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Growing up as an obese child (a girl, no less), and during the 90s when the “role models” were women like Kate Moss, was an excruciating experience.
There were no body positivity campaigns back then, with people like Ashley Graham or Kim Kardashian, to normalize (even fetishize) the curvier body shape.
When I reached adolescence, everything became much, much worse. So, when I turned 14, I starved myself for a few months, until I was finally slimmer. I was repeatedly reminded by friends and foes that I was still not skinny enough, even if my weight was as close to the accepted normal as it could get.
My whole worth was being determined by a number on a scale.
“You’ll be perfect if you lose a few more pounds.” I was told a variation of this phrase by many people. But, perfect for who? For me? For my physical and mental health? Would losing five more pounds make me a better person? Would it make me more intelligent?
No, not really. Rather, perfect for the eyes of others (so that they can stare), for the hands of others (so that they can grab), for the stories of others (so that they feel pride when you’re around).
It is insane the amount of attention a girl or a woman gets the moment she slims down, simply because she has less meat around her bones as if she is suddenly a different person from who she was, to begin with. But that is the whole point, I guess—that for most people, a pretty exterior somehow automatically makes someone’s soul more interesting or important.
A few years fast forward, I started overeating to intentionally pile up all the pounds I had lost in an attempt to punish them, and mostly to punish myself for allowing others to dictate what I could and could not do with my body—for not standing up for what my life was worth. And now, I am stuck in a loop of losing weight, piling it back up, and then losing it again, until I decide to break the cycle once and for all.
I have treated my body horribly, taken my health for granted, and repeatedly ignored every sign my body has sent to me to take better care of it (whether I was starving myself or overeating). It is the only body I will ever have and it has (so far) supported me every day of my life.
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” Kate Moss famously said back in 2009. At the time, these words were warmly welcomed by the masses, but the model distanced herself from this statement a couple of years ago, when mindsets started to change. This is not an attack on the model, by the way, but rather a brief commentary on the social norms that standardize what is supposedly normal (what is most common), shoving everything and everyone else on the sidelines.
The social norm is a heavy concept, and I won’t pretend I can adequately develop it in this specific context, so it will only get an honorable mention.
Teenagers’ minds are like sponges. They absorb every word they are told or hear. They retain every image that is promoted by the media or that they see on social media, and most importantly, every emotion others make them feel gets carved onto their psyche. For that reason, their minds can easily get contaminated by the standardized images of beauty. And then they begin behaving based on what the society they live in accepts the most, searching for their self-worth merely in what they look like and how much attention they can get from others because of it.
It is also incredibly easy and dangerous for a girl to develop an unhealthy relationship with food by barely eating anything for days, or even weeks on end, by refusing to eat in front of others, or by overeating and then finding one way or another to get it all out of her system (I will admit I put myself through all three). Such patterns can eventually lead to a serious eating disorder, whose consequences on the body (its shape and organs) and on the mind could follow her into adulthood and affect her for years to come.
The health of the body and mind are undeniably connected, and anyone battling with weight loss or a mental health matter knows that it is a roller-coaster process that has to be dealt with every single day until everything feels better again.