Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Skinny

Before today, I didn't know what the alarmingly depressing trend called "thinspo" was (if you want to know, do a Google search; you'll get something like the screenshot I took above).

Actually, let me take that back. I knew damn well what it was; I just didn't know there was a slang term for it.

I'll start from the beginning. While I was making my post-diet-salad-miserable-lunch coffee, I came across a video presentation that the daughter of an old friend of mine had posted on Facebook/youtube called "The Skinny on Food." I had a stack of papers still to grade, and about three hours to hammer out as many of them as I possibly could before I had to pick my daughter up from the bus, but something compelled me to click on the video (linked up below).

I couldn't stop watching it. In its first few minutes, my friend's daughter Lindsey bravely admits to struggling with her own eating disorder in college, how she slipped into eating as little as possible, exercised obsessively (even while playing sports), and then had to tell her family her dark secret after her doctor discovered her problem. I recognized in her myself during my senior year in college, when I decided to lose as much weight as I possibly could in order to fit in as a fitness instructor at my very large, very athletically oriented university. I didn't tell anyone the dangerous lengths I went to to lose weight; come to think of it, I never did, until just now. Probably because all of the attention I got felt good. When people exclaim how wonderful you look, you don't tell them you are nearly starving yourself during the week, binging on Fridays and Fridays only. I honestly didn't think I had an eating disorder. I thought I finally had myself under control.
As the video goes on, Lindsey interviews her friends, male and female, about the pressures that they feel or see when thinking about dieting and their appearances/weight (think Killing Us Softly for a new generation). Here, things really got enlightening. One of her male friends, for example, says that he thinks the average weight for women in the U.S. is 120-135 pounds (maybe when they are 14 ... or in the Victoria's Secret catalog ... maybe). He also admits that if he heard someone say that a girl weighed 160 pounds, he would automatically think she was overweight. I almost felt bad for the kid, because he was being totally honest. I think my favorite line in the video is when another female friend says, "I feel like if a guy wants a pizza, he'll go get a pizza [snapping her fingers]. Without any second thought, any remorse, anything. [...] He eats it and it's done." So true.
What the video really made me think about, however (especially through all of its media-montages) is the fact that our culture pressures women to diet constantly. I mean, all. the. time. In this mindset, among body-conscious women, if you're not on a diet, you're a slacker. I have to admit that as an almost 40-year-old woman, I think about dieting at some point almost 90% of the day. This is thoroughly depressing, but I would be lying to you if I told you something else. Thinking about how I look - how my body is shaped; how flat (or fat) my stomach is; how much I ate today - is exhausting. I wish I could spend that time thinking about more important things. Think of all the work I would get done.
And then I thought how much we, as women, put pressure on each other to get thinner. We say it's about being healthier, but let's be honest here; for the majority of us, it's about fitting into our "skinny" jeans. And it's competitive. All of the posts about whatever new fad diet we're on, how many pounds and inches we've lost, how much we worked out, what we ate or didn't eat, pictures of ourselves "before and after" we wrapped, sparked, Insanitied, cleansed, detoxed, quick-started. On Facebook on Pinterest on Twitter on Instagram. When I see so-and-so's post about how they lost 10 pounds in 5 days, I feel bad about myself because I didn't do the same thing. I'm not pointing fingers at other people; I'm just as guilty as the next girl. I thoroughly admit I've committed thinspo crimes against my fellow women.
But I won't post anything of this sort again after today. Because this young woman's video made me stop and think for 43 minutes about how we as adult women influence the women who come along after us. I don't want my girls pinning thinspo picture after thinspo picture, hating themselves because they can't "Keep calm and not eat."  I don't want my friends to feel bad about themselves because I somehow managed to lose a few pounds last week.
Now, if I could just somehow manage to reprogram my brain. J
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