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28th November 2023

When will WE become the trend?

Despite the body positivity and neutrality movements, diet culture and changing trends regarding body types are still engrained in our society
When will WE become the trend?
Credit: Mai Kreativ Designs and sparklestroke @ Canva

Trigger warning: mentions of disordered eating

We are always running, sprinting, and racing after trends, but when will the trend be to accept our bodies as they are? When will WE finally become the trend?

You already know about the body positivity/neutrality movement that has been on the rise over the last few years – an incredible generation of individuals promoting body diversity acceptance and recognising the value of how we function over how we look. But ever since coming to university, I’ve realised that even if this was the consensus across 100% of social media, society would still be drowning in diet culture’s norms.

The comparisons, passing comments, and hidden meanings all point to the fact that, oftentimes, no matter how much we hear the phrase “everyone is beautiful”, there’s a deeply ingrained lack of confidence in those words. In reality, a wider consensus of body positivity remains ‘far far away’… and the change that needs to happen starts with you.

Why do we feel the need to compare? Not only to others but to past versions of ourselves too? Us as little kids, us in our early teens, us yesterday, or this morning before we had breakfast? Where has the self-degradation come from?

Fashion and Law Journal didn’t shy away from emphasising the “immense” pressure both male and female models face to conform to unsustainable standards. And, if we are witnessing our own role models degrade their self-value to the size of their clothes, the embodiments of what we are told equates to ‘perfection’, how are we supposed to be left feeling about ourselves?

Ka-ching! This is where the brands come in: you have your skin care, your hair kits, your evening routines, and your gym guides – all personalised to you. Heck, if you want the whole package you may even get a discount! And so, when one phase begins to lose momentum, a new obsession comes about. During the war effort in the 1940s the stronger you looked, the sexier you were supposed to be. By the 1990s the ideal was ‘heroin chic’.

The issue is that when we sign up for these deals, it is often the details in fine print that we dismiss as ‘not a big deal’. But they are a big deal. It’s the cold hands, brittle hair, dry skin, and foggy mind. It’s the stomach pains and the tiredness, the isolation and constant numbers. It’s the want to escape but no exit sign to be seen, stuck in what feels like the safest place but is the scariest and most dangerous to be in… but, hey, all to become Victoria’s next secret, right?

Often what we don’t see is what goes on behind those closed doors, behind the fleeting comments and empty words. No one is inherently evil for regurgitating the diet culture norms that have been recited to them their whole lives; but it is this blissful ignorance that can cause so much indirect damage to someone already hurting.

What needs to be considered more by people is the intent vs. impact – whether it be a joke or thoughtless words, its effect can be detrimental. A study about students’ understanding and opinions of eating disorders revealed that there is a “high prevalence” of eating disorders amongst university students, referencing the normalisation of disordered behaviours and the fact that often people do not realise they are displaying eating disorder symptoms. 

The same study uncovered that too often, eating disorder sufferers feel they will be perceived as ‘vain’ or ‘self-obsessed’ and so will avoid seeking help in fear of being too self-centred. Hence, disordered behaviours have become normalised… but at what cost?

Research by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) identified that those diagnosed with anorexia between the ages of 15 and 24, are at a 10x higher risk of mortality compared with their peers. According to NEDA, about 40-60% girls aged 6-12 are already concerned about their weight… and one of the main causes? The “Sociocultural idealization of thinness”. 

The normalisation of these disordered behaviours is what has led to fast growing rates of eating disorder cases, where between 1995 and 2008 the percentage of students on a weight loss plan devastatingly jumped from 4.2% to 22%.

Shall we thank ‘heroin chic’ for that? This is not desirable. It is not admirable. This is a deadly disease that is anything but glamorous and nothing short of misery. The normalisation of disordered behaviours needs to become un-normalised, but I also want to remind you that it may take years, decades even, before this message spreads wide enough to become the norm – before people begin to think before they speak. That being said, ultimately, how we react to these words is down to us.

Many people don’t think twice before they say something, and much of the time won’t give it a second thought afterwards. Why make yourself miserable for the foreseeable future over a comment someone will forget they said within the next five minutes? You do not deserve to degrade your self-value and quality of life to a stereotype – you do not deserve to confine yourself to the norm.

Your potential, your light, your capabilities, and opportunities hold so much more value than any diet culture norm claims to hold. Think of your goals, your dreams, think of your experiences and what makes you happy every day.

It’s walking to university on a sunny, crisp winter morning, it’s going for a spontaneous brunch with a friend… it’s having the headspace to be constantly flowing with ideas to write and film, to laugh at jokes, to travel and experience new adventures. Yes, you can do it to honour your inner child or to become your dream future self, but, more than anything, please, allow yourself that freedom for the current version of you.

Yes. Right now. This very second. You deserve to have energy today. You deserve to feel warm today. You deserve to have the headspace to think and brainstorm, to have ambitions and aspirations, and you deserve to say yes to those unexpected plans – today. You deserve to have the foods you want to have and wear the clothes you want to wear today, right now. Because you are worth so much more than a number; so much more than a fleeting trend.

It’s time to reclaim the norm – to reclaim the stereotype. Starting from today, from right now, YOU are the trend. You, in your truest, most authentic, happiest self are the ultimate package of what you can aspire to be every day. Because that’s a rare type of beauty, one that is priceless.

Remember, please, it starts with you.

Helpful resources:

The UK’s Eating Disorder Charity – Beat 

Mental Health Charity – Mind

Overview of Eating Disorders – NHS 

Help and Support – National Eating Disorders Association

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