Striving for Perfection, Despite the Consequences

by Mikaela Fairbanks

I am scrolling through Instagram and I see so many beautiful girls with bodies I dream of
having. I scroll through Tiktok and it’s the same. Endless videos and photos of girls with flat
tummies, tiny waists, abs, and just the right amount of fat in the right places. It’s what we call
“slim thicc” these days. I go shopping with my friends and try on cute, trendy clothes that I see
these girls wearing, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t look like them. They look good, I look
completely awkward and out of place. I, unfortunately, did not win the genetic lottery. I suck in
my belly to see if that makes me look better but it’s still clear that I’ve eaten today. It’s not small.

I pinch the fat on my stomach. I’ve been told my body is “normal” and I try to reassure myself
that I look fine. But they don’t get it, I want my body to be perfect, not normal. I want to look
like the pretty girls that I see everywhere online. When I get home, I cry because it hurts. I hate
looking this way. Maybe If I looked like them, it would fix all my problems. Everyone would
love me, I’d be so popular, and I wouldn’t feel like this. I decide that it’s time to go on a diet,
even though I am at a perfectly healthy weight.

My story is not unique. So many young girls and boys suffer from an eating disorder or
body dysmorphia. It is estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States
suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives (5). Eating disorders include a range of
disorders characterized by disturbances in the way that one views food, eating, body weight, and
shape (6). Eating disorders can present anywhere from avoiding certain foods, avoiding meals
altogether, eating too much food, or even eating meals but forcing oneself to throw up after.

Among adolescents, 62.3% of girls and 28.8% of boys have reported they are trying to lose
weight (4). Over half of girls and one-third of boys have tried to lose weight using unhealthy
methods such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, smoking, and taking laxatives (4). Eating disorders can have enormous consequences down the line as well, such as the increased risk of heart
failure, osteoporosis, depletion of electrolytes, and other issues within the cardiovascular,
gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrine systems (3).

Why do so many young girls and boys do this? For me, I had trouble with how my body looked. I was obsessed with the flaws in parts of my body and appearance that only I noticed. I would work out specific parts of my body while
ignoring other parts because I was obsessed with this one specific body part. This is called body
dysmorphia and it’s super common, and if it’s excessive, overwhelming, and causes a lot of
distress, it could be body dysmorphic disorder. About 1 in 50 people suffer from body
dysmorphic disorder, with an estimated 5-10 million suffering from it in the United States (1).
Not everyone who has an eating disorder struggles with body dysmorphia or body dysmorphic
disorder, but it is a huge risk factor for developing one.

There is a nonprofit organization called National Eating Disorders Association, or
NEDA, was organized to help solve the issue of eating disorders. They have a website that raises
awareness about eating disorders and helps find treatment and support options for those who
have eating disorders or have a loved one with one. They believe that eating disorders are serious
and preventable, and in the United States, support options are limited for those with eating
disorders and their loved ones (2). NEDA provides many programs and services, including
eating disorder screenings, a helpline (call, text, and online chat available 5 days a week), and an
interactive map to find virtual or in-person treatment options nearby (in the United States) (2).

They also have a list of support groups based on which state you live in, host walks to raise
awareness and money, a week-long annual campaign to raise awareness called
NEDAwarenessweek, and have legislative advocacy efforts on the state and federal level (2). In
addition, they have a program called “the body project” which includes early prevention efforts for eating disorders, group-based intervention, and forums for young women to confront unrealistic body ideals and accept their own bodies (2).

Right now, you can donate to the National Eating Disorders Association. In order to do
this, you can visit their website and donate directly to them with this link
, or you can buy their merchandise https://marketflux.foundrycommerce.com/Category. If you
have any questions about this topic, they have a lot of resources on their website with sections
that go in-depth on statistics, symptoms, treatments, and prevention of eating disorders.


(1) Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.) Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Cleveland Clinic.org. https://my.cle

(2) National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). About Us. National Eating Disorders
Association.org. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/about-us

(3) National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). Health Consequences. National Eating
Disorders Association.org. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences

(4) National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders.
National Eating Disorders Association.org. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/stat

(5) National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). What are Eating Disorders?. National
Eating Disorders Association.org. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-are-e

(6) National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (n.d.). What is an Eating Disorder? Nedc.com

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