Friday evening, Shane Dawson’s video on Eugenia Cooney returning to YouTube after seeking treatment for an eating disorder came out. As a fan of Shane and someone who overcame an eating disorder, I watched it immediately. The video does start out with a trigger warning, and encourages those who are triggered by talk about treatment or eating disorders to be cautious when viewing the content.
I really appreciated that once again he worked with Kati Morton, a therapist he has worked with on videos in the past, to gage how to talk to someone who potentially has an eating disorder. Shane asked great questions like, “Can I ask her about her weight or physical appearance now that she’s doing better?” and Kati explains that the eating disorder voice can take even a compliment about how we look “healthier” now that we’ve gained weight in recovery and turn it on its head into something negative.
Kati explains that using that type of language, like the word “healthier,” can make the eating disorder voice think, “Well, did I look better before?” or even, “I must look fat now.” It was really helpful for viewers who may not know what an eating disorder is like to see Kati explain how an eating disordered mind can view particular things. It’s better to focus on how amazing a person is rather than how amazing you may think they look; focusing on the person’s soul rather than their physical attributes is always best.
During this conversation, Shane explained he mistakingly complimented a recent photo of Eugenia he saw and said how he cried when he saw it. It always amazes me how Shane takes constructive criticism and wants to make people feel welcome and loved, so he made sure he took Kati’s advice before talking to Eugenia in the video.
The next thing I loved about Shane’s video on Eugenia’s return is that it is very much focused on her story and treatment, and not too much on triggering details. There was some mention of how Eugenia was shocked when she learned how much weight she had lost, but I did see Shane try to stick to the facts rather than glamorizing details. I strongly feel like the video was done well and didn’t glamorize eating disorders or exploit Eugenia, as documentary type videos tend to do.
When they got candid about hate comments, Eugenia was talking about how another YouTuber, Pewdiepie, had asked his community to send her love and support. She explains that she was very appreciative of that at the time, and that those nice comments made her feel better. I think Pewdiepie’s sentiment of her just needing love and support was a good way to combat the hate. It likely helped Eugenia through the dark times when she felt people were against her.
I think the community effort to try and get her help when people noticed she was frail in videos ultimately failed because of the outlier mean comments, like people simplifying her struggle to “just eat more” or “you’ll look better when you put on more weight.” Food and weight have so little to do with an emotional struggle like an eating disorder, which was assumed to be the problem, but not even confirmed. I personally think it’s such a complex subject that there isn’t a completely right way to go about it, but I do believe sending positivity and good thoughts to someone who may not be doing well, for whatever reason, is always the route to go. I believe the Change.org petitions trying to get her banned were made with good intentions, but it was too big of a topic for an online community to solve. I think her loved ones, like family and friends and those closest to her, deserve the most say in her life and should be the ones to help her get help.
Text saying, “She said if it could help someone watching, then nothing was off limits,” flashes across the screen before they sat down to delve deeper into Eugenia’s story, which worried me at first. As someone recovered from an eating disorder and who blogs about it, the topic of eating disorders and various behaviors and numbers can get triggering — we’re all in different head spaces and places in recovery. I felt a bit hesitant to continue watching after seeing that text, but I’m ultimately glad I did because Shane did a great job being respectful of the subject matter and Eugenia.
In sharing her story of going to treatment, Eugenia explains how lucky she felt that she didn’t experience too much damage to her body due to her eating disorder. She also says she was lucky to have a good treatment team behind her who monitored her and understood it’s not as simple as “just eating a bag of chips.” I agree so much with Eugenia here because people who understood eating disorders are complicated mental illnesses were so vital to my personal recovery.
As Shane also touched on before going to Eugenia’s house to meet her, I’m looking forward to see Eugenia start vlogging again about makeup and fashion, because there is so much to who she is than what she looks like. Many people sadly have watched her videos to see her body and compare her weight to their own, because they were worried or wanted to bully, but people also watch and support her because she is kind, down to earth and has a unique style.
Overall, Shane’s video was a wonderful exploration of one person’s story out of eating disorder treatment, showing there is so much more to a person than their problems. I’ve watched Shane Dawson make videos on YouTube for over a decade now and I was so pleased to hear him share some of his past struggles with purging and hiding his shameful behaviors from his friends. Shane’s ability to be so genuine while simultaneously being the goofball he always is makes me so happy and made me want to support his work.
In regards to the eating disorder discussions, we need to be talking about these things more because being open makes us brave and brings us together. I really appreciated that Eugenia touched on this idea that you’re still human even as an online persona and there is more to people than a diagnosis or a problem. She is spot on.
After sharing her story, I loved how Shane switched up the video by asking Eugenia what she loves to do, because that is who she is — not a public spectacle or just a person with an eating disorder; she has an identity beyond whatever she battles. Eugenia goes on to share she enjoys doing makeup even though she doesn’t think she is the best as it, which surprised me because her eye looks are always so stunning! She has this gorgeous blue eye makeup look on in the video so I was hoping she’d mention her love for makeup. Following her thoughts on how she loves being creative with makeup, the video cuts to Shane doing his eye makeup alongside Eugenia and them just chatting about lighthearted things — it was really sweet and the perfect thing to highlight in this video after covering such heavy topics.
For myself and so many others, we have seen Shane Dawson bring comedy and humanity to topics that feel so dark time and time again. Shane was the perfect person to help share Eugenia’s story with the world and I’m so happy to see light in Eugenia’s eyes and joy in her voice. I had only started watching her channel when the Change.org petitions calling for her channel to be taken down due to her weight began to circulate, and I’m so happy I’ll be able to watch her soon in a new chapter of her reclaiming her energy and doing things that bring her joy as someone in recovery. As someone recovered from an eating disorder, watching these two souls connect through such a dark struggle, and watching them light up one another’s lives with Eugenia’s kindness and fun energy and Shane’s comedic touch and love, made me so happy. I wish nothing but the best for Eugenia and wish her a healthy and happy continued recovery.
Eugenia, the recovery community is behind you. We are so proud. Know that you are loved for your kindness, positive attitude and talented makeup looks and fashion statements. Keep fighting the good fight.
To those in recovery from an eating disorder, I’m proud of you for seeking help and for staying strong. As Kati says, going to therapy doesn’t make you weak because it’s “the hardest fucking thing you’ll ever do.” Keep fighting to be well enough to follow your passions and dreams. To be in recovery is to be free from any doubts or fears your eating disorder keeps you in.
This post is featured on The Mighty.