Body types shouldn’t be trends

11 mins read

Content warning: this article discusses eating disorders and body image.

There has recently been a worrying shift away from body confidence and diversity – here is why we need to opt out of this damaging fad.

The media have always treated women’s bodies like fashion trends, making it almost impossible to avoid trying to conform to the latest ones. It can be exhausting to look at ourselves in the mirror and scrutinise every detail that doesn’t fit the perfect mould that we see celebrated online.

Society’s definition of what is ‘beautiful’ is constantly changing. The 1950s called for an hourglass figure with subtle curves displayed by Marilyn Monroe.

The 90s then progressed to favour the exact opposite: a thin frame like Kate Moss, who was even accused of ‘promoting anorexia‘ by eating disorder experts at one point in her career. In 2009, many people shared their discomfort in her phrase: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Image credit: Geoff Wilkinson/Rex

Everyone could take a sigh of relief when body positivity and confidence became more of a trend in 2010. Curvier models such as Ashley Graham took the media by storm and dominated the runways. Advertising campaigns also became more inclusive.

The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign sticks out to me as the first time I saw women of all different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities being celebrated. Watching that as a young girl felt like a breath of fresh air.

The Kardashians then rose to fame in 2018 and ‘slim-thick’ became the beauty standard. It was practically impossible to look this way naturally and could only be achieved through cosmetic procedures and surgeries. This set yet another unattainable beauty standard for many young girls who felt they weren’t beautiful without a body like this.

Skinniness, (reminiscent of the 90s), has came back into trend in 2023 according to The New York Post, who recently tweeted: “Bye bye booty. Heroin chic is back,” to the demise of many women across the world.

This Tweet attracted many celebrities, including Jameela Jamil, who hit back at the publication on TikTok: “No… Our bodies are not trends. Our body shapes are not trends. F-k off.”

Jameela Jamil has also openly spoke about her battle with an eating disorder, that came from working in “an industry that hates women.

My struggle with body image

Personally, I know that coming across this Tweet two years ago would have made me extremely uncomfortable in a body that I already saw as ‘too big.’

Growing up, I was always the biggest one in my friend group and was as young as 12 when someone first made a negative comment about my body. I would hide away in baggy clothes, embarrassed of anyone seeing the real me and had tried every quick fix and fad diet that I came across. Nothing I tried was sustainable.

In 2019, I finally committed myself to long term weight loss (what I thought at the time was being healthier). Seeing an influx of Instagram influencers and models on social media with ‘perfect bodies’ and seemingly ‘perfect lives’ made me believe that being skinnier would mean being happier. I can confirm that what I did to my body in that time just made me more miserable.

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Credit: Glamour Magazine

I avoided social situations with my friends that involved food and planned my days around exercise. Every second of every day I was thinking about food, and meticulously took a record of everything I put in my body to track my calories.

I would say now that I wasn’t living, I was simply existing. The extra weight I had held on to for years was finally shifted, but a nasty eating disorder and an unhealthy relationship with exercise had developed in the process.

Now, two years into my eating disorder recovery, trends like this don’t affect me like before. I’ve grown so much mentally and physically and now sustain a healthy weight and a balanced diet.

There is no such thing as saying no to plans anymore and I exercise purely for mental clarity and physical wellbeing, not aesthetics. I’ve said goodbye to forcing myself into endless cardio, over-exercising to compensate for food I felt that I didn’t deserve. I now know that everyone deserves to eat, no matter their size.

The lifestyle I had developed when I was deep in my eating disorder is the lifestyle that The New York Post (along with many more publications), are promoting through tweets like this one.

Who is to blame?

The reality is, (even if we don’t realise it), the media, advertising, and retail sector are all working together and are committed to making us feel bad about ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and articles such as: ‘How to lose 30 pounds in a week,’ ‘Try this new appetite-suppressing pill,’ and ‘Buy this waist trainer to achieve the hour-glass shape!’

The media dictates what the ideal body type is whilst the retail sector feeds off the insecurities that develop when we realise we don’t have it. Companies will offer us products designed to ‘fix’ our bodies in ways we think we need, but these are almost always placebos. These products are designed to take our money and leave us still unsatisfied with how we look, ultimately keeping us coming back for more.

Social Studies student at the University of Stirling Rachel Hay recalled the moment she first saw The New York Post’s tweet:

“As someone who is in eating disorder recovery, I found this extremely triggering. Large publications have a responsibility and they are aware of the huge amount of influence they have over so many girls across the globe.”

Credit: Lucia Thorne / The Berkeley Beacon

In the future, she would also like to see publications use their platform solely to share things that will “promote body positivity and confidence” within their audience. She went on to say that the tweet “is not only damaging to people in recovery, but is also harmful in general to everyone. It encourages us to feel bad about our bodies and this could potentially lead to body image issues, or worse.”

The damage

I may be recovered from my eating disorder and able to ignore tweets like this, but that doesn’t mean other people will be. Eating disorder specialist group, Priory, has stated that over the last 30-40 years, the prevalence of eating disorders has increased to become a widespread problem across the UK and worldwide. Research also suggests that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK are effected by an eating disorder.

As artist Taylor Swift, who has also had struggles with eating disorders in the past also once said: “If you’re thin enough, then you don’t have that ass that everybody wants […] But when you have enough weight on you to have an ass, your stomach isn’t flat enough. It’s all just f-cking impossible.”

What can we do?

The best thing to do is to try ignoring it all. The best trend to follow is being happy and healthy, whatever that means for us as individuals. We should be prioritising making good memories with friends and family, rather than constantly worrying about the way our body’s look.

Certain publications will continue to tell us that we need to look a certain way to fit in, but we need to start digesting material that is beneficial and makes us feel confident in ourselves. Following publications and people on social media that promote body diversity is a good place to start.

Author and TV star Vicky Pattison is a great example of this. After seeing the tweet, she also took to Instagram to hit back at The New York post, exclaiming: “No, we aren’t saying ‘bye bye to booty’ we’re saying ‘bye bye’ to this toxic and outdated bullsh-t! We are strong, capable beyond measure & know our worth is not defined by how small our waist is!”

Credit: www.lobo.ac.uk

TikTok star and body positivity advocate Olivia Kirkby is another great example of a positive influencer to follow. Her Instagram feed is full of authentic and unedited pictures of her and her body, which make her seem so much more human, and therefore much easier to relate to.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or an eating disorder:

Feature Image Credit: Pxhere.com

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Journalism Student @UoS 🙂

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