Girl in the Mirror

Facing the generational cycle of disordered eating

Editor’s Note: This story is a part of The Shakerite: Women’s Edition that was published virtually in May 2022. Due to a temporary change in the teacher adviser along with COVID-19 restrictions, The Shakerite decided to proceed with our print edition virtually. This is one of ten stories in the edition.

Ever since I can remember I’ve heard comments from women in my life either shaming themselves or other women for their weight. It’s a vicious generational cycle that targets young women. From a young age I heard adults discuss misinformed diets that focused on restricting the intake of sugar, fat, calories, seemingly everything under the sun.  Of course men have also said similar things regarding dieting, but I’ve noticed the abundance of comments from women to other women. 

Once a female teacher made an off putting comment about trying to lose weight while I was in her conferences. She looked up, most likely expecting me and the only other girl to reciprocate the comment. She then joked that she expected the girls to feel her frustration of trying to lose weight. I laughed awkwardly, and wondered if she would have directed this remark at a boy.   

In elementary school I distinctly remember my friend group of girls comparing our weights, as if a number on a scale was a defining factor in our lives at the age of 11. Sitting in a circle on the playground, we listened to each other share a meaningless number.  I remember feeling panicked when it was my turn to share my weight and fabricated a weight that seemed acceptable. The fact is that before this incident I don’t remember comparing myself to other girls or feeling the blaring gaze of everyone on my body.  

Before this awakening, so to speak, I hadn’t thought much about my body. I thought of my body in more of a practical way, rather than as an aesthetic object to be carefully watched. My body allowed me to swim, bike, and play on the playground, so it was almost inconceivable that I should have to be aware of my weight. Suddenly, I began to hear more casual discussions of weight, eating, and exercising, topics that at one point dictated my every move. 

 There is the idea that the most desirable female body is thin. The unrealistic standards of femininity, specifically the feminine body, is perpetuated by the early objectification of women, beginning in childhood. Around the age of puberty girls are suddenly faced with the consuming burden of being attractive, a concept that is all too often dictated by the media, where a certain type of woman is deemed desirable. This type of woman has historically been white, skinny and blonde. If a girl is not these things, then they’re out of luck according to societal expectations. I watched the girls around me realize this, openly criticizing themselves and others.

Looking back, I now know that there were always people around me discussing weight, eating and exercising in a toxic way. The rose-colored glasses that I once saw the world through, had been removed. Like many young girls, I had to confront the reality that girls would always be expected to fit unrealistic beauty standards. 

With the continuing pressure on girls to fit a certain body type it’s important that we confront and more importantly address the perpetuation of disordered ideas within our daily lives. Be critical of the culture within your own friend group around eating, dieting, and body image. Most importantly support each other because, after all; all bodies are beautiful.  


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