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TW: eating disorders/dieting

 “By the time I was 16, I had already experienced being clinically overweight, underweight, and obese. As a child fat was the first word people used to describe me which didn’t offend me until I found out it was supposed to. When I lost weight my dad was so proud he started carrying my before and after photo in his wallet.”

These striking words come from Blythe Baird’s poem “When the Fat girl gets skinny” which you can find under Button Poetry on Youtube. For me, this poem brings up a lot of emotions that have been prevalent my entire life. Like Baird, I was a heavy child. I loved to eat, and I definitely still do. My Grandma used to say she was certain that in a past life I was starving, which seemed to be an explanation for my unflinching hunger. 

With that, I have a lot of experience with being praised for weight loss, and I have come to notice a horrifying trend in our modern world. The applause we give to women who lose weight, with no knowledge of their health concerns, mental state, or how they feel physically, is irreversibly damaging. 

Person standing on scale
Photo by I Yunmai from Unsplash

A prime example is singer Adele, who has been all the talk this year due to her dramatic weight loss. Adele is a beautiful woman, and always has been, but one search on twitter and you see comments riddled with newfound praise and congratulations such as “wow she’s so hot now” or “skinny Adele is my new icon.” This is a problem for numerous reasons, but mostly because a stranger’s weight loss is not for others to commend. Secondly, if a celebrity losing weight changes the way they are publicly perceived, that says that as a society, being skinny is seen as being a winner. It says: you’re not worth admiration unless you’re thin. 

Not to mention, for most women, Adele’s weight loss is unachievable. Surrounded by a team of nutritionists, personal trainers, and chefs, Adele is said to be following the Sirtfood diet, in which, at least at the beginning, she did not eat more than 1,000 calories on a daily basis. One does not need to be a health expert to recognize that a 1,000 calorie diet is not only unsustainable but unhealthy. Yet, there is hardly any mention of concern in the media about Adele’s long term nutrition, only admiration over her newfound ‘good looks’ which, by the way, are not new.

Personally, I like to think my beauty is not newfound either. Perhaps I was not always the healthiest, however, at age 13, when I too went through a fairly dramatic weight loss, I was no healthier than I was as a heavy child. I was thinner and no longer overweight, but my relationship with food had never been worse. Everything I ate scared me to death. I was calculating calories at school, crying over whether or not to eat my friend’s birthday cupcakes, and I often felt light-headed and tired. What I was lacking, and what I believe I have a better grip on now, was a true concept of health. It’s imperative to nourish our bodies with healthy, filling, delicious food. Moreover, it’s important to enjoy eating (a lot)! Without food, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all the amazing things we do every day. I’m not claiming to know Adele’s personal relationship with food, but I can say with almost 100% certainty that if you baked her a cake, the idea of eating a piece would stir up a lot of feelings within because cake is known as a ‘bad food.’ 

 Adele herself has said “I think no matter what you look like, the key is to first of all be happy with yourself.” While at age 13, I thought being thin was the key to my happiness, I soon learned the merit of Adele’s quote. 

woman stretching in bed
Photo by Bruce Mars from Unsplash

Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness worldwide, second only to drug addiction, and the toxicity surrounding weight and body image is ever present. I know for a fact that nobody is ever praised for being addicted to drugs, and thus the congratulatory reaction to dramatic weight loss needs to end now. Instead, we should be praising those who live the healthiest, happiest of lifestyles. Our ideal beauty standard should not be supermodels who don’t eat 24 hours before a runway show, but people who nourish and love their bodies with good food and fun exercise.  

When the fat girl becomes skinny, she feels like a brand new person. Cool girls notice her for the first time, friends ask to borrow her clothes, random upperclassmen approach her in the bathroom, and tell her she’s amazing. What they should be asking her is how she is.

Nicole is a Junior at Kenyon College studying Spanish and gender studies. Hailing from northern New Jersey, Nicole is passionate about wildflowers, baby animals, and small bodies of water. In addition to writing for HCK on-campus, Nicole plays on Kenyon's ultimate frisbee team, blu-ray.
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