Some girls feel pressure to lose weight because of social media
Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
August 2, 2013
The following was written by KOSU’s Ashley Chase.
Even if you don’t have one, you’ve probably heard of Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram. Along with the social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, millions of ideas and thoughts can be shared online. Yet some users may find that what they see on their monitors may affect the way they see themselves.
“Feet together, thighs apart.”
This may seem like harmless dieting mantra, yet it’s one of the most reposted dieting phrase on the internet. Clinical councilor Cindy Washington with Oklahoma State University Counseling Services says is also extremely dangerous.
“We’re socialized to focus on our bodies and how we look. We’re told that skinny is beautiful, and boys believe this and girls believe this at a very young age.”
How young of an age?
“I would say the majority of clients that I have seen, they started it before they got to college. Some as early as 9 or 10 years old, typically its around 12, 13, 14 years old, when the behavior starts.
While over 30 percent of Oklahomans struggle with obesity, others are dying to be thin: literally.
New pressure to be thin now comes from the web. Many people can now feel the pressure to be thin from their own peers while browsing blogs or webpages. Tumblr, a blog site, is rapidly growing in popularity, reaching over 128 million active accounts, up from 50 million blogs in the last year.
The site hosts many bloggers, including Kateri Burris, a fashion design major at Oklahoma State University and entrepreneur. I met her at her university studio. Next to her work bench is a size 8 mannequin she has named “Greta”; a big contrast to the rail thin mannequin in the corner many of her colleagues and classmates are encouraged to use by the school’s fashion illustration professor.
“In fashion illustration, we had different types of body types that were ideal, but the one that she wanted us to draw most of the time was a really, really thin body, really bony, almost didn’t look human. Because whenever we go out in the industry for fashion and we’re illustrating for fashion, most people who are looking at portfolios for internships or jobs are looking for that body type.”
Burris runs her own website as well as an active Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channel to promote her young career. While she wants to stand out for her designs in order to get more views, she wants to help change the industry’s harmful view of beauty at the same time.
“2 models that I used for my dresses, and they had good body shapes, and they were curvy and more like realistic, the model that I used for pictures and stuff, she’s not thin enough to actually be a runway model. I’m proud of that because I don’t want my fashions to reflect the same thing that society right now is reflecting.”
The model she is referring to is 20-year-old Laura Eschmann, who was turned down from a New York modeling agency before she began working for Burris. At 6 feet tall and 130 pounds, Eschmann was considered “too fat” for the job and was advised to lose up to 20 pounds; a large amount for a girl who only has a 25 inch waist.
“I pretty much would’ve had to lose some bone and have absolutely no breasts. And they were like ‘Oh you need to lose 2 inches and then we’ll sign you’. There’s no physical way I could be that skinny and be 6 feet tall.”
Even though she now models for the Lynda Layman Agency in Tulsa, Eschmann says young Oklahoma models still are under the same pressures to stay thin. Eschmann says the majority of diets models use they find online, usually shared between fellow colleagues through Pinterest, a popular sharing website. By playing the part of a dietician as well as model, the consequences of risky starvation “diets” comes at a cost.
“Most of them, pretty much starve themselves, from what I’ve seen. Especially before a runway show or something, some of them will only drink pretty much. Not eat any solid food for like a couple days in advance. Whenever I went to New York, I’ve seen models who have actually died of like heart failure, from walking off the runway, just because they don’t eat enough.”
Although sites such as Pinterest have banned certain pages promoting eating disorder behavior, a new trend is still on the rise. Other popular websites such as Instrigram set the stage for the movement known to many as “Thinspiration,” commonly marked with tags such as #thinspiration, or #thinspo for short.
Here, girls share images of extremely thin women, hoping to “empower” themselves into starvation.
Washington says online trends such as this could escalate the growing problem of girls turning to starvation and purging in order to stay thin; over 13% of high school girls have turned to these deadly alternatives to normal diet and exercise.
“It can be a very secretive disorder, so they’re not inclined to come into counseling. Many of them think that what they’re doing is okay, that’s its not an illness, that they can do this for the rest of their life.”
While it may seem like social media could be the new instigator for destructive dieting behavior, Washington says it can also be a tool for users to educate themselves as well as others on how to love who they are no matter their size.
“Focus more on the other hundreds of characteristics that each individual has instead of their size or how big their tummy is. Because that doesn’t define who we are.”