Something strange happened the other day. I was standing by the mats in the Plex, deciding whether or not crunches were really worth it, when I saw a girl I met in First-Year Writing Seminar. Seeing her wasn’t what was strange, but her physical transformation was. She had gone from an estimable size 8 to a definite 00 in just two short years. What ever happened to gaining the freshmen 15?
I suppose the worst part of seeing her was that I knew her struggle did not occurred in isolation. She isn’t the only girl who dropped a substantial amount of weight after coming to BC. I have seen so many girls transform from happy, healthy 18-year-olds to defensive, thin twenty-somethings. I have seen boys eat and drink more protein powders and supplements than any reasonable doctor’s recommendation. Granted, there are absolutely boys and girls who exercise in a healthy way for the sole purpose of self-improvement. However, I feel as though these people are fewer and farther between than those with disordered habits.
I am not saying that everyone at Boston College has an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with the Plex. I am not. All I know is that I have trouble conversing with acquaintances on campus about anything other than what they ate that day, that week, last weekend. I didn’t even know what a calorie was before I came to BC, and I definitely never questioned myself until I lived with disordered eating patterns my sophomore year. I had no idea why eating four bowls of cereal a day was unhealthy until I watched other girls eat raw vegetables for dinner. If I could so easily be influenced by the self-loathing of others, who couldn’t be? What kind of culture is BC really promoting? Men and women for others, or men and women who try to look good for others?
BC offers counseling services, and has nutritionists and psychiatrists on campus for those who feel they have lost control of their interactions with food, but it cannot prevent the disease of self-loathing from spreading. It is not really the institution itself that facilitates disordered thinking, but the competitive nature of the students who attend it. We as BC students are programmed to strive for perfection in everything that we do, so why would our physical appearance escape that standard? We have to be the smartest and the skinniest. We have to have the best internship and put up the most weight on the bench. What other benchmarks could we use to assert our dominance over each other in our “friendly” discussions at Lower?
The friends we choose influence an increasingly large portion of our decisions, and those decisions include the types of food we eat and the amount of exercise we perform. The school we chose elects to provide us with vending machines that remind us, “Calories count. Choose a low-cal beverage.” The stores we shop at decide to Photoshop thigh gaps onto already-thin models.
We are surrounded by people and images that tell us we are too fat, too lazy and too stupid, and we as a student body need to stop contributing to one another’s self-hatred. We might not be able to buy a drink without being reminded of our daily caloric intake, but we should be able to hang out with friends and classmates without worrying about our physical appearance.
We should care less about the time we spend in the Plex and more about the time we spend with the people we love. We should worry less about what we are eating and more about who we are eating with. Instead of constantly competing with one another, we need to learn how to support one another. We need one another.