women are included here, but the fact that there are websites that support such unhealthy behavior is alarming. To find out more about why women sometimes deliberately sabotage their bodies and how to help–not judge–we talked with body image expert Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life.
When we think about women deliberately sabotaging their bodies, we often think of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, right? But how common is it to do so by overeating?
People can find many ways to sabotage their bodies and act in self-destructive ways. It is quite common to do this. The fact that high-calorie food is readily accessible and inexpensive makes food an easy option to engage in self-destructive habits that harm one’s body. Food is entirely legal at any age and is often not frowned upon in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes. This again makes it a readily available option.
What about women who deliberately overeat to put on weight? How common is that?
There are women who deliberately overeat to put on weight, just as there are women who deliberately under-eat to lose weight. Compulsive overeating is as much of an issue as compulsive exercising or under-eating. Many people overeat as a way of managing difficult emotions, i.e. emotional eating. Overeating to put on weight does not need to be the motivation for overeating although this seems to be an increasingly common phenomenon.
Are these women classified as feeders or gainers? And what exactly do those terms mean?
To my understanding, a feeder is one who gains pleasure, often sexual, from the act of eating or feeding another person. A gainer is someone who gains weight. Using these definitions, these women would certainly be classified as gainers. They may or may not be classified as feeders. One woman may be a feeder, while another woman may not be a feeder.
Why do some gainers ask boyfriends/spouses to help them gain weight?
When two people are in a relationship together, the couple often develop diet patterns together. These patterns can either be healthy or unhealthy. Couples can often work together to support one another in weight loss. It is quite common for one person to request the assistance of loved ones with their weight loss goals. The same is true of weight gain. People sometimes solicit the support of those with whom they are closest.
This does not sound healthy. What emotions or mental state do these women typically have?
Usually there is a pattern of self-destructive feelings, thoughts and behaviors. This often comes from some type of abuse or inadequate parenting in childhood. There can be a history of sexual abuse, but this does not need to be the case. Physical, or even verbal and emotional abuse can translate into self-destructive patterns.
If someone is consciously destructing their body by overeating, what kind of body image do they have? Is it possible to still feel good about your body when you are doing this?
This depends. Most people who are engaged in consciously self-destructive eating patterns do not have a healthy body image. Some people might say that they feel good about being overweight, or that they like large bodies. It is certainly possible to be overweight and have a positive body image. However, in the case of actual self-destructive behavior, the women for the most part probably do not have a positive body image.
What other reasons are there for overeating to a point where someone wants to put on an unhealthy amount of weight?
There can be many reasons. For some people overeating and weight gain can serve a protective function. This often happens in cases of sexual abuse where people want to protect their bodies and use being overweight as a protection. As mentioned earlier, it can also stem from other types of abuse.
How can society help women with this condition and not judge them?
The most important thing is for individuals to learn not to judge and to help women with any eating disorder get the help and support they need to recover. The last thing people need when they are engaged in self-abuse and self-destructive behavior is other people’s judgment and criticism. What they do need is acceptance, understanding, and support. Society can help women by educating people about these disorders, what can cause them, and encourage people who are suffering to get effective help to overcome all self-destructive tendencies.
How can women who are destructing their bodies by overeating learn to truly love and appreciate their bodies so they will want to take care of them?
It is important that all women learn to love and accept themselves and their bodies. Women with self-destructive disorders need to get the psychological and emotional support from trained and licensed professionals to assist them in breaking free of the self-destructive behaviors. If a women is stuck in a pattern of self-destruction, the best thing she can do is recognize and admit that she needs help and then find the best and most qualified help available.