The Complicated Reason Demi Lovato Was 'Triggered' By Sugar-Free Frozen Yogurt

Photo: Instagram / Shutterstock
Demi Lovato and her Instagram stories to The Bigg Chill frozen yogurt shop

Demi Lovato recently engaged in an Instagram battle royale (with fudge and a cherry on top) with LA frozen yogurt shop, The Bigg Chill.

The singer, who has a long history of eating disorders, shared her struggle on her Instagram Stories.

Why was Demi Lovato "triggered" by seeing sugar-free cookies and frozen yogurt at The Bigg Chill?

According to her post, Lovato found it it emotionally difficult to walk past the shop's array of sugar-free items on her way to the cash register.

“Finding it extremely hard to order froyo from @thebiggchillofficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar-free cookies/other diet foods before you get to the counter. Do better please," she wrote, adding the hashtag, “#dietculturevultures.”

The Bigg Chill responded tagging Lovato, explaining, “We carry items for Diabetics, Celiac disease, Vegan and of course have many indulgent items as well.”

The store also messaged Lovato privately, saying "We are not diet vultures. We cater to all of our customers' needs for the past 36 years. We are sorry you found this offensive."

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Lovato replied, reposting both messages on her Stories. "The whole experience was triggering and awful. You can carry things for other people while also caring for another percentage of your customers who struggle DAILY just to even step foot into your store."

"You can find a way to provide an inviting environment for people with different needs, " she went on, "including eating disorders."

She concluded her initial reply by saying, "Don't make excuses, just do better."

Demi Lovato has been open about her history of bulimia, something I too have long been open about.

We both want to destigmatize the deadly mental illness that is disordered eating and talk openly and honestly about it.

But with that comes disagreement. People with mental health issues, including those with eating disorders, are not hivemind. We are not Bulimic Borg.

I understand Lovato was triggered by seeing sugar-free options at this frozen yogurt shop.

I'm not saying she's wrong to feel that way. Because to be a person with an eating disorder means any number of things can trigger that little part of your brain that says "I bet I can throw that up."

It's a horrible, terrible thing to get really, really good at, and we did. That leaves us with a lot of mental wreckage, which includes real triggers.

Here are just some of the things that trigger my eating disorder:

1. Counting calories.

2. Counting carbs.

3. The scale.

4. My own clothes.

5. Diets like keto and Whole 30.

6. Foods I know are easier to purge.

7. My own sense of hunger because I'm not sure if I'm actually hungry or just want to binge.

8. My lack of hunger, because I'm not sure if I'm not hungry or just attempting to suppress hunger to lose weight.

9. Looking at other human bodies.

10. Thinking about my own human body and what I wish it looked like.

11. Thinking about my own human body and what it actually looks like.

12. Wondering if my idea of my aforementioned human body is real or a trick of my dysmorphia.

13. The concept of frozen yogurt, which is itself pretend, less-good ice cream.

So yes, I understand that Lovato was triggered by sugar-free items in a frozen yogurt shop because of her eating disorder.

But the world is triggering for us. And sometimes that means we just have to live in it.

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This isn't true for all people who require trigger warnings.

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In fact, the original concept of "trigger warnings" as we know them stems from research on post-traumatic stress disorder and how best to mitigate trauma, including providing warnings for victims of rape and other physical trauma.

As with all language, it has expanded, and with all expansion comes pushback, however fair or unfair.

My personal rule of thumb is this: my illness does not trump someone else's illness.

If seeing the words "sugar-free" makes me uncomfortable (it doesn't, for what it's worth, but then again that's not my trigger — I already told you my trigger is literally my own pants), that's very different than a diabetic person being able to say, "I can eat this without my blood sugar skyrocketing."

And Lovato's assuredly well-intentioned follow up advice the people at The Bigg Chill try "labeling the snacks for celiacs or diabetes or vegans" is a whole other medical can of worms (as in, two are medical diagnoses that a frozen yogurt shop is not necessarily qualified to dictate safety measures toward).

That is arguably far more dangerous than the potential of the words "sugar-free" triggering an eating disorder relapse.

And that is where we must consider other people's needs over personal triggers.

Diet culture is a real issue. But the existence of sugar-free frozen yogurt isn't.

Sometimes we have to look out for ourselves, find coping mechanisms that work and be our own trigger warnings.

If nothing else, Demi, according to their website, The Bigg Chill does Postmates. You might not want to go in there for a little bit, at least until this blows over.

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Courtney Enlow is Editor of Pop Culture and Good News at YourTango. Her work has appeared at Vanity Fair, Glamour, Pajiba, SYFY FANGRRLS, Bustle, Huffington Post, io9, and others. She is the former co-host of the podcasts Trends Like These and Strong Female Characters. She has two kids, two dogs, and requires more wine, please.