Community / Opinion

Together, let’s lose the intolerable weight of diet culture

When I search “How to” on google, the second answer it gives me is “how to lose weight quickly.”

I have been struggling with my body image for years now. “I hate my thighs” and “My calves are too big” are things that could be heard coming out of my mouth at one point in time. Only recently have I realized how much of a victim I have become of diet culture. In early spring I decided to lose some weight for that “perfect summer body.” I decided that 1500 calories daily would be good, since that allowed for a projected two pounds to be lost per week with exercise. 

After about two weeks of this diet, I was moody, weak, and constantly had a headache. A part of me was miserable but the other half was proud. I was proud that I could demonstrate self-control around food and that all these efforts would make me a better, skinnier person. I convinced myself that the small window of pain and fatigue would be worth it.

This all came to an end however, when the cravings became too much, and I binged. I ate anything and everything I had previously restricted, which finally led me to realize what I was doing was harming me. I put away the calorie counters and low-cal snacks (which I didn’t even like), and traded them in for nutritious food that my body deserved. Food equals fuel, not stress and anxiety like diet culture wants us to think. 

Unfortunately, my struggle with body image is not unique. This past week I sat down with two of my good friends, and our conversation confirmed how impactful diet culture can be on impressionable teenagers. Jenna London ‘22 shared, “I believed I would be happy being skinny. I constantly thought that the less calories the better.” Diet culture preaches that small physiques equal healthy bodies, and that comes with the idea that calories need to be kept to a minimum.

The collective influence social media has on our body image is a sad realization. Phoebe Frechette ‘22 shared, “I’m not sure I know of a single person, teenage girl especially, who hasn’t seen a picture of someone and been like, damn, I really wish I looked like them, and I think for me, personally, I do often find myself comparing.” Comparison destroys personality, and a society that focuses on weight and shape over health and wellbeing is a toxic one.

Throughout my ongoing struggle with food and body image, I have found some solutions. We were not born hating our bodies, so it is obvious this is a developed trait society has inflicted upon us. I believe to truly recover from either an eating disorder or body/food-related insecurities, it is vital to practice self-compassion. Phoebe eloquently stated that “girls’ bodies specifically go through ‘trends’ of how you’re supposed to look and what is pretty.” Twenty years ago, thigh gaps were “in,” and today the focus is on having a large butt and a skinny waist. It is exhausting, unattainable, and unhealthy to try and mold your body to fit a certain image. Instead we need to celebrate our bodies for all they do for us. Inclusivity and self-compassion need to replace self-hatred and body trends in order for diet culture to loosen its grip over us all. 

Inside the Dana community, I believe we do a good job of not body shaming, but we are all still subjected to seeing ads and airbrushed photos. To address social media, I suggest changing the influencers you follow. For example, Victoria Garrick is a fantastic role model for body positivity and self-love. Her Instagram posts include all of the societal “scaries” such as stretch marks, bloated stomachs, and acne. The amount of time we spend on social media is at an all-time high, so it is important to use that integral time for something positive, not degrading. 

If you feel like you have an unhealthy quality of relationship with food or your body, please contact one of the counselors listed below. Please remember that you are not alone, as I can guarantee the next girl you see has had an issue with her body before. It is our job to counter cultural norms and expectations in order for the next generation to be spared the unnecessary pains of comparison, self-hate, and moralization of food.

Helpful Resources

Dr. Slater (she/her), Upper School Counseling Director:

Ms. Saunders (she/her), Upper School Counselor:

Ms. Sharp (she/her), Upper School Counselor:

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