For most of my life, it never occurred to me that some people simply ate whatever they felt like eating.
They could walk up to a buffet and not analyze everything on it. Not do math. Just choose what they wanted to eat and get on with their lives. That concept didn’t exist in my world.
Food, weight, and body shape have been top of mind for as long as I can remember. Disappointment when looking in the mirror. Frustration over perceived imperfections. And deep insecurity over those “failures”.
I went on a diet for the first time at 13. I had complained to my mother that I was fat in the way that only adolescents can do. With loads of drama and angst better suited to acting in a horror film. But my Mom understood my anxiety about my weight and we joined Weight Watchers.
We were on a mission, weighing and measuring every morsel, dominating mealtimes with discussions about proteins, carbs, etc. How many calories have I eaten today? What am I having for supper later that I should factor into my choice of breakfast? In other words, we became obsessed with food. Good food. Bad food. Food that would destroy whatever progress we were making toward whatever goals we had set. It was all about living up to an ideal that’s unrealistic for me, and it was for my Mom. But the pursuit of that ideal was like a drug.
It’s Worse For Girls Today
I cannot even fathom what it would have been like to go through this turmoil under the scrutiny of worldwide fame. I recently read, The Sporty One, the autobiography of Melanie Chisolm, aka Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls. She developed a dangerous eating disorder at the height of the group’s success. I was never a Spice Girls’ fan, but her story was fascinating. She literally came from nothing to rise to incredible wealth and fame. And there was a deep insecurity, compounded by media meanness and scolding managers. Beautiful, thin, active Mel C was told she wasn’t living up to the megastar ideal. For years, she existed on a few vegetables a day, combined with hours-long, punishing workouts. She went from being one of those people who ate whatever she wanted to restricting herself to the diet of a rabbit.
That was in the late 90s. Now, add in social media with its critical comments, filters on photos, and everything else. Young girls don’t need to become famous to take this stuff to heart. And it’s far worse than flipping through Cosmo magazine like my generation did.
Please take three minutes to watch this incredible ad – a short film, really – from Dove. These are real girls and their real-life struggles. Kardashian-level flaunted wealth, photo-shopping selfies, plastic surgery on already beautiful faces – all of this stuff that we adults know is bullshit, permeates the thin skin of adolescents. “Social” media brings us together, whether we’re supportive friends, bullies, or bad role models. And it’s not so easy to look away.