Happy to keep off of the “getting thin” bandwagon
Friends should accept friends—and their food.
Published: Monday, March 8, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 08:03
The signs on the mirrors in the bathroom said "You are Beautiful." Even so, girls stood in front of them, applying makeup, fixing their hair and adjusting their clothes to make themselves look different than their natural appearance.
Feb. 21 to Feb. 27 was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but it should have been called "National Body Image Week." Although NEDA focuses on preventing eating disorders and finding help for girls who suffer from them, a big part of this mission is helping women of all ages and sizes be happy in their own skin. But one week in February didn't seem to do much towards this cause.
In the dining halls, advertisements for the week were inside the napkin dispensers, yet listening to people comment on them, the predominant sound bites were "people with eating disorders wouldn't come to the dining halls anyway" or "prevent an eating disorder: take that burger away from that fat kid."
But what I also heard were girls behind me in the grill line discussing how great they felt after throwing up their alcohol from the night before, and how that purge means they could eat fries today. I heard another girl getting cheese for her nachos be told by her "helpful" friend that the stuff she was spooning was pure fat and she really shouldn't do that. And I saw a line of identical blond, size-zero girls going through the salad bar, sweating in their gym clothes and looking a bit faint.
These aren't eating disorders in the strictest sense of the word. But they are the kind of attitudes that over time build up into girls hating the way they look and doing anything to change it.
Friends: I know you are trying to be helpful by getting your friends to be healthier, but what you are really saying is, "you are not good enough the way you are. You should not be happy with yourself. You need to be fitter/thinner/have more willpower."
I have seen countless magazine ads and TV stars who are very thin, but nothing affected me so much as when in high school all of my friends decided to count calories and I made the choice not to. I had too much other stress on my plate to worry about food, but over time, watching them think about their size and their food intake every day made me feel guilty to put anything in my mouth at all.
As a freshman, I found myself under a lot of pressure to go to the gym. On my floor, going to the gym was the place for gossip and being "in" the crowd. If you didn't go, you were quite clearly "out." I forced myself to go as to not be considered a fat lazy slob, but at the same time, I hated coming back feeling sore and drained.
Those two experiences taught me something about myself, which is that I am much happier when I do the things I want to do and appreciate the size I am. I found friends who are of the same mentality as me: life is too short to worry about food. I am not tiny, I have bumps and bulges and flab and the like – but I like the shape I am, I enjoy the food I eat, and I enjoy the time I spend doing things for me instead of keeping up appearances at the gym.
Of course, there are plenty of people who enjoy going to the gym, and watching what they eat doesn't stress them out. I admire those people and think what they are doing is great, and I'm sure they will outlive me. There are also people who are exercising and eating healthily at the recommendation of a doctor, and I also applaud their efforts.
But if there are girls out there who are counting calories and going to the gym who dislike it but are under pressure from their friends, please, please, stop. As long as you like yourself, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Remember, you are beautiful.