Although being healthy and fit is extremely important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, obsessively attempting to achieve what seems to be the definition of fit can be dangerous. According to the International Journal of eating disorders, “35% of ‘normal dieters’ progress to crazy dieting. Of those, 20 to 25 percent progress to part or full-syndrome eating disorders.” In the US about 24 million people, male and female, suffer from eating disorders and have the highest death rate of any other mental illness. 7 million girls and counting have been diagnosed with eating disorders within the past year; and there will still be more to come. What is most surprising are the groups that support borderline unhealthy weight-loss, which have sprung out from social media sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Livejournal.
This self-esteem and body-destroyer phenomenon is called Thinspiration.
Thinspiration originally popped up by using pictures as a form of motivation for girls to get fit and stay healthy, but it has turned into a campaign that mocks exactly that. These pictures don’t openly suggest that girls should start having an eating disorder, but accentuates the thinnest part on a female body to aid the cause. The target audience for this thin trend are girls aging from thirteen to twenty-five, this is the time when girls are most insecure about life, themselves, and of course, their bodies.
Meghan Martinez, a sophomore at Montwood High School, states, “it’s in your teenage years where you’re influenced by the people around you … [pictures] make me start thinking of my flaws and things I can change about myself.”
Thinspiration has become a deadly trend reminding girls that it’s not ok to be anything other than skinny, turning the word into a synonym for being pretty.
Many subcultures have risen out of the thinspiration movement that promote obsessive exercise or extremely unhealthy eating habits. The first is called “fitsperation,” which shows pictures and motivational phrases to work-out until you drop or until you’ve become “thin.” These motivational campaigns want you to exhaust yourself and your body in order to look like the super beautiful, thin, strong and photoshopped woman. To get to this goal weight, you have to eat less, which can definitely break down important ligaments and muscles in your body. With different muscle tones and the needed calorie intake to repair worked muscle tissue and used blood cells after a hard workout, there is a need for rest and specific calorie intake for your metabolism to work. When you work out a lot your body uses a lot of energy to help build your muscles, and to get this energy you need a good amount of protein and fiber and nutrients, including carbs. Exercising (just like eating) is good for you, but it does not mean that it should be abused.
Then there’s the Pro-ana campaign, a campaign that helps girls maintain their anorexia and already deteriorating health. It’s a support group that helps maintain crash diets and fasts, praises weight-loss, shows how to hide your eating habits from your family and friends, and suggests ways to suppress hunger pains. The campaign lives off the idea that they are a non-judgmental group for those who have the self control to stay anorexic and not be ashamed of it.
Martinez commented on her friend’s struggle with anorexia stating, “she wanted to be super skinny, people told her to do things and she thought she’d fit in. Then people started to ignore her.”
An eating disorder is part of a mental illness that can include symptoms of depression. For example according to Dosomething.org, 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough; 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported to engaging in negative activities such as, bullying, peer pressure, sex, dangerous diets, loss of interest in school, anorexia, cutting, and suicidal tendencies.
Girls who frequent many of the sites that harbor thinspiration photos, including on Pinterest, is alarming. Although you should never be ashamed of who you are or what you look like, you should know when your body and mind are telling you that something’s wrong. Instead of feeding the cause, or in this case not feeding, find ways to get a better nutrition into your life and raise your self-esteem.
Joceylyn Perez, a Junior at Montwood High School from El Paso, Texas, commented on the thinspiration pictures and stated, “You see the other girls and compare yourself to them… you want to feel good and fit in when you’re born to stand out.”
But the struggle to fit in is not always lost and there are many great influences out there that can keep you thinking positive about yourself and life.
“I started realizing that it’s not about impressing anyone buy myself,” said Martinez.
“People play a role in life, that’s why you need to know your potential,” said Perez. If you start to think about how you can change yourself to look like some of these girls on the internet, turn off your screen for a while and take a walk, get some fresh air or listen to your favorite band. You’d be surprised at how great the world around you is without the pressure of worrying about your looks. You are beautiful the way you are.