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How healthy eating has become an excuse for unhealthy obsession

Nothing wrong with wanting to look good — just do it for yourself

· Sep 12, 2016 Tweet

Courtesy of Flickr user Alan Cleaver

Man, I hate Instagram.

The skinniest, fittest girls perfectly posed on a dock somewhere, white smiles glittering into the camera, sparkling eyes and slender legs, captioned, “Us thinking about the donuts we’re about to devour.”

God, what am I doing wrong? Pretty sure I gained a pound just reading the word donut — another two from typing it twice.

I hate that I care enough to write this column.

Honestly, I don’t really hate Instagram. But I probably need some time off of it. Compounded with image after image of perfect girls with perfect bodies with perfect eating habits who are all thinking the same thing I am: Why don’t I look like the other girls on Instagram?

I’d bet a good number of the women I’ve met during my time here don’t remember life before nutrition labels, even though we could probably all agree it was better. The immense focus on health among college girls happens to be one of the unhealthiest focuses I’ve ever witnessed, and certainly the unhealthiest I’ve taken part in.

The line between healthy and obsessive thins out a lot faster than we do. Freshman year felt good — floor mates ran to the SERF together, popped into Gordon’s for salad and a chicken breast and we treated ourselves with late-night Babcock after a few hours of homework in the den. But then no one really wanted Babcock anymore, the chicken breast felt too heavy and we were running to the SERF twice a day, alone.

I’m not sure when we sacrificed seeking health in favor of an attitude nearer to “thin at all costs,” but it’s undoubtedly running rampant, tearing holes in relationships on this campus. Bookmarked articles like “Lose Weight In Your Sleep — Seriously!” loom in the toolbar above [email protected] and we opt out of tonight’s assignment in favor of our third leg day in four days. Subtle competition between roommates about who has been to the gym more this week, who has spent more time at CYC, who ran around which lake and what did you eat before? Okay, and what did you eat after?

The fact that our society has thrown itself into weight loss is not necessarily a bad thing, when you consider that 38 percent of the American population is obese. But the way this manifests itself on college campuses is frighteningly toxic.

The mirror is our God, and the scale is our Holy Bible. Lucky for us, we’ve even found “clean living” as a convenient veil for starvation, and orthorexia nervosa, fixation on healthy eating, plagues our campus as it does so many others. We count calories down to the decimal, sneak away to the treadmill to burn them all away, suck in our stomachs to pose for a picture and promise Instagram our smile is dedicated to “thinking about the next meal.” But there’s no next meal, because we were too naughty with Alfredo for lunch, and we’re lying, aren’t we?

Ok, maybe you’re not. But I am. And I know I’m not the only one.

“Take it again, my face looks fat.”

“I haven’t been to the SERF in two days, I am actually a whale.”

“Do it for the crop top.”

Screw the crop top. This is not health. It’s obsession.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with trying to look good, so there’s no shame in working extra hard to avoid the freshman 15. Cop a jar of almond butter, grill salmon to your heart’s desire. But when you feel yourself sinking to a level of excessive focus on molding your body, know that you’re burning holes in your soul and mind — holes that will remain gaping long after you’ve reached your body goals.

Your body does some amazing things. It carries your physical and emotional weight every single day, silent in the face of every insult you hurl toward it. Every heartbeat is an opportunity for your body to falter. But it doesn’t. So in return, be kind.

If you’re trying to lose weight, good for you, and I’m proud of you. If you’re trying to gain, good for you, and I’m proud of you. But do it for yourself. Don’t do it because you feel like you’re the only roommate who hasn’t worked out yet today. Don’t do it because, well, everyone else ordered a low-sugar skim-milk skinny latte. And definitely do not do it for the crop top.

Yusra Murad ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in psychology and business.