Column: A slice of skinny

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Photo credit: Azel Alkadiri

An array of sweet treats and desserts cover the kitchen table in preparation for Christmas dinner. This holiday season, I hope young women everywhere eat as much cake, pie and cookies as they please.

By Azel Alkadiri, Columnist

They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Picture this: It’s the holiday season and your extended family comes to visit you. You’re sitting at Christmas dinner with your head down, feeling self-conscious and unattractive. Across the table, your grandmother tells you that you are too skinny and that you need to eat more. Then, your uncle tells you that you look great and very different from when you were younger. Here’s what they don’t know: You are struggling with an eating disorder. 

Maybe there is a tree in your house or a menorah on your table. Maybe you’re already tired of hearing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on the radio or maybe you just get excited about winter break. I know I do.

The world’s holiday traditions are endlessly diverse and beautiful, with so many cultures to experience. But for those of us fortunate enough to have it, I believe there is a common thread amongst many of our winter traditions: food. And lots and lots of it. 

Although many of us can’t wait to dig into a Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas day feast, this excitement is not the case for everyone. And by everyone, I mean young girls who struggle with eating disorders.

Let’s be clear. Absolutely anyone could be struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and more. Victims of these challenging disorders are everywhere and it’s our job to reach out to those struggling.

Still, it is often younger girls who face the brunt of unrealistic beauty standards and body image propaganda. Society has coerced our impressionable young minds to resent what we see in the mirror.

In a fast-paced world throwing us a million-and-one facts on how to stay skinny and beautiful, young females are not only the target audience of the latest appearance trends, but they are also the target victims. 

Social media and societal beauty trends have played a devastating contribution to the abnormal eating and exercise habits among women. The consequences of these disorders are not only physically harmful but also emotionally and psychologically debilitating. The constant pressure to have the “perfect” body and features destroys us. 

Frankly, it’s exhausting. 

So, in a time so centered around the indulgence and enjoyment of big meals and sweet desserts, the most wonderful time of the year can often be a nightmare for a lot of people. 

I can’t help but think of the upsetting pressures society has placed on women during the holidays. The delicious piece of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on your plate that you have been looking forward to eating all year, has been capitalized as your “guilty pleasure.” Society has taught you that you should feel bad for eating something you love. Not to mention the classic new year’s resolutions like, “I’m going to exercise more,” “start a diet” and “cut back on the sugar.” And, if you ask why, you are corned by a response like, “To burn off my winter weight.” 

Really?

Sure, everyone should strive for a healthy lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with getting a gym membership. My point is that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy or happy.

The lyrics of comforting music on the radio raised us to believe we are supposed to feel unconditional joy during the holidays. However, society’s myths of perfection in women have so many of us feeling imperfect about who we are and what we look like. 

Girls, I’m certain that society is lying. I’m certain that you are beautiful just the way you are. I’m certain that you can’t compare yourself to your favorite model or celebrity who you think defines beauty. I’m certain that you should enjoy every piece of the pie on your plate because you should never feel guilty for eating something you love. 

The cycle of eating disorders is not easy, but it can be stopped. If you or anyone you know is struggling with eating or excessive exercise, please reach for help. We’re in this together.

Call, Text, or Chat: National Eating Disorder Hotline.