Toxic diet culture in the 2000s has effected young adults self-esteem

By Tristan Leach

Growing up in the 2000s was one of the best things to happen to me. Disney Channel was at the height of its success. I witnessed some very questionable fashion trends. I got to hangout with my friends and experience a childhood before cell phones. There was so much good, but lurking behind it all was the worst part of the 2000’s: diet culture.

From a very young age, I was aware of weight loss and its supposed positive effects. On the flip side, I was also aware of weight gain and its supposed negative effects. While I played on the front lawn of my friend’s yard, our parents were inside talking about the newest food they were trying or the newest workout video. I heard them discussing what some doctor online has said or what another friend’s mom had been doing to lose weight. No one knew at the time just how much that would go on to affect me or my generation.

Flash forward to 2015, I am a 13-year-old with cystic acne and my body is still developing. Boys are starting to comment on that. I also became very aware of my weight. All of my very young life, my family had made comments about how skinny I was or how big my butt was. I learned very early that no matter what I did, my body would be a point of conversation.

So, in order to keep the body that everyone said ‘nice things’ about, I resorted to under-eating and taking the hardest dance class my school had to offer. By junior year of high school, I finally got tired of constantly checking my weight. I decided to stop my quest of trying to stay a size four and instead worked on building muscle.

When I made the discovery that I was playing into society’s beauty standards, I was mad. I was mad at myself for listening to companies and magazines whose models were starving. I was mad at society for imposing these standards. But most of all I was mad at my parents. Their constant talk of weight loss and needing to look a certain way was dangerously ingrained in my head.

I know that there is such a thing as healthy weight loss, all of us want to lead full healthy lives. It wasn’t so much that I was mad that my parents talked about this idea of weight loss, it was that it was always presented as negative. My dad knew he needed to lose weight, however he wasn’t kind to himself about it and that affected me.

When we see our parents talk bad about themselves and their bodies we begin to think the same things about ourselves. After all, our parents are our first constant companions and we are of our parents. I wanted my parents to love themselves as much as I loved and still love them. It wasn’t my parents fault that they talked negatively about their bodies, it was how the diet culture of the 00s was talking to
them, and I, in turn, picked up on it.

Now in college, I still struggle with loving my body. Whenever I look in the mirror, I think about the scared 13-year-old who didn’t want to eat and I am thankful that I stopped the negativity with myself.

The next generation deserves to live without societal judgment. Bodies are meant to grow and change. Our bodies are meant to keep us alive, not please the eye of a random stranger on the street. Starting now, we should teach that there is such a thing as a healthy weight gain and that working out does not need to be about changing yourself but about taking care of yourself.

So I am saying goodbye to the toxicity that is diet culture and hello to loving myself, even if it takes me another five years.

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