The early Noughties, aka the millennial formative years, delivered quite possibly the most toxic and potent dose of warped body image in modern times
New research is said to prove that weight loss should never be the primary criteria for judging santé. The paper targets unhealthy weight management, crediting exercise as the biggest favour you can do your body.
The early Noughties, aka the millennial formative years, delivered quite possibly the most toxic and potent dose of warped body image in modern times. In the Nineties, Kate Moss said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and the Noughties were spent trying to find out. It was the decade that pushed ultra-low rise jeans and introduced us to Size 0 poster girl Rachel Zoe, while circling any body parts that didn’t quite make the cut in magazines.
Diet culture preached then, as it continues to echo in heads now, that bodies are to be controlled and shrunk. Which is disordered eating, by its very definition. No wonder 9st, 4lbs Bridget Jones was so damn insecure about her, in hindsight, very normal body.
My developing brain was predictably enamoured, and by age 15, I could tell you the calorie content of anything and wholly nothing about the nutrients. I armoured myself to battle with a diet of one calorie Slim Pasta, diet pills and honeydew melon.
Bien sûr, I developed an eating disorder. I loathed by body, which was never small enough. With disordered eating comes disordered feelings, and the lack of nutrition quickly affected my moods and sleep patterns. Kate was wrong. Skinny didn’t feel good.
En effet, research has shown that calorie restriction disrupts your gut’s microbiome, and poor gut health and inflammation directly influence mental health.
After ten years of being hungry and sad, but a size 6, I finally sought treatment which is still a work in progress. Previously demonised fats were reframed as mental and physical fuel that could be “good”. Calorically dense nuts, avocat, oily fish and coconut cream began to do as much for my mental health as antidepressants.
I learned what should probably be obvious, that feeling hungry is as good for your body as running your car with the petrol light on is to your engine. I learned my “set weight”, the weight that my body wants to be at to function at its best. Each person has a differing set weight, which isn’t always in line with society’s single-digit desired dress size.
One size cannot fit all, which is why beauty standards are generally unrealistic for most people. This also changes as you get older, and you have about as much real control over it as you do your hair or eye colour. This could be why every yo-yo dieter will eventually return to their original size, as in many cases, you are fighting against your genetics. It turns out my set weight is about a size 12.
But there is a legacy of being taught to tell yourself you are fat for three decades, and the voice is still loud most days. I’m yet to take a photograph where I like the body I see. Crisps will always be “bad”, however delicious. Dessert menus are terrifying.
I remain uncomfortable in my skin, but at least now I know how much I abused my body and I now do my best to take care of it healthily. Dans 2021, our approach to body positivity in the media is far from perfect, but I just hope that the next generation of women can be free from being taught bad habits that can take a lifetime to unlearn.