What I Learned About Body Image After Interviewing 3 College Females
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Health and Wellness

What I Learned About Body Image After Interviewing 3 College Females

"I've been living off 100-calorie snack packs since freshman year..."

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What I Learned About Body Image After Interviewing 3 College Females

It's safe to say that if you're a woman in college, you likely gained a few pounds since being in high school. Many say the weight gain is inevitable—you're finally on your own, there are so many new places to eat with new friends, and of course, there's a whole lot of partying. The infamous "Freshman 15" happens to almost everyone, but it's the way that people handle that weight gain that has started to raise concerns for me.

Since starting my junior year in August, I've started to recognize the intense toll that achieving the "ideal body" takes on people. Whether it's overhearing extremely negative body conversation, seeing girls purchasing "fat burners," or even watching some around me consuming next to nothing regularly, I thought it was time to do something about it. So, I started to subtly "call it out," if you will. For example, if a friend was talking about how she "literally ate nothing today" in almost a bragging-like way, I would chime in and break that weird tension by saying something along the lines of "that's really not good for you mentally or physically, I'd probably eat something as soon as possible so you don't pass out or something."

They froze and didn't know how to respond almost every time. It's not often that conversations like that get a response back like mine. This is when I decided to talk about diet culture and body image with some of my close female friends, asking for their honest and upfront answers if they would offer them. Surprisingly (yes, "surprisingly," people get uncomfortable talking about their bodies), they all agreed.

So, here's what I learned:

The three females, all between the ages of 20-21, described their bodies as "average," "I hate it," and "could be worse." Not super positive, right? From these responses, I went on to ask them all how they navigate diet culture and body image. For example, I asked about their dieting history, their current practices, and things they'd like to try. I received a variety of different anecdotes from this. Most notably, one of the girls mentioned an article she read in her junior year of high school promoting a 1,000 calorie a day diet to "miraculously lose 10 pounds a week!" Being naive, she followed this diet for TWO. YEARS.

She explained the negative side effects but didn't shy away from mentioning the rapid weight loss that caused her to fall into a cycle of yo-yo diets and low-calorie eating. She later confided in me that she often finds herself falling back into these habits as a college student due to social pressures on campus to have the "ideal" body. From this, I learned how easy it is for young women in high school and college to cling to results and do whatever it takes to achieve and maintain them (no matter how unhealthy the process of getting there may be).

All three of them were very transparent.

Following this, I circled back to the comment about social pressure on campus. I wanted to know where these pressures come from and why they're so prevalent in the social culture.

Boy, did I get some answers.

Each girl explained what type of body they believe they should have and what the basis of that belief was. All three of them agreed that social media and other people are the two largest factors in body image and expectations. "It's like when you see a picture of a size 2 girl that's getting hundreds of comments and likes, you feel super insecure and like you need to look like her in order to feel good about yourself."

The last part of that statement hit me hard. It really shows that we live in a world in which everyone is constantly comparing themselves to others. Comparing their features, their material things, their body, their grades...everything and anything. It's almost like we all thrive off of the competition, but in reality, the high stakes are detrimental to our mental health.

Following this, another one of the girls mentioned how she "feels pretty high pressure to look good for guys." Another girl agreed with her, while the other denied feeling it personally as she has a boyfriend, but noted how she knows that the pressure from boys "definitely has an impact."

I think it's important to acknowledge the trend that I picked up on here. Young women seem to be basing the way they see themselves and their bodies off of things and people outside of themselves and their control.

After talking to these girls about body image, specifically on college campuses, I've come to the conclusion that the negative conversation about the female body is becoming an epidemic that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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