To tell you the truth, at times it's appalling how the ideal of thinness has become so deeply ingrained in us. Sometime during my second year in college, I've noticed that I'm nearly the only one who still brings sandwiches – with cheese and olives or peanut butter - for lunch. It seemed most of my fellow students lived off carrots and diet rice crisps.
There was one especially exhausting period when I used to come home very late and was too tired to eat anything but a salad before going to bed. I was close to falling asleep any time, day or night. I was anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated and all that, together with literally having no time to eat, resulted in losing weight.
And guess what, I started receiving compliments. Yep, that's right. "Oh, I see you've lost weight, good for you!"; "you look so great!"; "I wish I could be as thin as you!"
What's wrong with them, I thought? Can't they see I'm about to collapse from unhealthy pressure? My weight back then was lower than what I had in 7-th grade. I was so exhausted I didn't even feel hungry. How could anyone think I looked good when I felt so awful?
When exams were finally over and I went back to eating and sleeping like I used to, my normal weight gradually came back. I was pleased. Finally, I stopped looking like a ghost and had some color in my cheeks again.
Do you know what I got? Genuine concern and plenty of tips. "I see your diet isn't working anymore, do you want to try mine?"; "You should really stop with all those peanut butter sandwiches; it will ruin everything you've worked so hard on!" … Huh? I finally returned to my healthy and normal state. Why would I want to starve myself?
It really gives me a sick feeling when I hear a fellow student calling herself 'a cow' for eating a low-fat yogurt, claiming she has hidden fat stores (where, for God's sake?) that she simply needs to shake off in the gym. All that, while she knows her BMI is on the lowest end of normal! But no, she wants to return to the 43 kilos she was once in junior high. Do you know how dangerous it is to be underweight? Much more than being overweight!
A 'good day' is when she overcomes her hunger. A 'bad day' is when she 'gives in' and eats more than what she needs to survive. No, she doesn't have anorexia – not yet, at least. The sad part is that soon she will start counseling poor women who are ready to give just about anything to lose that 'extra' weight (which is just their normal weight). She might even counsel women who have eating disorders. How is she supposed to help them when she hates her body so much?!
How have we reached a point when women are ready to trade their health and well-being for some distorted beauty ideal?