Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

WAHL: The Effects of Unfettered Diet Culture


CW: This article discusses eating disorders. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.  

“Aren’t you going to eat that?” is a question I hear daily. One petite girl challenges another, daring her to chew, swallow and keep down the food in question. The most common response is more often than not: “Oh my god I ate so much earlier, I’m not hungry.” 

It’s no secret that the pandemic has brought an onset of heightened anxiety and a new pervasiveness of eating disorders that plague America’s youth.  However, what is less frequently discussed is the culture that these disorders create. You do not have to be personally afflicted with an eating disorder to be affected by one. In many ways, eating disorders are contagious. 

It’s not uncommon for entire conversations to be dominated by discussions of weight loss and expressions of anxiety over upcoming events that may require “unflattering” outfits. Anyone who finds themselves trapped in this echo chamber will inevitably end up asking themselves, “if she thinks she’s fat, then what am I?” 

Georgetown’s competitive culture reaches far beyond academic clubs, GPAs and sought-after internships. Aesthetics are just another dimension in which girls compete. They use their accounting skills to calculate calories-in versus calories-out, how many weekly trips to Yates they should make, and the best time to drink their Celsius according to their metabolic activity. 

College unites students in more ways than one; we find ourselves living together, learning together, and eating together. We unconsciously adopt each other’s habits — and that includes eating habits. “If she’s eating a salad, should I be eating a salad? She’s going for a run, so I have to go for a run.” 

Girls skip meals before going out only to come back and purge their systems later, determined to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.” But calories only count when it comes to added salad dressing, not tequila sodas. 

You can never really win though. If you do feel like running, you will be met with scrutiny. If you opt for a salad — just because you want a salad — you will hear nothing but “Oh! Little miss skinny,” and “Look at you being so healthy.” A passivity that will drown you in doubt and insecurity, pressuring you to switch your order to a hearty plate of pasta instead. It is almost as if girls don’t want other girls to engage in diet behavior. As if the skinnier their friends are, the fatter they themselves become. 

What happened to just eating what you want, when you want?

Excessive diet culture has created increasingly limited dining options, and ‘gluten-free’ or ‘dairy-free’ diets are pushed on those who don’t need them. They are effortlessly skinny. You didn’t see them eat, but they assure you, they did — and a lot. 

It breaks my heart to see so many beautiful, fit and healthy girls frustratingly scowl at themselves in the mirror because they believe they are “fat.” So we must ask — why do they believe that?

Society has set an impossible standard; it preys on adolescent girls, hunting them down on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, all with a misleading promise of the perfect bikini body. But isn’t the only requirement for a bikini body simply just having a body? 

As long as you are unhappy with yourself, the diet industry is making money. It is truly ironic that girls will spend more money on less food. The pursuit of “skinny” is expensive. And yet you will never be satisfied, no matter how many Chloe Ting at-home workouts you do, green juices you guzzle and meals you skip. Perhaps the silver lining, in an otherwise terribly distressing realization, is that everyone wishes they could change things about their bodies. 

You want her hips, but she wants your arms.

Emma Wahl is a sophomore in the College. Unspoken Obstacles is published every other week.

Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985). Additional off-campus resources include the Crisis Text Line (text 741741).

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  • G

    GeraldFeb 9, 2022 at 6:49 pm

    So true and well written!!

  • W

    widadFeb 7, 2022 at 4:01 am

    Many thanks.keep up the good work

  • M

    Many thanks.keep up the good workFeb 7, 2022 at 3:51 am

    Many thanks.keep up the good work