Food is Not the Enemy, the Media Is
With the holiday season coming up, you can expect a lot of food to be passed around the dinner table. The last quarter of the year is stuffed with holidays that all center around food; candy for October, turkey for November, and everything else for December. With the amount of food popping up during these last months, it can be a difficult time for people to eat without feeling guilty. It is important to remember one thing: food is not the enemy. The holidays should be a time to indulge and enjoy yourself, not a time to fear the mac and cheese at the potluck.
Normalizing an unhealthy relationship with food is mentally and physically harmful, especially for teenagers. Social media is only fueling this battle by promoting fad diets and outrageous claims. Remember how everyone in quarantine, influencers were promoting drinking apple cider vinegar and buying metabolism drops from them to get skinny. These influencers were glorifying unhealthy methods of weight loss to impressionable youths.
In March of this year, Wired published an article called “TikTok Has a Pro-Anorexia Problem.” The article discusses how social media apps, such as Tik Tok, endorse the idea that weight loss can be achieved through fad diets and extreme changes in calorie intake. This sends a message that mental health problems can be ignored as long as you're achieving satisfactory outcomes. The idea of an app where kids as young as thirteen years old watch videos promoting habits and products that can lead to eating disorders is terrifying. People ages fourteen to twenty-five are most at risk for developing eating disorders, and social media is targeting those most vulnerable.
To start changing social attitudes towards food and exercise, we must first change our definition of beauty. Teens are fed a false narrative that to have the perfect body they must do x,y, and z tasks. But, the whole idea of a perfect body is blatantly wrong. People are born with some variation of three body types: Ectomorphs are long and lean and have a hard time gaining either muscle or fat; Endomorphs are bulkier and gain weight and muscle more easily; and Mesomorphs are athletic, gaining and losing weight without issue.
Still, girls and boys are constantly exposed to unrealistic beauty standards in cartoons, advertisements, movies, toys, and on social media. Disney princesses are doing a better job of depicting different cultures, but somehow every princess has the same skinny body. Victoria Secret models are shown in every mall and on television advertisements, profiting off of women’s insecurities. Though it’s often overlooked, media imposes physical standards on men, as well. Calvin Klein underwear advertisements, for example, pressure men to be muscular with cut abdominals in order to feel handsome.
It is hard to think of beauty as something other than what the media feeds us, but beauty is so much more than that. Beauty is inside every mother, father, sister, brother, friend, loved one, and person. It encompasses not only what we look like, but who we are and what we love. Our bodies work hard to take care of us, and we should work just as hard to take care of our bodies. Eating intuitively, resting when needed, and simply taking care of ourselves should be the top priority -- not cutting down to a twenty-four-inch waist.
Many truly healthy habits take time and determination to adopt, but change is an achievable process. Start by being kinder to yourself and less critical of every little thing you do or eat. Talk to a professional or a loved one if food or social expectations of beauty are getting difficult to bear. Eating a brownie or enjoying a nice meal with your family shouldn’t be a moment of dread. If you fed everyone on Earth the same diet, everyone would still look different. So this holiday season, try to enjoy it with those that you love, and celebrate with an extra helping of your favorite dessert because you deserve it.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder please visit:
Gerrard, Y. (n.d.). TikTok Has a Pro-Anorexia Problem. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-tiktok-has-a-pro-anorexia-problem/
Person. (2020, September 10). How disordered eating content is slipping through the net on Tik Tok. Retrieved from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/reports/a33886752/tiktok-disordered-eating-over-exercising/
Weiss, S. (2020, March 04). The dangerous diets young women are doing to get skinny for Spring Break. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/03/03/the-dangerous-diets-young-women-are-doing-to-get-skinny-for-spring-break/