The Vicious Cycle of EDs
TRIGGER WARNING: Eating disorders and Body dysmorphia
Each generation is defined by unique cultural trends in music, fashion, and literature. One important aspect that arises from each of them is the change of beauty standards, which have shaped the way society is at a point in time since the genesis of humanity. From the Venus figurines of the paleolithic era to the statuettes that graced the Renaissance, beauty standards reflect what society values at that moment in time. In the last thirty years, beauty standards have changed drastically.
From the 90s to the early 2000s, a craze known as ‘heroin chic’ was in style. Models such as Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell graced fashion walkways and were featured monthly in fashion magazines, depicting that being skinny to an almost unattainable extent is the most beautiful way to be. Promotion of this body type resulted in many young girls developing eating disorders, as shown through the vicious diet culture of the 2000s: eating disorders rose a staggering 21% from before 1999 to 2005. This is somewhat due to tabloid reporters specifically focusing on weights of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, and Mary-Kate Olsen. A key part of the super-skinny standard of the early 2000s is that you were skinny for a reason: whether it was to be beautiful or after going through a bad breakup, women were told to lose weight no matter what they did. Calorie counting and regimen changes were a main-stay of the era; something that, of course, would translate over to social media too. The rise of Tumblr also brought around subsections filled with a community of people posting ‘thinspo’, triggering posts that outwardly promoted eating disorder-like behavior including but not limited to skipping meals, calorie counting, and restricting of meals. Quotes such as “Skip dinner, wake up thinner”, “keep calm and the hunger will pass”, and the famous Kate Moss quote: “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” were everywhere to be found on the Internet. These communities were an obvious result of the super-skinny culture being engrained inside of people’s heads.
A change occurred in the following years: skinniness as the beauty standard entered a period of regression and was replaced with the idolization of the “slim thick” body, characterized by an hourglass figure with a small waist but large breasts and butt. This change has been pinpointed to the rise of Kim Kardashian as the 2010s sex symbol: the slim thick body has always been a desired body within ethnic communities such as the Latino and Black communities, but the domination of the Kardashian clan escalated this to a global pedestal. Plastic surgeries such as breast augmentation and butt lifts had an insurgence, becoming some of the most popular procedures from the years of 2012 to 2018. Instead of the promotion of diet, regimens, and skipping meals , society transitioned to workouts focused on the glutes and eating healthy vegetables and proteins. This change was clearly perceived as eating disorder clinics had a loss in clientele and Tumblr thinspo was at an all time low during this period. Being ‘thicc’ was seen as the most desirable body type and it stayed this way for around a decade.
Once again, a shift happened. Society reverted back to the skinny ideal that was in place during the 2000s, beginning with the quarantine workouts that were widespread starting in March of 2020. Models like Bella Hadid and the Tiktok ‘it girls’ come to mind when thinking of this reversion, whether it was on purpose or not. Social media is flooded with females wearing baby tees and low-rise jeans, echoing the fashion trends of the 2000s and the skinniness ideal of the time. The symbols of the slim-thick body movement themselves, the Kardashin clan, have gotten breast and butt reductions; this action shows just how drastically the beauty standards have changed in the span of just three years. Just like the ‘thinspo’ community of Tumblr, Tiktok now has created the body-checking community which does basically the same thing as its predecessor. The “Hello, My name is Bella Hadid” and the “What I eat in a day: realistic” trends outrightly promotes behavior that is linked to eating disorders. Yet again, the present replicates history and does not see what it does as harmful.
It will only be a matter of time before beauty standards change yet again. What the vicious cycle of eating disorder culture tells us about society is that the media an individual consumes truly does have an effect on their psyche and all should be mindful of what they view online concerning beauty standards.